Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues we face when living with addiction. When we learn ways to manage our anxiety, we have more control over our daily lives, and we are better able to navigate the many challenges that come with mental and emotional health difficulties. Anxiety is essentially our inner fears manifesting as outer symptoms, which can include rapid breathing and heart rate, nausea, shaking and nervous tingling in our bodies.
The goal when living with anxiety is to find ways to bring ourselves a sense of calm and peace whenever we can. We can deal with our anxiety by responding to it when it hits and also by working to prevent it.
Deep breathing is a powerful way to balance our nervous systems, calm our anxiety and prevent it from escalating into panic. When we are going about our days, we often aren’t aware that we tend to breathe in short, small, quick breaths. This can increase our anxiety, but when we become mindful of it, we can work to change it. Start becoming more conscious of your breathing, both when you are feeling fine and when you’re feeling emotional distress.
An easy way to calm our breathing is to count our breaths and the duration of each breath. When we are counting, we are more mindful of making our breaths longer and slower. A breathing exercise that is simple to do and easy to remember is 1:2 breathing, where you make your exhale twice as long as your inhale.
When we’re focused on our breathing, we can bring our minds some much needed stillness because our attention is going to our breath rather than the racing thoughts of our minds. This stillness gives our minds a chance to rest. When we are caught in a cycle of anxiety, our minds are overactive and our thoughts tend to be out of control, adding to the build-up of our stress. Deep breathing can help to break that cycle. The more we breathe deeply as a regular practice, the more we can prevent our anxiety from accumulating and derailing our lives.
Focusing on our breath is meditative and calming, and breathing is one of the main elements in many meditation practices. Another form of meditation is visualization, and the idea is to visualize anything that makes you feel calm and at peace. As you breathe, try visualizing a beautiful scene, a happy memory or a loved one. A healing visualization you can try is envisioning a healing light filling you from your higher power above, then also emanating from within you.
Learning how to manage our anxiety is an important part of recovery. We can help. Call (800) 871-5440.