how to control your anxiety

How to Control Your Anxiety Without Turning to Substances During Stressful Times

There’s no denying that we’re living through some incredibly stressful times. From the COVID-19 pandemic to political unrest, there are a variety of stressors that might be tugging at your nervous system.

In fact, research from the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that three in five Americans feel stressed over what the next few months will hold. That stress can snowball into debilitating anxiety.

You might be anxious about returning to work or sending your children to school. You may have concerns over changing health mandates, fluctuating finances, or shaky job projections.

Learning how to control your anxiety without the use of mind-altering substances can open new doors for healing and peace. Today, we’re sharing how to stay on top of your emotional and mental health during these trying times, without turning to drugs or alcohol to help you cope.

  1. Move Your Body

There have been countless studies citing the effect that regular exercise can have on your overall well-being. If you’re feeling weighed down by the troubles of the world, take the time to move your body and engage your mind.

You don’t have to train for a marathon but look for movements that stretch your muscles, strengthen your joints, and get your blood flowing. While a workout won’t necessarily cure your anxiety, it delivers incredible physical and psychological benefits that improve your symptoms.

Exercise calms your heart rate, improves your heart and lung function, and builds your endurance. It can also boost your self-confidence, clear your mind, and bolster your move.

If you need a little inspiration and motivation to get started, check out this list of effective anti-anxiety workouts.

  1. Talk It Out

Anxiety builds up when we hold our nervous feelings inside. When that happens, you’re more likely to dwell on the negative thoughts and allow them to interrupt your daily life.

It can be incredibly helpful to share those sentiments with a supportive, listening ear. For some, this might mean confiding in a trusted friend or family member in a one-on-one setting. For others, it means attending a group counseling session or support group, where others can also share their own feelings and experiences.

If you have a history of substance abuse, make sure the person on the other end of the conversation is familiar with your journey. They should be able to offer compassionate, non-judgmental advice on ways to soothe your anxiety without reverting back to your familiar coping mechanisms.

It might sound non-traditional, but some studies suggest that instead of simply talking out your frustrations, you should try shouting them out instead!

Of course, we don’t mean engaging in an explosive dialogue that leaves the other party feeling afraid or vulnerable. Rather, we simply mean releasing a short-lived scream to release those pent-up emotions and deliver a quick burst of calm to your brain. By giving voice to your pain, you can remain in control of your emotions and prevent them from piling up.

  1. Kick the Caffeine Habit

Especially if your anxiety is negatively affecting your sleep cycle, you might feel drained and weary eyed after a night of tossing and turning. In response, your first instinct might be to brew a big pot of coffee that will rejuvenate your mind and body.

While a cup of joe might wake you up momentarily, think about how it makes you feel just minutes later. When you consume caffeine, the substance almost immediately activates your brain and nervous system. It also jumpstarts your body’s production of cortisol and adrenaline.

Cortisol is your primary stress hormone, while adrenaline is a hormone that increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. All of these reactions can exacerbate your anxiety.

For this reason, it’s best to avoid substances that contain high amounts of caffeine, especially before bedtime. While you don’t have to eliminate your favorite brew or soft drink cold turkey, try cutting back on the quantity you consume. See if it helps you sleep better, breathe easier, and remain calmer throughout the day.

  1. Create a Self-Care Routine

If things in your world are feeling out of your control, it can help to establish some sort of self-care routine. The activities you choose are up to you, but they should be healthy habits that nourish your body and spirit from the inside out.

When some people think of pampering and self-love, they may envision a warm bubble bath, flickering candles, and calming essential oils diffused nearby. For others, self-care looks like hours spent in the garden or hiking on local trails.

The routine you create doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s, but it should be full of things that bring you back to yourself and make you feel most alive. You may also use this “me time” to discover a new, relaxing hobby, such as painting or playing music.

  1. Prioritize Sleep

Next, let’s talk shuteye. If you suffer from anxiety, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough of it. Research reveals that more than 50% of people with generalized anxiety disorder also experience sleep problems.

If you’re used to drinking a few glasses of wine or taking another substance to fall asleep, then you might be unfamiliar with safer, more natural ways to drift off into dreamland.

Brew a warm mug of caffeine-free chamomile tea before bedtime or read a book that relaxes you. In addition, try to initiate your bedtime routine at the same time each night, even on the weekends.

This way, your mind will know that it’s time to start shutting down so you can get the recommended eight to nine hours of rest that you need. Another tip? Your brain can’t power off if your devices are still powered on.

At least an hour before you turn in, set your alarm and turn your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. Resist the urge to scroll social media, check your email, or start texting as it gets late. If you still find it difficult to fall asleep, try listening to a meditation or practicing a few relaxing yoga stretches.

  1. Nourish Your Body

When your anxiety spikes, your mind might be racing so quickly that you forget to eat. Or you might feel so nauseous and worried that the idea of food just doesn’t appeal to you. Either way, skipping a meal can set off a troublesome cycle that only leaves you feeling worse than before.

Without an adequate supply of food, your body’s blood sugar drops, which increases cortisol production. In turn, this amplifies your stress response.

Instead of reaching for junk food and sweets, look for simple ingredients that are both filling and easy to prepare. This isn’t necessarily the time to try an intricate, multi-step recipe that makes you frazzled and distracted. Rather, keep it simple but nutritious, and your mind and body will thank you.

  1. Avoid Over-Committing

Sometimes, staying busy can be a smart way to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. When we sit stagnant for too long, it’s all too easy to get consumed by troublesome thoughts.

However, it’s also smart to avoid overfilling your plate with too many activities. When you do so, you can become stretched too thin, which deepens feelings of stress and worry.

Learn to give priority to the things and events that make you feel whole and alive, such as spending time with your family or talking to your friends. Then, gracefully and politely decline when presented with an opportunity that doesn’t fall within those parameters.

This may even mean cutting back on your commitments to others. If you’re always the designated person who runs errands, plans events, and shoulders the burdens of others, that leaves little time to dedicate to your own mental health and growth.

Learn your limits, stick to them, and remind yourself that you can only do so much. Burnout, depression, and anxiety are all closely related, and you can experience all three if you allow others to impede on your time.

  1. Narrow Your Perspective

One of the most effective forms of anxiety control is to shift your perspective from oversized to tiny. When you consider the state of the world as a whole, the idea might be too much to bear.

Give yourself a break and watch the leaves on a tree dance in the breeze. Notice a robin as it perches on a branch.

By focusing on what you can enjoy in the moment, you can offset some of the emotional weight you’re carrying. It can also help to keep a gratitude journal, where you jot down these special instances and the joy they bring you.

Learn How to Control Your Anxiety the Healthy Way

Anxiety might be a common issue, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to experience. When you’re in the throes of this condition, you might feel out of control and consumed by fear of the unknown.

By learning how to control your anxiety in healthy, nourishing ways, you can know what to do when you feel those reactions coming on. The eight tips above can help you reclaim control of your mind, body, and emotions and live a more balanced life.

At Cenikor, we offer a variety of different substance use disorder treatment programs designed to empower patients on their paths to recovery. Get help today, and let’s take this next step together.

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