Alcohol and anxiety go hand in hand. In fact, about 20 percent of people with social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence, according to Healthline.
This isn’t surprising. Oftentimes, people depend on alcohol to calm things like social anxiety or anxiousness about work – it’s an easy way to reduce nerves and inspire a little confidence.
But after the alcohol wears off, people often feel more anxious than usual. In short, their brain chemistry has changed and they’re now in need of alcohol to take the edge off in everyday scenarios, like sitting in a café or reading in a library.
After a stint in rehab, it’s important to remember that you’re not just fighting off your addiction, you’re fighting off these anxious feelings too. Knowing how to calm your anxiety naturally, then, is an essential part of prolonging your sobriety and overcoming your addiction for good.
Here are four ways to deal with anxiety when you’re sober.
Breathing exercises can save lives (and calm nerves). One big symptom of anxiety is an increased heart rate and feelings of irritability. To mitigate this, breathe deep. This simple daily practice will help you alleviate strong feelings of anxiety and realise that you’re still in control.
It doesn’t have to be much, either. Even 10 minutes a day of quiet stillness can have a dramatic effect on how you feel. Sit on the floor, close your eyes and listen to white noise – meditation is all about focusing on being present, and it will calm your body’s responses.
2. Perform yoga
Yoga, like meditation, is a great daily practice to adopt after rehab. This soothing activity will help you find your flow and calm your anxious thoughts and feelings. After all, most yoga practices are focused on becoming more present, and you can calm your nerves by chanting and stretching.
If you’re feeling anxious, find some space and setup a home wellness area in your house. Be strict about how you use this space, too. Don’t take phone calls here, and definitely don’t work here. You should try to compartmentalise a little and keep this space for yoga and meditation.
3. Talk to people
A lot of anxious thoughts and feelings are often fabricated within us, and they’re often over-exaggerated. It can be easy to descend down the rabbit hole of our minds and focus on the worst-case scenarios and forget to rationalise.
To help you rationalise, it’s important to talk to people. Whether it’s a loved one, someone on your aftercare program, or just a colleague at work, open up about your anxious thoughts and feelings and let someone in. Chances are, they’ll listen and respond with something that calms your nerves and helps you see things in a more manageable light.
4. Find a healthy distraction
Distractions are a vital part of our life. We turn to television, music and books to help us turn our brains off from our own lives and relax. Unfortunately, there are a plethora of unhealthy distractions out there, too. Alcohol, for instance, is the perfect example of an unhealthy distraction.
Exercise, however, is the perfect example of a healthy distraction. If you’re feeling anxious, then, consider putting on your running shoes and hitting the treadmill. This process will help your body reset some vital hormones, and it’ll alleviate those troubling feelings. Better yet, after you’re done, you’ll likely feel more accomplished, too, which will keep your anxiety at bay even longer and instead boost your self-confidence.
Forming healthy habits
Addiction is often a habitual process. We feel anxious, we need to escape it, we drink alcohol, we become dependent.
This mode of thinking is as common as the common cold, and you’re not the only one to turn to things like alcohol or substances to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
Instead of trying to fight this mode of thinking, then, the best thing you can do is switch out the negative habits for positive ones. To deal with your anxiety after rehab, substitute alcohol for exercise, mediation, yoga and open talking. In the words of author Paulo Coelho:
‘Although anxiety is a part of life, never let it control you.’
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