A Week of Stress and Anxiety
A recent puff piece headline on CNN reads “2020 Election Causing Americans to Stress Eat.” While the video was meant to be humorous, it did get us to thinking about the populations we serve during this time of national stress. Stress is one of the top triggers for people suffering from substance use and eating disorders. And anxiety is the body’s response to stress. Somewhere along the way, those of us who struggle with eating or substance use disorders learned that we can manage our anxiety through these behaviors. Below are some quick and positive alternatives for dealing with anxiety.
It’s something so simple, and yet for many of us, it’s where so many problems start to get worse. When we’re panicking or stressing out, we start to take quick, shallow breaths. This speeds our heart rate up and increases tension throughout the body. Consciously slowing your breath down is a way to “trick” your body into thinking it’s relaxed. Try inhaling for a slow four count and follow it by exhaling for the same for five minutes or so. Alternatively, you could try other, more advanced exercises that may resonate with you.
This is a grounding technique to deal with panic attacks that I learned in early recovery. It has worked wonders over the years and I still use it today. Start by taking a few deep breaths (the preceding exercise is great here). Take mental note of five things in your immediate vicinity that you can see. Then notice four things you can touch and three that you can hear. Finish with two things you can smell and one you can taste. This exercise helps to pull you and your senses into the present and out of whatever future trip you may be on.
Hit the Gym (or the Road)
Unless you’re over-training, just about any type of exercise will help you relieve stress. Whether it’s lifting weights or a game of racquetball, engaging with your body in some type of strenuous activity is essentially meditation in motion. You’re getting your body and mind on the same page in the present moment. As a bonus, you’ll get a rush of endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good chemical. If a gym is too time-consuming or expensive, even a brisk 15 to 30-minute walk can help.
Real Courage Means Asking for Help
These techniques are wonderful in the short-term. However, if you or someone you love is struggling with an active substance use or eating disorder, they will only be a temporary fix. Dealing with anxiety in the long-term means learning to identify and manage your triggers. It also means changing your thought patterns through methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy. And these are just two of the skills our clients learn at our residential treatment center in Newport Beach, California. We offer individual and group counseling, nutritional therapy, yoga, and more as part of our holistic approach to substance use and eating disorder treatment. Real courage means asking for help. Ocean Recovery is ready to answer the call.