With the holidays peeking around every corner, we can be forgiven if the very thought of it makes us stressed, especially if this is the first year we get to celebrate staying sober. This may be your first Christmas without alcohol, and everywhere from magazines, to commercials, to supermarket isles, everyone is partying. Even if, with times as they are, it is a party of one.
Alcohol use and anxiety work together, and not for our wellbeing. Changes in our central nervous system can have a worsening anxiety effect, making our problems appear much worse than they already are. When the effects of alcohol wear off, we might feel even more anxious than if we had chosen not to drink. If we have been using alcohol for anxiety, alcohol will fuel the fires.
Social anxiety, the fear or discomfort of being around strangers, or even those we know, is a major cause of alcohol use. When we relied on alcohol to remove social distress, we created a habit that we need to replace.
The Benefit of Alternative Choices
During your recovery process, take every opportunity to maintain contact with your support network and explore sustainable ways of coping with anxiety. Learn to refocus the mind toward more proactive thoughts with the bonus of long term health benefits.
Ultimately, when stress triggers happen, the goal is to remove our mind to the furthest place possible from alcohol and, in doing so, rewire the brain into new behaviors and responses.
Focus on Your Breathing
Meditation has transformative qualities. Meditation, first made famous as a fringe health benefit in the Sixties, has gained wider acceptance by mainstream clinical practitioners. Today it is recognized as a valuable tool to help lower blood pressure, relieve pain, and in many cases, anxiety.
Meditation does not have to be the search for perfection. There is no need to spend years in Tibet or India unless, of course, you want to! To enjoy the benefits of meditation, all you need to do is breathe!
When was the last time you focused on your breathing? Breathing is something that happens without even thinking about it. Sitting where you are right now, take a deep breath and inhale, then exhale slowly. Chances are, you are feeling relaxed.
The conscious act of filling our lungs with air supports healthy brain and lung function by releasing oxygenated blood. We are not rotating through a sequence of anxious thoughts because we are thinking about breathing.
Given that there is no special equipment needed for meditation other than a quiet room and some solitude, meditation is one of the most inexpensive and sustainable wellness options available after quality sleep. There are also apps available that provide guided meditations. Great for beginners, if you feel your mind wander, the presence of calm music and, in some cases, a narrator can help get you back on track.
The Art of Yoga
Often closely aligned with meditation, yoga’s stretching and healing powers have become more mainstream over the last decade also. Yoga, with its meditative and inhale and exhale breathing technique, you may recognize as similar to that of meditation. There are many popular yoga styles available, from basic stretching to Hot Yoga, whereby the yoga studio is heated to eighty plus degrees to produce weight loss.
Even if you are familiar with more advanced forms of yoga, consider your goals today. If you are searching for healthy, portable ways to deal with anxiety, then a relaxing, stretching yoga session might be the way forward for now. Slow stretching provides vital oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and ligaments, but the slow, steady breathing accompanying it provides similar meditative benefits as meditation.
Yoga has become so mainstream that many addiction recovery facilities have integrated this practice into their wellness program.
Hopefully, you are being encouraged to explore healthy distractions or habits to replace alcohol’s default setting. This is an opportunity for you to develop interests beyond your more familiar world and experiences. It does not have to be expensive, but it does have to be something that you enjoy, is healthy, and can participate with relative frequency over a sustained period.
This can become a fun, distracting activity in itself as you dig back into childhood archives and recall the interests you wanted to pursue and, for whatever reason, were not able to. Or, perhaps there was an activity you used to take part in and no longer do but would consider restarting again. Maybe you liked singing. Perhaps you could join a choir. Did you sew at school? Maybe you could take that up again. Do you enjoy creative writing? How about reading or listening to podcasts that inspire your mind to greatness?
The idea is not to avoid dealing with the negative thinking patterns that contribute to anxiety but to foster a revised living approach. The common denominator of coping with anxiety is practicing self-care. Self-care is an area where we all need improvement! Few of us get to simply switch off our thoughts, racing from one activity to the next. When we engage in activities we enjoy, our mind cannot help but hone in on the task at hand, rejecting anything else.
Talk it Out
When we feel anxious or stressed, we may feel inclined to isolate ourselves from our friends and family members. While learning to spend quality time alone is essential, it is also important to maintain contact with people we trust. This may be someone in your support group walking the same journey as you. Talking to those who have experienced similar challenges can help take some of the burdens when we worry about our recovery progress. Similarly, talking to others who have also dealt with out of the blue anxiety moments can give us valuable insight.
You never know, it may be possible to share a useful experience with your peers too! And whatever you decide to do, realize that you own your anxiety; it does not own you. You can stay sober long term, and you are not alone.
This may be your first Christmas without alcohol, and everywhere from magazines to commercials, everyone is partying. Even if, with times as they are, it is a party of one. Alcohol use and anxiety work together. When the effects of alcohol wear off, we might feel more anxious than if we had chosen not to drink. Learn to refocus the mind toward pro-active thoughts with the bonus of long term health benefits. Hired Power’s discretion and confidentiality assure anonymity through all stages of returning to wellness. Whether moving to your detox program safely and with discretion, to recovery and sober living partners that can help you through the holidays, Hired Power is there for you or your loved one, standing as that bridge between you and traditional recovery plans. You don’t have to struggle alone; our personal recovery assistants are here to help you walk through this process, believing in you, empowering you to change, step by step. Call Hired Power right today at (800) 910-9299. We look forward to hearing from you.