March 18, 2019

Navigating Anxiety

Written by Alex Thompson

Most of us do a great job of hiding what we’re feeling inside on a daily basis. We get up, go to work or school, run errands, and come home and relax. However, when we get home and start to unwind, the residual effects of the day’s stressors can creep in, and we’re left with that nerve-wracking and uncomfortable feeling of unease – anxiety.

We all struggle with anxiety. Whether it be managing our day to day lives, going to work on a Monday morning, being a parent, public speaking, or just trying to please others – nobody is immune to the feeling. However, for some, anxiety can take a toll and begin to affect how we function in our day to day life. For those that are struggling with substance abuse or are in the early stages of recovery, dealing with anxiety in a healthy way can also be crucial in staying sober long-term. So how do we manage it?

How do we manage anxiety?

There are numerous self-soothing tools to manage anxiety, whether that be progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, talking to supports, or deep breathing. However, the first thing we must do to address our anxiety is to acknowledge it. Anxiety is a feeling like any other and it’s important to remind ourselves that our feelings don’t define us. By acknowledging the feeling, we begin to release a little bit of it. Additionally, by really getting to know ourselves and identifying what triggers the feeling, we can address the root of the issue at hand.

How do we know if we have an anxiety disorder or if it’s residual from substance use?

If someone’s been using for a long time, the first 30, 60, or 90 days of sobriety can often be post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and effects from long-term substance use. During this time, feelings of anxiousness can be heightened because there’s a lot going on, and your brain and body are still recovering. If the anxiety is early in this time period, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. Typically, if someone is still suffering from these symptoms after six months of continuous sobriety, a clinician can make a diagnosis. However, in the meantime, experiencing these symptoms in early sobriety doesn’t mean that the feelings you’re feeling aren’t real. Your brain and body reacts to anxiety the same way it does if it had an anxiety disorder.

How do you know it’s time to seek help for anxiety?

It’s never too early to seek out help. You can wait until the anxiety starts to impact your daily functioning, or you can get help right away when you start feeling uncomfortable. Fortunately, nobody says that you have to see a therapist or a counselor to receive adequate help. During this time, it’s important to seek out those in your support network to lend an ear or give you some guidance. It takes a lot of vulnerability to tell someone the truth, but it doesn’t have to be a specialist. If anxiety begins to impair your daily functioning, that can be a good barometer to tell that things have begun to change in your life due to the symptom. Whether it be taking a walk in nature, talking to supports, or choosing to see a therapist, treatment can look like anything – as long as it is conducive to a positive change.

Unfortunately for some, talking themselves down from certain anxiety levels can come to the point where they become physically tired from having to deal with the feelings. They’ve used numerous self-soothing techniques to deal with the unwarranted anxiety, but at what point do you seek out professional help along with medication for anxiety?

If someone isn’t seeing improvement within a month to a month and a half after going to therapy, I may refer them to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication. It may not be that they need medication, but I’m going to get them to someone else who can assess the situation. However, medication alone isn’t as effective as therapy and medication combined.

How does someone find a therapist that will meet their needs?

There are many sources online where you can find therapists local to your area, often times these websites show what credentialing the therapist have and if they take insurance or not. However, I believe in interviewing your therapist. When I see someone for the first time I want them to ask questions about me to make sure we’re a good fit. Some questions I typically suggest are:

Before you have a procedure, you want to ask the doctor what they’re going to be doing to you, right? The same can be said with a therapist.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to be free from anxiety forever, and are going to oftentimes have feelings and thoughts beyond our control. However the idea in navigating anxiety is to build up skills and tools to combat it ahead of time, so we’re prepared when the feeling hits.

In navigating anxiety, it requires new, more constructive coping strategies to replace the negative feelings and thoughts. This is one of the primary objectives at St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness. Aiming to help clients develop new coping skills that will genuinely help them overcome the challenges they’ll face in every stage of recovery, St. Christopher’s has helped thousands achieve long-term recovery for over 20 years.

If you are having difficulty managing your anxiety and recovery, you are not alone.

Call us today, 877.782.4747 to reclaim the life you were meant to live.