Tightness in your throat, racing heart, stomach cramps, speeding thoughts and insomnia- AGAIN!?
When your loved one is dependent on a substance, ANXIETY is a permanent (unwelcomed) resident inhabiting your mind and causing havoc to your body and wellbeing.
Like all of our emotions anxiety has a purpose- it isn’t all-bad, in fact it keeps us alive, it informs us that there is danger and readies our bodies to fight or flee the situation.
The issue is that we have tens of thousands of thoughts per day and for someone in a relationship with a substance misusing loved one our thoughts can be focused on an uncontrollable future, where anxiety is reigning king.
Questions invade and repeat in our minds:
- What will they be like when I get home?
- Are they really serious about giving up this time?
- What am I going to do?
- What if they drive drunk again?
These are all very real and concerning thoughts that need to be considered and plans made to address them. Anxiety on its own will not solve our problems and left alone to run riot in our minds will only get worse. One of my clients calls this “the rats” as her anxiety-provoking thoughts run through her mind like a rat on a wheel going nowhere.
Anxious thoughts become intruders as we go about our daily routines. We are driving our kids to school, in a work meeting, at dinner with friends all the while anxious thoughts distract and upset us. The result of this is that we become disconnected from our lives, we miss the good stuff going on right in front of us. These constant anxious thoughts do nothing to address or solve any of the underlying reasons for their presence, and instead, we develop serious unwellness. It is simply not healthy or helpful to be worried all of the time.
It is said that the mind is a terrible master but a wonderful servant. Below is a basic formula for you to practice to begin to regain control of your mind and lower anxiety-provoking thoughts. This strategy will not make your concerns mysteriously melt away but it will put you in a calmer and more present space to consider them.
Stop– when you become aware that you’re feeling anxious maybe your shoulders ache or you are unable to think straight, maybe you are feeling irritable. Take a moment to reset and step back from the situation you are creating in your mind. Remember you are not your mind, thoughts are just thoughts. Slow down. Take no action.
Take a breath- when we are anxious our breathing changes and becomes shallow and rapid- or we may even hold our breath to prepare us to run or fight. Making a conscious decision to focus on breathing slowly and from your diaphragm will automatically reduce your sense of panic.
Observe– because we run on automatic pilot most of the time (very few of our thoughts are original) and anxiety has often become normal for us, ask yourself:
- What am I telling myself that is making me feel this way?
- Can I do anything about this now?
- Are these thoughts helpful or unhelpful?
- Where is my focus of attention right now?
Put in some perspective– emotions are self-perpetuating. Because of this, we can get carried away in our negative and anxiety-provoking thoughts. We can totally lose sight of the obstacles we have overcome and the progress that we have made, not to mention the areas of our lives that are going okay or even great. Anxiety can even rob us of the sober times with our loved one if we let it.
Practice what works– hopefully, you have 1 or 2 activities or strategies that provide you with relief from your busy worrying mind, if not the time to start investigating. Here are some ideas: A mindful activity such as colouring, focusing on breathing or bodily sensations like going for a run or swim.
Positive self-talk- is proven to reduce anxious minds. Using positive coping statements such as, “I am ok and in control of my thoughts in this moment,” or alternatively postponing your worrying mind by telling it, “thank you but not now,” and allocating a time when you can actually engage in constructive problem-solving. Our minds in anxiety mode make up all sorts of unhelpful possibilities. The good news is we can use our amazing imagination for good. Try visualising being skilful in handling an anxiety-provoking scenario and watch as your anxiety reduces.
Like anything awareness is the beginning of any change and with practice and commitment, you can become the master of your mind.
One last thing, consider this:
Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles it takes away today’s peace.