5 Holistic Ways to Manage Anxiety and Depression While in Recovery
Depression and anxiety are commonly comorbid with substance use disorders. Also, symptoms can linger as a result of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Finding holistic ways to manage anxiety and depression during recovery can make your transition to a sober lifestyle easier.
Consider these self-care strategies to successfully manage anxiety and depression:
Meditation is a mindfulness technique that is used frequently in therapeutic settings to relieve distress. Evidence shows that meditation can effectively reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, worry, and anger. Meditation encourages self-exploration and self-awareness, and it includes both spiritual and psychological elements.
2. Restful Sleep
Getting sufficient amounts of high-quality sleep can be challenging during recovery. To maintain a sober lifestyle, sleep is essential. Most adults need at least 7 hours of restful sleep each day for optimal bodily functioning. Therefore, you can manage stress better by prioritizing sleep.
Exercise offers both physical and psychological health benefits, and it is extremely beneficial during the recovery process. When you exercise, your body releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins can naturally boost your mood and ease symptoms of depression.
Here are a few forms of movement to try:
- Outdoor activities: Spending time in nature is therapeutic and studies have shown that “forest bathing” can reduce anxiety and depression.
- Yoga: Yoga incorporates both meditative elements and physical movement to calm intense emotional energy. Research shows a single session of yoga is effective in reducing anger, confusion, depression, fatigue, and tension, regardless of gender.
- Walking: Walking is the simplest form of physical activity, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. Consider inviting someone from your 12-step community to join you on regular walks to simultaneously exercise and strengthen your support network.
4. Nourishing Food
Nourishing your body with healthy food is essential during recovery. While your body heals, it needs high-quality nutrients to repair and recover. Adequate nutrition can also help prevent relapses. Focus on eating a wide variety of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water to maintain a good level of hydration.
5. Deep Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing techniques can diminish anxiety symptoms by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Controlled breathing has a calming effect on the central nervous system, which can relieve tension and anxiety.
Here are some different types of deep-breathing techniques to explore:
- Abdominal Breathing: Sometimes called “belly breathing,” this technique is an effective stress-relieving strategy. It increases oxygen levels in your body and strengthens your lungs and abdominal muscles.
- 4-7-8 Technique: This simple breathing technique involves inhaling through your nose for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of seven, and exhaling completely through your mouth for a count of eight. Try it any time you feel a surge of anxiety.
- Holotropic Breathwork (HB): This spiritually oriented approach to managing stress and anxiety can be used throughout your recovery process. “Holo” means wholeness and “tropic” means moving toward, so holotropic embodies the idea of “moving toward wholeness.” This method of self-exploration involves elements of rapid, deep breathing, powerful music, body work, artistic expression, and group interactions.
As you begin to explore new, holistic ways to manage anxiety and depression, you’ll begin to learn which techniques work best for you. Pay attention to how your body responds during each activity as well as how you feel afterward.
Staying connected to a supportive, therapeutic community can also have a positive influence on your long-term recovery.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.