How to Cope with Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural body reaction to stress, danger, or the unknown.1 We may feel anxiety as a sense of dread, a tightness in the stomach, an increased heart rate, and shortness of breath. The body goes through a series of changes in preparation for a possible need to run or defend ourselves.
While this is a healthy reaction to danger, in modern society many of us live in a state of chronic life stress, and our base state becomes one of constant anxiety. Many people look for relief from drugs or alcohol, and they may, in turn, find help through addiction treatment and sober living programs.
Let’s talk about anxiety in daily life, its impacts on physical and mental health, and how to cope with these feelings in healthier ways.
How Does Anxiety Affect the Body?
Feelings of anxiety cause the release of stress hormones into the bloodstream. The effects of chronic high levels of substances like adrenaline and cortisol have these effects on the body:1
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Suppression of the immune system
- Increased inflammation, which poses a risk to heart health
- Higher risk of digestive tract issues and autoimmune disorders
- Greater likelihood of developing obesity and diabetes
Is Anxiety Associated with Addiction?
Research shows that approximately 18% of Americans have an anxiety disorder.2 Those who do suffer from chronic anxiety disorders have been found to be 2-3 times more likely to develop a substance use disorder.3
In turn, addiction and drug use are associated with panic attacks and general anxiety disorder. In fact, there is an identified mental health disorder known as substance-induced anxiety disorder, which is most frequently caused by alcohol, PCP, hallucinogens, stimulants, and inhalants.4
Healthy Ways to Lower Stress Levels and Manage Your Anxiety
There are many steps you can take to cope with anxiety naturally and help your body return to a more relaxed state. Anxiety is a whole-body condition, with a physical, mental, and emotional component. These tips for self-care can help:
- Daily exercise will help burn off the stress hormones and stimulate your body to return to a relaxed state, so go for a walk or do 15 minutes of yoga or stretching whenever you feel stress building.
- Get enough restful sleep while avoiding alcohol and caffeine, as both aggravate anxiety.
- Eat well-balanced meals and healthy snacks to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
- Schedule and honor your need for short breaks throughout the day to practice the relaxation tips and self-care activities you choose from this list.
- Spend time with friends and family in environments where you feel safe, get active in your community, and build a strong support network.
- Use writing, a journal, or a personal blog to figure out what situations are triggering your anxiety so that you can identify patterns and take action to change them.
- When anxiety strikes, take deep steady breaths and focus your mind on a logical task like counting the change in your pocket or counting backward by 3s.
- Practice techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, where you focus on each area of the body to first tense and then relax the muscles completely.
- Lower the lights, listen to soothing music, and use aromatherapy to change your environment to one which dispels anxiety.
- When you need more help, talk to someone like a mentor, sponsor, counselor, or doctor for more ways to reduce chronic anxiety and prevent medical conditions, including substance use disorders that can result when anxiety is left untreated.
Living in a Safe and Supportive Environment
Those who struggle to maintain a safe and supportive place to live while they deal with anxiety and addiction may need to find a sober living facility that offers both addiction treatment and treatment for co-occurring anxiety disorders. RECO Institute in Delray Beach, FL provides this solid foundation for you or your loved one. Contact us today to find the home base you need to tackle these challenges and recover from anxiety and addiction.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing