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Navigating Anxiety in Recovery

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults.

Anxiety can be described as an intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Many people can experience anxiety in stressful situations, such as public speaking or a job interview. However, for some, anxiety can become excessive, all-consuming, and can interfere with daily living.

Physical symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Cold or sweaty palms and feet

Studies suggest that 48% of people with a substance use disorder also suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For those who have experienced the intense emotions stemmed from an underlying mental health disorder, turning to substances has been a way to alleviate these debilitating feelings.

Feelings of anxiety are common; it is how you deal with them is what matters.

For many in recovery, anxiety, to some degree, may be present. However, it is essential to realize you aren’t alone. Navigating feelings and emotions that have been suppressed by drugs and alcohol can feel like a daunting task. But learning to live and work through feelings of anxiousness without trying to avoid it can help you walk the path to long-lasting sobriety.

Recognizing feelings and emotions is a vital first step.

When anxious feelings begin to come to the surface, observing their presence is a great way to bring yourself back to the present moment. Often anxiety stems from a worry about a past event or concern for the future. Grounding yourself in the here and now is a great way to focus on the moment you are in. You can also state truths such as “In this moment, I am okay.”

Once recognizing that anxious feelings are present there are a few steps you can take to ease the immediate symptoms of anxiety.


Mindful breathing and deep breathing are great ways to combat anxiety as soon as you begin to feel it. Mindfulness breathing allows you to focus on your breath and brings your attention to the present without allowing your mind to drift off to the past or future. Deep breathing, such as the 4-7-8 technique, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which operates in the body and brain to create a slower heartbeat. For this approach, you breathe in deeply to the count of four, hold it to the count of seven, then exhale strongly to the count of eight.


Studies have shown that exercise can be just as effective as meditation for anxiety relief. When you are active, endorphins, which are a critical element in helping the brain regulate emotions, are released. This, in turn, will boost your mood and decrease feelings of anxiety. You don’t have to run a marathon to benefit from the effects of endorphins. Taking a walk around the park or your neighborhood is just as effective.

Talk to someone.

Anxiety festers and thrives when we keep it to ourselves. Keeping it in the dark can allows for it to grow and become unmanageable. Talking about the feelings of anxiety takes the power away from it and puts it in your control. In addition, an outside source can help walk you through the differences between the facts and illusions anxiety can bring and, in turn, can allow you to see the situation more clearly.

Feeling anxious from time to time is normal and making the courageous decision to get treatment doesn’t mean you won’t ever have anxious feelings arise. However, there are healthy ways to cope and manage that won’t risk your path to long-lasting recovery. Remember that you are not alone, and there are tools to live a life free from addiction.

Origins facilities have psychiatrists and psychologists who work with a multidisciplinary team to help address you as a whole person.

Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.