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Four ways to cope with anxiety while in recovery

In the early stages of recovery, feelings of anxiety are perfectly normal. After all, you are surrendering a part of you that you’ve held onto for so long. Rebuilding an identity without your dependency is daunting and often fear-inducing. Because of this, relapse rates are often highest in the days immediately following addiction treatment. Anxiety could be a big trigger for using again. We bring you four healthy habits you can employ to best manage feelings of anxiety and uncertainty post-treatment. These will fortify you with the strength you need to step into life as a confident, sober individual.

Write out your thoughts and feelings

Don’t let your racing thoughts and fears hold your mind hostage. When in doubt- let it out! One of the most productive ways to do this (besides regular meetings and visits to your therapist), is to journal your thoughts and feelings. Try the following exercise: open to a blank page and write out all of your raw, innermost thoughts that haunt you. Pay no mind to sentence structure or grammar- just let it all out! Then, with a different colour pen, write out a response to your free-flowing narrative from the point of view of your rational mind- the “best friend” that keeps you grounded and helps you reason through those emotionally-charged moments. This is a great way to remind you that you are your own best friend and that as overwhelming as these thoughts can be, you have full power over them.

Another alternative to journaling is a more creative outlet for your thoughts- namely poetry or short story writing. Nothing is more therapeutic and cathartic than expressing your thoughts through art. Often it is in the depths of pain or emotional despair that artists produce their best work- this is because trying times connect us to our higher selves and make us more attune to the world around us. You don’t have to be a pro writer- having the capacity to connect to yourself through art is freeing and extremely therapeutic. Try it! To start, you can access some great, introspective journal prompts here.

Go for a run- move your body!

As they say: movement is medicine! It may be challenging at first to find the right type of movement that speaks to you- it could be an intense run or a relaxing yet strengthening yoga practice. The most important thing once you find it is consistency. Showing up for yourself even when your mind and body is screaming “leave me alone” is one of the most powerful acts of self-love. It is one of the strongest antidotes for addiction because you are forcefully replacing old habits with newer, healthier ones which actually nourish your body. If you are in a place where you can’t find the strength to start, find an accountability partner- someone who will stay consistent with you along your fitness journey. Or join a group class studio- finding solidarity and a sense of community through the pain and sweat is much more healing and motivating than going at it alone.

As well, it is important to start small with realistic, manageable goals. Start by committing to 20-30 minutes once a week. Observe your progress and tolerance, then gradually increase to longer or perhaps more frequent workouts. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day; celebrate the small victories as you move along in your journey. Breathe through the pain. The feeling of accomplishment, as well as the natural endorphin high you get will be worth it. Make 2022 the year to replace old, toxic habits with healthy new ones that will make you feel good long term!

Build a solid recovery community around you

Recovery is a long, difficult, and arduous journey- one that shouldn’t be taken alone. Maintain contact with those you went through recovery with and build a solid recovery community of those who understand your struggle and are on this journey with you. Brene Brown explains the difference between sympathy and empathy perfectly. Imagine you’re in a ditch- the sympathetic person will peer into the ditch and offer you a sandwich; the empath will climb into the ditch and sit in it with you. Surround yourself with empaths and let go of anyone who stands between you and recovery. Those who wholeheartedly support you will hold space for your highs and lows; your triumphs and your pain. Nurture and pour into these relationships. Also, have at least one sponsor who you can call at a moment’s notice on darker days when you feel yourself slipping. There is always strength in solidarity.

Breathwork and meditation

In Hindu teachings, it is believed that if one can control their breath, they can control their thoughts and inevitably their life. Meditation is a practice that takes time and patience to perfect- we are so used to being gripped by the flurries of thoughts that overwhelm us daily. It is almost inconceivable to believe we can stop or control them. That’s why we access the breath first- we focus on our inhale and exhale. This doesn’t necessarily stop these thoughts from coming- it just helps you to gain better control over your mind and stop letting negative thoughts control you. In the words of Jamaican Spiritual Teacher Mooji: “ignoring the mind is a beautiful spiritual practice. This is what many of the sages did. They ignored the mind out of existence. It loses its influence and its potency when it is ignored”. Take time out of your day to ignore the mind and focus on your breath- immerse yourself in the present moment and let the magic happen.

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