For many individuals struggling with substance abuse, a root issue that can ultimately lead to addiction is anxiety. The attempt to numb the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety through drugs or alcohol is not uncommon. Unfortunately, anxiety in sobriety is also something many people in recovery face.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect over  40 million adults in the U.S. alone. This is over 18% of the population, making anxiety a leading mental illness in the nation.
Anxiety and addiction are often intricately linked. For this reason, they must be diagnosed and treated in tandem. Dual diagnosis rehabs, like Ocean Hills Recovery, have the professionals and tools necessary to treat both anxiety and addiction, along with other mental health disorders.
Once the diagnosis is in place, the next step is finding effective routes to coping with anxiety in sobriety. Knowing how to combat anxiety symptoms without turning to other substances is essential to staying sober and healthy long-term.
Healthy Strategies for Dealing with Anxiety in Sobriety
Anxiety and addiction often fuel one another. That said, there are plenty of health strategies out there available to those looking to move forward with their sobriety goals despite struggling with anxiety.
It’s thought that anxiety disorders stem from a variety of sources. Some experts link anxiety to brain chemistry, while others relate these conditions to stressful or even traumatic life events.
Whatever the source of anxiety may be, it’s important to realize that facing your emotions is key to getting through it. Recognizing symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating palms, headache, or shortness of breath early on allows for staying ahead of an anxiety attack and dealing with it healthily.
Incorporating aromatherapy into your life is a good way to relieve stress and deal with anxiety without turning to alcohol or other substances.  Lavender is a particularly beneficial floral extract used for centuries across many countries to treat both anxiety and depression.
The beauty of aromatherapy is that it’s such a simple solution for those moments of panic that often feel overwhelming. A few drops of lavender oil on the palms or in a diffuser can make a big difference in how you feel.
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Unlike alcohol that alters serotonin in the brain and can enhance anxiety, essential oils balance the body out. Studies link aromatherapy with slowing down heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and generally calming the body’s stress response.
Make Meditation a Part of Your Daily Routine
Sometimes the best strategy for dealing with anxiety in sobriety isn’t about waiting for a panic attack to happen but staying ahead of one in the first place. Beginning each day with a meditation session can help achieve this goal.
Meditation takes time and practice. But, while you’re focused on this healthy activity, you won’t be focused on other substances that could interrupt your sobriety. It’s a practice that can be done anytime and anywhere, making it the ideal solution for dealing with anxiety.
Those who practice mindful meditation each day slowly gain the ability to not simply endure their anxiety but stand back and observe what is triggering it. It’s a tool that reduces overall stress levels as you become more in tune with your mind and body messages.
Keep a Journal
Conquering anxiety in sobriety often includes keeping a simple journal on hand.  Studies specific to how writing helps individuals cope with stress have shown that it cannot only ease heightened emotions but also provide a sense of perspective in difficult moments.
Journaling your way through an anxiety attack can help you clear your mind and get negative emotions out and onto paper instead. It’s a safe way to acknowledge what you feel that also gives you a place to look back and reflect on what might have caused the episode in the first place later on.
Identify Your Go-To Person
Individuals learning to live without using substances to numb emotions often work with a sponsor to lean on when they are at risk for relapse. When dealing with anxiety in sobriety specifically, it’s ok to have someone else readily available to speak to besides your sponsor.
When you begin to feel the effects of anxiety, knowing who you can trust and count on in that very moment is key to getting through it. Sometimes the simple act of having a conversation with someone else who understands anxiety on a personal level can alleviate stress and help you get through the experience with more ease.
Finding Freedom from Addiction and Anxiety
When you’re ready to take steps to tackle anxiety and keep your sobriety on track for success, Ocean Hills Recovery is here for you. Our team provides the vital support that helps you reach your health and wellness goals. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and services.
Sources: Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics#:~:text=Did%20You%20Know%3F,of%20those%20suffering%20receive%20treatment.  Lavender Oil for Anxiety and Depression | Natural Medicine Journal, https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-02/lavender-oil-anxiety-and-depression-0  Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/writing-about-emotions-may-ease-stress-and-trauma
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.