How to Manage Anxiety Without Alcohol
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, as many as 19.1% of people have experienced any form of anxiety disorder within the last year, making it one of our nation’s most common mental health problems. If you often deal with anxiety, especially in social settings, you may have turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism and form of stress relief. However, this strategy isn’t sustainable in the long term, since it can lead to addiction and a wide range of mental and physical health issues. Drinking can also exacerbate anxiety symptoms, compounding your problems. How can you learn to manage anxiety without alcohol?
Drinking Can Make Your Anxiety Worse
People who drink to self-medicate can perpetuate a vicious cycle. Like other drugs, alcohol can chip away at your physical and mental well-being. Understanding the relationship between alcohol and anxiety begins with educating yourself about how alcohol affects your brain chemistry. The various side effects of heavy drinking can trigger anxiety, while worsening the progression of addiction.
We now know that people who often drink to excess have elevated levels of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” Cortisol plays an essential role in regulating your instinctive fight-or-flight response to danger, but it is often overactive in people with anxiety, leading to high blood pressure, insomnia and panic attacks. Alcohol abuse strongly correlates with higher anxiety and stress. You can experience these effects while you’re intoxicated, as well as during the withdrawal phase.
Learning to Manage Anxiety Without Alcohol
If you’re trying to avoid falling into the cycle of anxiety and addiction, what are some healthy ways to manage anxiety without alcohol?
Meditation is an ancient practice for staying calm and helping practitioners learn to live more mindfully. It’s one of the best strategies for quieting your mind by focusing on your breath and dismissing intrusive thoughts as they arise. If you are feeling nervous and fearful, or having trouble concentrating because of anxiety, close your eyes and spend a few minutes taking full, deep breaths.
2. Keep a Journal
When you feel anxious or worried, get in the habit of writing down how you feel in the moment, and any triggers that might have caused your anxiety to spike. An anxiety journal can help you spot patterns in your thoughts and behaviors you might have otherwise missed. For example, if dealing with a specific co-worker always stresses you out and leaves you with sweaty palms and a racing heart rate, your journal can allow you to identify and define those feelings, so you can work on constructive ways to deal with them.
3. Use Creative Visualization
Once you’ve identified your specific anxiety triggers, you can come up with positive strategies for how to respond when they arise. If you are a visual thinker, it can benefit you to picture yourself in various stressful situations. For example, if you find yourself dreading an upcoming presentation at work, visualize yourself giving the speech. Mentally rehearse specific details, such as what you’ll wear, where you’ll stand in the room and where others will sit. Imagine people’s reaction to the information you will share. Practicing in your mind’s eye can help you feel less nervous on the day of the meeting.
Your Home for Healing
People living with anxiety disorders tend to struggle with an influx of constant, upsetting emotions that can keep them from experiencing all the joys life has to offer. Anxiety symptoms have both psychological and physical effects, so learning to manage anxiety without alcohol requires a comprehensive approach to treatment.
Sadly, while anxiety remains one of the most prevalent mental health concerns in the U.S., treatment barriers like stigma have prevented up to 75% of sufferers from getting the evidence-based therapy they need to get better. If you are struggling with anxiety and co-occurring addiction, Beach House has cultivated one of the most nurturing environments to begin your recovery process. When you’re ready to take the first step, our caring admissions counselors are here to speak with you anytime.