1. Identify the source of anxiety
The first step in calming anxiety during recovery is to identify its source. Sources of anxiety can include:
- Fuzzy thinking that interferes with concentration and focus, which makes it difficult to make decisions and solve problems related to addiction and recovery.
- Fear of social environments – addiction often causes isolation, which makes the interactions of rehabilitation challenging for people who are already anxious.
- Difficulty sleeping – research shows that sleep problems are very common in the early stages of recovery from alcohol addiction and that sleep disorders can linger for several months.
- Stress about recovery, including anxiety about succeeding, worries about relationship troubles and other consequences of drug or alcohol use.
2. Treat anxiety
Anxiety orders are treatable, which means professional care can bring meaningful symptom relief and improve quality of life. Treatment can help reduce anxiety, whether that anxiety occurs as part of the recovery process or as part of a co-occurring condition. Treatments for anxiety include:
- individual group
- group therapy
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- residential treatment
- alternative treatments
Individual therapy allows one-on-one treatment with a trained therapist in a safe, controlled environment. Group therapy is a place where people with anxiety and substance abuse problems can share experiences and ideas in an environment overseen by a trained therapist. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that boosts moods and treats problems by modifying dysfunctional and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Residential treatment provides 24/7 treatment for anxiety and substance abuse issues. Anxiety treatment helps improve the recovery experience. Engaging in treatment for anxiety provides the individual with lifelong skills that he or she can use to alleviate any future stress that may lead to relapse.
3. Exercise in moderation
A regular regimen of moderate exercise can reduce anxiety during recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Physical activity triggers the production of endorphins, which are “feel good” chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Easing pain helps calm anxiety. Endorphins also improve the ability to sleep, which can reduce stress.
For best results, exercise with the assistance of a personal trainer. Exercising too long or with too much intensity during recovery can cause muscle strain and other painful conditions that can increase stress. Performing the correct exercises, using the right form and exercising for the right length of time, can calm anxiety without increasing stress.
4. Eat the right amounts of nutritious foods
There is a close association between anxiety and nutrition. Certain foods, especially those containing caffeine or sugar, can make a person feel jittery or anxious. Caffeine stimulates the “fight or flight response” to cause anxiety, while sugar causes blood sugar levels to rise. Foods that can reduce anxiety:
- Complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grain foods, metabolize more slowly to keep blood sugar levels constant.
- Salmon contains vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, may help regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin to impart a calming effect.
- Chamomile, turmeric and other foods can alleviate anxiety.
Drug Abuse and Nutritional Deficiencies
Good nutrition during the recovery process can help undo some of the anxiety-inducing physical problems resulting from substance abuse.
- Alcohol use is one of the major causes of nutritional deficiencies among Americans, for example, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Specifically, drinking alcohol can lead to vitamin B deficiencies, which can result in anemia and nervous system problems.
- Using opioids and opiates can cause constipation. The use of stimulants can reduce appetite, resulting in poor nutrition and weight loss.
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol often causes other nutritional challenges, such as failure to eat and eating poorly. To recover from a major physical event, such as substance abuse, the organs of the body require a great deal of energy, vitamins and minerals. The nutritional deficits caused by alcohol or drug use puts the body at a disadvantage going into recovery, so an individual must focus on consuming highly nutritious foods through recovery to help his or her body heal from years of abuse.
- Anxiety coupled with the recovery process can cause nutrition problems too. Anxiety can cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, for example. Opioid withdrawal can cause extended bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to a lack of nutrients and imbalances of electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride and potassium.
5. Seek care for co-occurring disorders
Many treatment centers offer help in the form of detoxification and drug rehabilitation for alcohol or drug issues, but do not provide therapy for the co-occurance or dual diagnosis of anxiety plus substance abuse. Because anxiety and excessive alcohol or drug use are intertwined so closely, treatment for dual diagnoses may support recovery better than treating just the anxiety or just the substance abuse.
Dealing with anxiety during recovery
When you are dealing with anxiety during drug recovery it is important to remember:
- There is a strong connection between anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse
- There is a strong association between anxiety and recovery
- Fortunately, there are many ways to soothe anxiety during recovery
- Identifying the source of anxiety is an important first step
- Alcohol and drug abuse can cause physical problems resulting in anxiety; proper nutrition can help
- Treatment for anxiety is often overlooked, but beneficial to recovery
- Moderate exercise raises natural “feel good” chemicals
- Seeking care from a treatment that offers care for co-occurring disorder may provide a better recovery experience than could treatment for either substance abuse or anxiety alone
If you or someone you know has anxiety and a drug or alcohol problem, contact our admissions specialists at Granite Recovery Centers. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner recovery can begin.