Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear, and can range from mild to severe. It is a natural response to stress or perceived danger and can be helpful in certain situations. When anxiety becomes excessive or persistent, it can interfere with daily life and become a medical condition known as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can show up in a number of ways, and the symptoms can differ from person to person:
• Someone with anxiety may experience persistent worry or fear about everyday situations.
• Feel restless or on edge, making it difficult to relax or concentrate.
• Anxiety can be mentally and physically exhausting, leading to feelings of tiredness or weakness.
• Anxiety can cause people to feel irritable or easily agitated, leading to conflicts or problems in relationships.
• Anxiety can interfere with a person’s ability to fall or stay asleep, leading to insomnia or frequent awakenings.
In my life anxiety strikes at odd moments and situations. A recent example for me is travelling to deliver a training course:
• As I’m driving to where I’m going, I start to imagine that the training materials I have won’t be received well, or that what I’ve prepared won’t last for the allotted time. I start to think that I’m useless and feel like an imposter. I get so anxious that I start to think of scenarios that might be a credible reason to turn back and not face the day.
• My way of managing these feelings is to come back to the present by deep breathing as I drive. Becoming conscious of my breathing allows me to forget, momentarily, that gloomy future I have imagined and I’m able to think more clearly about a different possible future. Talking to myself I would say (or think), “you’ve prepared good and interesting materials. You have enough material to conduct the training and to leave room for discussion and Q&A. You know what you’re talking about, and you have a right to deliver the training because they have booked you and paid for your time. those attending the training are looking forward to attending etc”.
• I usually get a couple of bouts of anxiety (bouts is an appropriate word because they feel like a fight) when doing anything outside of my comfort zone, and yet there is something satisfying about engaging in the ‘fight’ and coming through the other side.
Other ways of managing anxiety might include:
• Developing a regular self-care routine. This can include exercise, meditation, or other activities that promote relaxation and mindfulness. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and improve overall mental health. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help you to stay present in the moment and reduce feelings of anxiety.
• Getting enough restful sleep is essential for emotional well-being and can help to reduce anxiety. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants in the evening, and creating a calming sleep environment can all help improve the quality of your sleep.
• It’s also important to seek professional support if anxiety is interfering with your daily life. A mental health professional can help you to identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and manage symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage anxiety symptoms.
• It’s essential to remember that anxiety is a natural part of the recovery process. It’s normal to feel anxious about the future or uncertain about how to move forward in recovery. However, with the right tools and support, it’s possible to manage anxiety and stay committed to your recovery goals.
Groups can be useful and a group on managing anxiety might be structured in various ways depending on the needs and preferences of the group members. Here are some possible components of a group on managing anxiety:
1. Psychoeducation: The group facilitator can provide information about anxiety, its causes, and its symptoms. This can help group members better understand their anxiety and how to manage it.
2. Coping strategies: The group can explore different coping strategies for anxiety, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioural techniques.
3. Group discussion: Group members can share their experiences with anxiety, discuss their challenges, and provide support to one another. This can help normalise anxiety and reduce feelings of isolation.
4. Goal setting: Group members can set goals for themselves related to managing their anxiety and track their progress over time. This can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
5. Relaxation exercises: The group can practice different relaxation exercises together, such as guided imagery, visualisation, or meditation.
6. Homework assignments: The group facilitator can assign homework, such as practicing coping strategies and keeping a journal, to help group members apply what they have learned in the group to their daily lives.
Overall, a group on managing anxiety can be a supportive and empowering environment for anyone who struggles with anxiety in addiction recovery.