Staying Calm with Self-Care
Is it a heart attack? Is it a stroke? Am I dying, like really dying? Anyone who’s ever had a full on, terrifying, ER inducing anxiety attack knows the feeling and knows it well. It’s not forgettable and not explainable to anyone who’s never had one.
While most people with anxiety don’t suffer panic attacks, anxiety itself can still overwhelm us with feelings of fear and loathing. Simply put, anxiety is a feeling of excessive, unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason. It can lead to shortness of breath, sweaty palms, increased heart rate, ruminating thoughts, shallow breathing, and shaking.
For those of us in addiction and recovery, anxiety comes with the territory. Withdrawal and craving induce anxiety, which lead us to drink or use, which lead us to withdrawal and craving, which lead us to drink or use. It’s that brutal, vicious cycle that we know so well.
Beyond the stresses of recovery, there are the stresses of everyday life. How we handle them will dictate just how much we allow anxiety to take hold. After all, trouble is often just around the corner, waiting to attack at the most inopportune time. We can’t allow ourselves to fall into the endless cycle of anxiety and chaos. Without proper self-care, burnout will likely be the result.
It’s important that we make a plan for the next time we are feeling anxious. Write out your anxiety plan and try new things if you’re not sure what works for you. Here are some suggestions for the next time you feel your anxiety rising:
Take a Walk
This is a go-to for many people because it can be a quick way to get in some exercise and clear your head. Sunshine can boost your vitamin D, making you feel happier and more at peace. Taking a walk is a flexible way to get out of your current environment and get into a more peaceful headspace. Have a lunch break? How about a quick walk around the block on your lunch break? It doesn’t have to be long; often just removing ourselves from our current stressful environment for a few minutes can help us re approach the situation with more positivity and drive.
Make a Gratitude List
In the midst of a stressful situation, like a difficult boss or a family fight, it’s hard to remember the things we have. We can get sucked into a vacuum and unable to see the bigger picture. Try writing down a few things you are grateful for. Do you have a home? How about a good friend or someone that loves you? Are you thankful for your sobriety?
Again, it can be a long or short activity. Make a bullet point list of all the things that are causing you to feel anxious. Jot down a to-do list on your phone and cross off the items you complete. Set short term goals that are achievable and measurable. Write out what your day was like, and then look back at previous entries to find themes, things you are grateful for, and ways you have grown.
Call a Friend
Find someone you can call and share what’s going on. Many times having someone listen and ask questions can be helpful when dealing with anxious thoughts. We were not made to go through life on our own. Make a list of people you will contact when you’re feeling anxious. It might be as simple as a quick text, or it could look like going out for coffee. Whatever it is, find someone you can be honest and vulnerable with, and let them know that they are part of your anxiety plan.
Find What Works for You
Everyone is different. We need to get to know ourselves so that we can care for ourselves in the best way possible. Try different methods of self-care. Ask a friend or coworker what they do to unwind and relax. Understand that everyone’s capabilities are different. Don’t compare your anxiety levels to others, and lastly be kind and gracious to yourself.