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Anxiety vs Nervousness: Differences and Treatment

In our daily lives, terms like anxiety, stress, and nervousness often get interchanged. However, understanding the distinction between these terms can be pivotal for personal well-being and appropriate treatment. The debate of anxiety vs nervousness isn’t just a matter of semantics. It’s about comprehending different emotional experiences and their impact on our health.

Anxiety vs Nervousness

We’ve all felt that flutter in our stomachs before a significant event or the rapid heartbeat during moments of tension. Often, terms like ‘anxiety’ and ‘nervousness’ are used interchangeably to describe these feelings. However, while they share some overlapping symptoms, they stem from different origins and can have distinct impacts on our well-being. 

As we delve deeper into the subject of anxiety vs nervousness, it becomes crucial to distinguish between these two emotions to ensure accurate understanding and appropriate responses. Therefore, by differentiating between them, we can better address our mental health and the challenges that come with it.

Nervousness: A Fleeting Feeling

Nervousness is a natural, temporary reaction to a particular situation or challenge. Whether it’s speaking in public, attending an interview, or meeting someone new. These instances might invoke feelings of unease or apprehension. 

Nervousness is a common emotional state characterized by feelings of apprehension, unease, and worry. Often, it is triggered by anticipation of a future event or situation. In addition, it can manifest both mentally and physically. 

  • Mentally: An individual might experience restlessness, racing thoughts, or unease. 
  • Physically: Possible symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, dry mouth, or stomach discomfort. 

Typically, nervousness is a temporary reaction to a specific trigger, such as an upcoming presentation, a job interview, or any situation that is unfamiliar or outside of one’s comfort zone. The nervous sensation fades as soon as the triggering event concludes. 

While it’s a natural human response to certain situations, excessive or chronic nervousness can be a sign of a more serious anxiety disorder. However, occasional nervousness is a normal part of life and does not necessarily indicate a larger mental health issue.

The Role of Stress

To better understand anxiety vs nervousness, we must also understand the role of stress. Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. It can be defined as the body’s response to any change that requires an adjustment or response. 

Naturally, everyone experiences stress from time to time. It can come from any event or thought that makes someone feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or even anxious.

Stress can be broken down into two main types:

  • Acute stress: This is short-term stress that goes away quickly. It can be felt when someone slams on the brakes, has a fight with a friend, or ski down a steep slope. It helps people manage dangerous situations. It also occurs when doing something exciting that gets the heart pumping. 
  • Chronic stress: This is stress that lasts for a longer period. For example, money problems, an unhappy marriage, or trouble at work. Any stress that goes on for weeks or months is chronic stress. Moreover, it can become harmful when people use unhealthy coping strategies like substance abuse to deal with their stress.

Stress causes physiological responses in our bodies. When we perceive a threat or challenge, the body responds by releasing stress hormones. Primarily, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare the body to either “fight or flight”. 

As a result, this leads to various physical reactions, such as a faster heartbeat, heightened senses, quickened breath, and tensing of muscles. Once the threat or challenge passes, these reactions usually fade.

However, if these stress responses are constantly triggered, they can wear down the body and lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.

Anxiety: More Than Just Temporary Worries

Anxiety vs nervousness: Unlike nervousness, anxiety isn’t always linked to a specific event or situation. Whereas, it’s a more chronic emotion, often without an identifiable trigger. It’s not uncommon for anxiety to last for days or longer. Consequently, making it challenging for individuals to carry out daily tasks.

Anxiety vs stress: While both are responses to challenges or threats, stress is generally linked to a specific external factor, such as a looming deadline. So, once the stressor disappears, the stress tends to fade. Anxiety, on the other hand, might persist even in the absence of a clear reason.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This condition is characterized by persistent, exaggerated worry about everyday life events.
  • Panic Disorder: Involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense fear or terror.
  • Phobia: Extreme fear about a specific thing or situation (e.g., spiders, heights).
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: A debilitating fear of being observed or judged in social settings.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Recurrent unwanted thoughts and/or repetitive behaviors.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Initiated by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

It’s imperative to note that anxiety disorders heighten the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). Individuals might resort to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. Therefore, this leads to a dual diagnosis—where a person suffers from both a mental health disorder and SUD.

The Debilitating Impact of Anxiety Disorders

Untreated anxiety can permeate every facet of an individual’s life. From strained relationships to underperformance at work or school, its effects can be pervasive. Physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances, might accompany the emotional and cognitive symptoms.

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Recognizing and treating an anxiety disorder is vital. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be instrumental in managing symptoms. Medications, combined with therapy, can be highly effective depending on the severity of the disorder.

In cases where SUD coexists with an anxiety disorder, dual diagnosis treatment becomes essential. This approach addresses both issues simultaneously, enhancing the chances of recovery.

Anxiety vs Nervousness: When to Seek Help

While nervousness is a universal and short-lived experience, anxiety, particularly in its chronic forms, can be debilitating and demands attention. Recognizing the distinction between anxiety vs nervousness is the first step in seeking the necessary help and reclaiming a balanced life. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, reach out to our mental health professionals at Enlightened Solutions.

How to Sleep When You’re Feeling Anxious

Sleep is something that we all need. The amount of sleep and the quality of sleep we receive each night determines how well we function. Sleep affects things like focus, energy levels, mood, and more.

Getting enough quality sleep while you are struggling with substance abuse can be difficult. It can even be tricky during treatment and recovery. The truth is that many things impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

How Anxiety Affects Sleep

Getting adequate sleep can be very difficult for those who also struggle with anxiety. Because it can be such a challenge, the topic of sleep can be very discouraging for some. Anxiety can affect people differently, as some may be more hindered by its symptoms than others. Across the board, though, anxiety commonly interrupts sleep by either making falling asleep hard or causing frequent awakenings during the night.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to lose sleep when you are anticipating something big or are worried about something? This feeling can be frequent or even consistent for those who struggle with anxiety. Those with anxiety often have difficulty shutting their mind off to relax. They can be consumed by negative thoughts and feelings that distract from their ability to be present in the moment.

These consuming, recurring thoughts often disrupt sleep patterns for people with anxiety. When falling asleep or staying asleep becomes a challenge due to anxiety, it is time to take action. You can do things to help promote good sleep each night while working through anxious thoughts and feelings. A few tips are discussed below.

Create a Sound Environment for Sleep

Everyone sleeps better at home, right? This may not always be the case, but if your home consists of a comfortable bed, your favorite pillow, and other items that provide you comfort, you are likely to get quality sleep in this environment.

Creating an environment that is suitable for sleep involves feeling safe. Allowing your mind and body to relax is the key. Without an environment you feel safe in, you are probably unable to relax either one.

Another suggestion for a sleep-encouraging environment is to limit light. Most people sleep best with little to no light at all. Light can be stimulating, so it is best to keep lights dim as you wind down for the night.

Screentime should also be minimal or nonexistent as you create your sleeping environment. It can be common to become accustomed to falling asleep with the TV on or spending time scrolling on your phone before bed. This can lead to reduced melatonin, which makes falling asleep more difficult. If you struggle to get good quality sleep, eliminating screentime in your sleep environment may be worth considering.

Listen to Calming Music

Music can be helpful or harmful when it comes to falling asleep. It is essential to select the correct type of music to listen to as you are trying to wind down. Slower, more calming music can help relax your mind as you prepare for bed. Nature sounds, such as waves or rain, can also be quite relaxing.

If you find your mind working overtime just as you lay down and prepare for sleep, try putting on some calming music at a low volume. Sometimes, this can encourage your mind to slow down as you focus on the sounds you are hearing instead of your thoughts.

Use Essential Oils

The use of essential oils can enhance your treatment and recovery experience in many ways. They can be healing, energizing, and relaxing. Learn more about the therapeutic benefits of essential oils here.

Lavender is known for its relaxing effect and can be used in many different situations where you feel you might need to relax a bit. It is this soothing nature that makes lavender oil an excellent option for encouraging sleep.

One way to use lavender as part of your sleep routine is to diffuse it somewhere near your bed. Diffusers usually run for a reasonable amount of time with little to no sound, making them an excellent option for bedtime.

Try Reading or Journaling

When you struggle to fall asleep or wake up during the night, make every effort to stay off your phone and avoid screens of any kind. Again, screentime reduces melatonin production and will likely make falling asleep even more difficult.

Sometimes, reading a book or journaling can help you relax and settle your mind. If you find yourself battling anxious thoughts, it can help to write them down or redirect them by getting lost in a good book.

Sleeping well with anxiety can be difficult. Since it is so important to healing and progress in recovery, it is critical to make every effort to get the quality sleep you need.

Anxiety has a way of affecting all areas of life. One area affected is sleep. When you are struggling with anxiety, it can be difficult to relax your mind and body at bedtime. During treatment at Enlightened Solutions, we teach clients a variety of holistic strategies for improving sleep in recovery. Establishing an effective bedtime routine can be very helpful. By using things like essential oils, claiming music, low lighting, and more, you can improve your quality and quantity of sleep. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, we would love to help. To begin your journey to recovery, call Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE.

Treating Anxiety Naturally

Anxiety is something that many people experience throughout their lifetime. Some may struggle with it daily, while for others, it may come in waves or be situational. Studies show that over 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder, a little more than 19% of the population.

This number doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who are likely undiagnosed, chalking their symptoms up to circumstantial stressors. The truth is, some degree of anxiety can be normal, and can even be a good thing in moderation. When symptoms become excessive, however, it can become problematic.

Treatment for anxiety can vary widely. Some may choose to manage symptoms with medication. Others may opt for psychotherapy or counseling. Many elect to receive a combination of both medication and therapy.

How to Identify Anxiety

Temporary fear or worry about things such as finances, family, or health issues is totally normal. An anxiety disorder is present when the worry or fear does not pass, increases over time, or interferes with day-to-day life such as work, school, or relationships.

There are several different types of anxiety disorders. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and various phobia-related disorders. Symptoms can vary for each type, but a few common symptoms of each can include:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Struggling to focus
  • Irritability or mood shifts
  • Aches and pains such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach discomfort
  • Feelings of worry or dread that are hard to control or irrational
  • Insomnia or difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling self-conscious
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excess and uncontrollable sweating
  • Shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble with eye contact
  • Feeling judged

Benzos for Anxiety

Anxiety is often treated with benzodiazepines, more commonly known as benzos. These medications are also widely prescribed for insomnia, stress, epilepsy, and for sedation purposes. With anxiety and the other mentioned challenges being so prevalent, benzos are among the most frequently prescribed medications in the United States.

Benzos work by slowing down the central nervous system as they increase the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. This produces a calm feeling and can even lead to drowsiness. It is for this reason that benzos can also be used to treat insomnia.

Benzos are only to be used temporarily or for short periods. This usually involves only a few days to weeks of usage at a time. Unfortunately, however, some providers continue to prescribe them to be used for longer durations. This creates a tolerance for the suggested dosage, often resulting in the misuse of the medication. More is required to get the calming effect once achieved with the prescribed dosage. Just like that, a habit is formed. There is also the risk of overdose when mixing benzos with alcohol or other drugs.

Alternative Treatment Options

Benzos should be considered a small piece of the full treatment plan for anxiety – if included at all. Psychotherapy is an excellent addition to medication therapy or an alternative form of treatment for anxiety. Psychotherapy can include techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), experiential therapy, and holistic therapy. Each of these options can be highly effective in treating anxiety and can be used to supplement, reduce, or replace the use of benzos for treating anxiety and related symptoms.

CBT increases cognitive awareness and encourages eliminating negative thought patterns. This form of therapy creates an increased understanding of how one’s thoughts and emotions are affecting their actions and behaviors.

Experiential therapy involves the reenactment or recreating of significant events or experiences in a person’s life. Various activities, tools, or props are often used in this form of treatment. Role-playing can commonly be incorporated to help one re-live and process the experience. Activities could include horseback riding, surfing, kayaking, acting, and more.

Holistic therapy refers to treating the whole person. This approach focuses on the mind, body, and spirit and is very integrative. Examples of holistic treatment modalities could include art therapy, music therapy, chiropractic, yoga, meditation, and consuming organic foods. Holistic therapies often involve lifestyle changes and healthy routines to improve one’s overall quality of life.

Depending on the source, severity, and frequency of one’s anxiety, choosing a therapeutic approach may be just as beneficial as prescription anxiety medication and, in many cases, can be a more sustainable treatment option in the long term. Knowing the habit-forming risks of benzos, it could be worth considering alternate options to treat anxiety before or in addition to seeking medication. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of evidence-based therapies to treat addiction to prescription drugs, including benzos.

Benzodiazepines are the most frequently prescribed medications in the United States. They are very commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and several other disorders. Because of the risk of misuse, addiction, and even harm when taken in excess or combined with other substances, other more natural options should be considered. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, and holistic therapy can serve as an excellent addition or alternative to benzos for the treatment of anxiety. Enlightened Solutions specializes in holistic therapy, and utilizes treatments such as art therapy, music therapy, and yoga, in addition to chiropractic, meditation, and organic food programs as part of individualized treatment plans. Our highly trained staff encourages healing and restores hope through these treatment modalities and can assist you in regaining control of your life. If you or someone you love could benefit from our treatment offerings, call Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE.

Getting the Most Out of Your Recovery With Yoga

Yoga is a practice that uses physical poses to connect the mind, body and breath. The benefits of yoga include stress relief, pain management, and a general improvement in overall well-being. It also helps you gain self-awareness and explore your spirituality. 

Yoga is a powerful tool for holistic healing and recovery from addiction. Substance abuse treatment programs use yoga to help prevent relapse, ease withdrawal symptoms, and provide a healthy way to cope with stress and other negative emotions. It can be an integral part of your daily routine at a treatment center and for the rest of your recovery journey.

How Can Yoga Help You Cope With Stress and Anxiety?

Almost half of the people with a substance use disorder also suffer from an underlying mental health condition. Feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression can cause people to turn to drug abuse – drugs and alcohol may produce temporary calming effects or provide an escape from reality.

Part of the addiction recovery process is learning to reduce anxiety and stress and deal with these feelings in healthier ways. Feelings of anxiety stem from the central nervous system – it is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Yoga can help regulate your nervous systems, making you feel calmer and more relaxed, which in turn reduces the urge to seek a substance.

Yoga can affect your nervous system by impacting GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels in the brain. GABA is a chemical that inhibits brain activity and calms your central nervous system. Research has found that yoga increases GABA levels, improving mood and reducing anxiety.

Yoga may also affect the ‘vagus nerve’, a powerful nerve that delivers messages from the brain to the digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems. The vagus nerve causes a calming response in your nervous system, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. Yoga involves breathing exercises and other practices that can activate this nerve, helping you manage stress and experience feelings of oneness.

How Does Yoga Help to Manage Pain?

Many people start using prescription drugs like opioids to relieve chronic physical pain and later become addicted. People in recovery may search for another way to ease their pain and yoga can help. 

Lower back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic pain and affects millions of people in the United States. Research has shown Iyengar yoga can be used to decrease the intensity of lower back pain of participants and increase their health-related quality of life – that is, improve the aspects of their well-being that their health impacts. In addition, it can help prevent someone from returning to drugs to relieve pain and the feelings of depression that often accompany it.

How Can You Use Yoga Alongside the 12-Step Program?

The 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are a set of guiding principles for overcoming addiction and maintaining sobriety. They focus on self-acceptance, spiritual well-being, and the development of meaningful bonds between one another. Yoga can support addiction recovery and offer a holistic healing experience that is cognitive, spiritual, and somatic – so it works very well alongside the 12-step program.

Practicing yoga is a way to explore these principles from a body-mind approach. It is an opportunity for introspection where you can learn to accept yourself as a whole. Yoga and meditation also further the development of your spirituality. They can help fulfill the sense of longing for connection or deeper experience that many recovering addicts (people in recovery) recognize as an underlying cause of their addiction.

Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center that focuses on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy and offers each client an individualized recovery plan.

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of treatment modalities to provide a holistic healing experience. Our treatment plans include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. You will find us near the southern shore of New Jersey, where we provide optimal healing and relaxation.

If you seek relief from addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 to learn more about our treatment options.

Somatoform Disorder Is Scary, but What Is It?

Somatoform disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions where you experience unexplained pain and other bodily symptoms. Somatoform symptoms cause serious distress but are not entirely attributable to any known medical condition or other mental disorder, and they can have a considerable impact on your daily life and well-being.

Symptoms of somatoform disorder manifest in different ways. These include:

  • Pain
  • Neurological disorders relating to your central nervous system 
  • Problems in your stomach, gut, and digestive system
  • Sexual problems

Having a somatoform disorder can be stressful and frustrating. You may feel unsatisfied that there is not a simple medical cause that doctors can treat to end the pain. Sometimes friends, loved ones, and others around you do not appreciate the levels of distress and the challenges you face as a result of the illness. However, the distress and sensation of pain you experience are real, even if there isn’t an underlying medical explanation.

While it may not be possible to find a medical cause, you can still treat and recover from somatoform disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, and treatment for co-occurring disorders can all help to manage symptoms so you can enjoy your daily life.

What Are Some Types of Somatoform Disorder?

There are many types of somatoform disorder, including:

  • Somatization disorder – where you experience several different kinds of physical symptoms
  • Undifferentiated somatoform disorder – which causes a smaller range of symptoms
  • Conversion disorder – causing only voluntary motor or sensory function symptoms
  • Pain disorder – where psychological factors cause or worsen pain
  • Body dysmorphic disorder – where you become overly concerned by a real or imaginary defect on your body
  • Hypochondriasis – an illness anxiety disorder where you are extremely worried about your health

How Does Somatoform Disorder Relate to Depression and Anxiety?

Somatoform disorders often lead to general health anxiety and fears about the cause of the bodily symptoms. However, stress and other mental health issues may also be a driving force behind the disorder. A study by the American Psychiatric Journal found strong associations between somatoform disorders and other psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. 

How Does Somatoform Disorder Lead to Substance Abuse?

Somatic symptoms and other related disorders cause bodily pain that can be severe and difficult to manage. As a result, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to ease symptoms and escape from feelings of stress and frustration.

Marijuana, opioid painkillers, and benzodiazepines can all help to relieve pain and anxiety. However, these drugs are also addictive. Using illicit drugs or prescription drugs in ways other than your doctor prescribes may lead to substance use disorders that can devastate your health and social life.

How Does Drug Use Affect Somatoform Disorder?

Drug abuse and addiction may also affect somatic symptoms. Medications like opioid painkillers can make you hypersensitive to pain and exacerbate the symptoms of somatoform disorders. In addition, withdrawal symptoms and side effects of drug abuse may worsen gastrointestinal, sexual, and coordination problems.

How Can You Treat Somatoform Disorder?

Somatic disorder treatment often involves different kinds of therapy and treatment for co-occurring disorders like substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression which may underlie somatic symptoms. 

Treatment is more successful if doctors recognize the disorder quickly and avoid unnecessary testing and ineffective treatments. In addition, health care professionals should deliver diagnosis and treatment with empathy and a complete understanding of the pain and distress the patient is experiencing.

Treatment for co-occurring substance use and somatic form disorders should treat both illnesses simultaneously. Somatoform disorders can be a driving factor behind substance abuse, and if ignored, drug-seeking behaviors can re-emerge, even after long periods of sobriety. Holistic treatment that focuses on underlying mental and physical conditions is fundamental to recovering from both kinds of disorder.  

Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center. We offer a holistic treatment program that treats underlying mental health issues alongside addiction. Our location on the picturesque south shores of New Jersey provides an optimal setting for healing and relaxation.

Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy, and we provide each client with an individualized recovery plan. We offer a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. If you or someone close to you seeks relief from addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.


“Make Your Bed”: The Importance of Routine in Addiction Recovery

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day….Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven first gave that advice in 2014 as part of his commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin. His speech evidently touched a nerve, because it went viral and became a basis for his book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World. Making sure that you have time for, and take care of, the little things ensures that the big things will happen too.

Sobriety: A Huge Change

Your decision to say goodbye to addiction and embrace sobriety is a huge change. When you went through a treatment program, you made many positive changes in your life. Embracing sobriety isn’t just about overcoming addiction; it’s also about creating a new, healthy lifestyle.

In treatment, your schedule was provided for you. You knew when to get up when to eat, when to workout, when to go to therapy, when to go to your support group, and when to go to bed. The routine was established to make sure that everything you needed for your recovery happened and to establish healthy habits. Now that you have finished treatment, you need to create a routine to ensure that you continue with those healthy habits.

Routine Provides Structure and Stability

When you were struggling with your addiction, your life was out of your control and your substance of choice was in charge. Through treatment, you regained control of your life. Having a stable routine will help you remain in control.

Routine provides us with structure. Knowing what we are going to do and when we are going to do it gives us control of our lives and a sense of self-efficacy. We know what to expect and we can prepare. A routine can even give us a sense of accomplishment because if we have a plan for our day, we will know that we have completed what we set out to do.

How to Create a Routine

When you start creating your routine, begin with what could be called your anchor points. Another way to think of it is to begin creating your routine by starting with the non-negotiable items. While those will vary from person to person, for many of us they will revolve around our work schedule and when our children (if we have children) need to be in school. Remember to include the time that it takes to get to and from the places that you go routinely. Time spent in transit may not be as important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people are working from home and some children are attending school online, but it is still something to consider.

Another set of vital anchor points to pin down is the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. When you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, it improves the quality of your sleep. And a good night’s sleep makes the next day so much better.

When you have established a few key anchors, you can begin linking other important activities to these points. For example, you may decide that after you wake up, you will meditate or go for a run. You might set out your clothes for the next day as part of getting ready for bed.

When you are creating your routine, remember that not every day will look the same and that’s okay. On some days you may be ferrying children to practice or rehearsal (although not so much during the pandemic) and on other days you may be attending your support group. What’s important is that you have a plan and you know what to expect.

What to Include in Your Routine

As you establish your routine, you will want to make sure you have time for activities that nourish your body and your soul and support your sobriety. You will want to make time to attend your support group. Many people in early sobriety go to several meetings a week. You will want to make time for appointments with your therapist. Exercise is important to your physical and mental well-being, so you will want to be sure that you include time for exercise several times a week. Include time to plan and prepare nutritious meals and be sure to include some time for self-care and household maintenance.

Having a routine does not mean that everything will be within your control, but it does mean that more of your day will go as planned. In addition to reducing feelings of anxiety, this will give you a sense of efficacy and accomplishment, and that feels really good.

Establishing a routine to follow in recovery may sound trivial, but it helps ensure that you attend to all the little details that require attention. When you succeed at the little things, you are set up to meet your big goals as well, like remaining sober. A routine provides your life with structure and ensures that you have time for the activities that nourish your body and soul. Learning to create routines is one of the life skills you will gain at Enlightened Solutions. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center located on New Jersey’s southern shore. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can help with the mental health issues that frequently go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. Our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating an addiction. In addition, to talk therapy and group support, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, and acupuncture. If you have been struggling with an addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We are here to help you.

Why Kindness Matters

When you head out for your morning walk, you take a bag with you and pick up trash that you find on your route. You leave a post-it note on the mirror in the restroom of a local restaurant that reads “You are amazing.” You donate books you’ve finished reading to your community library. All of these acts are examples of kindness and could make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

In 2021, Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17 and the week beginning February 14 has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Week. This day–and week– is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 1995 and sustained by financial contributions from an anonymous donor.

The “Helper’s High”

According to the Random Acts of Kindness website, being kind to others is good for your health. Seeing or performing a kind act increases the production of serotonin, the “love hormone.” This boosts self-esteem and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular health. Kindness also results in higher serotonin levels, which improves sleep, lessens anxiety and depression, and contributes to bone density. In addition, those of us who volunteer or make a point of being kind to others have reported that they have more energy and are happier. Researchers at Emory University found that when you do something for someone else, the brain’s reward and pleasure centers activate. This occurrence is called the “helper’s high.” In addition, performing acts of kindness could even cause you to live longer.

Performing acts of kindness reduce physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website. Pain is lessened because acts of kindness stimulate the production of endorphins, which are considered “the brain’s natural painkillers.” Those of us who volunteer in our communities or make it a point to be kind to others have a 23% lower level of cortisol (the stress hormone), resulting in less perceived stress. In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder performed a minimum of six acts of kindness per week. After one month, this group had a more positive mood, indicated more satisfaction with their personal relationships, and showed less social avoidance. A professor at Case Western Reserve says that doing good for others decreases depression and improves feelings of overall well-being. And finally, being kind to others lowers our blood pressure because of increased serotonin levels.

Turning Your Focus Outward Can Aid Recovery

Performing acts of kindness for others can also help us in our recovery from substance use disorder. When we were drinking, using drugs, or engaging in other harmful addictive behaviors (gambling, for example), we were thinking almost exclusively about ourselves and our addiction. Our focus was on our next drink, wondering where we would get the money for more meth, hoping someone at the party had ecstasy, or whatever our craving was. Our focus was inward. When we perform an act of kindness or service, our focus turns outward to other people and their needs.

Doing good deeds can also help us form connections with other people and with our communities. If we are volunteering as part of an organization, we can bond with others who choose to support the same cause, be it holding a clothing drive to aid people who are returning to the workforce after being homeless, cleaning cages at an animal shelter, or spending a week building a home for a family through Habitat for Humanity.

If you are fairly new to your recovery, you may find yourself feeling bored and with time on your hands. Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to have activities to fill the time that you used to spend drinking or doing drugs. Doing a good deed, be it for an individual or a group, will give you something else to think about and to do while helping someone else at the same time. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you believe in can give your life structure and an additional sense of purpose, which will aid your recovery.

Kindness and Service in Recovery Groups

If you are in recovery from an addiction, you are probably in a support group. The most common are the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, to name a few) and SMART Recovery. Both organizations provide free support to people struggling with or in recovery from substance use disorders on an international level and rely on volunteers. In both groups, volunteers facilitate meetings, both in-person and online. If you are volunteering with your support group, whether you are running the meeting, making coffee, or setting up chairs, it’s a great way to perform an act of kindness and connect with other people. Serving in this way also means that you have made a commitment beyond going to meetings, and this can get you to a meeting when you don’t feel like going, and that can support your recovery.

Performing an act of kindness for someone else, no matter how large or how small, benefits the giver as much or more than it does the recipient.

Random Acts of Kindness Day–and Week–celebrates acts of kindness large and small. As it turns out, doing good deeds is good for your physical and mental health and being of service to others is part of the 12-Step tradition. At Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, service opportunities are built into some of the healing modalities that we offer. For example, in the horticultural therapy modality, patients participate in the work of the organic farm that supplies the produce for the center. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. We will individualize treatment for you based on your own unique needs. The treatment we offer includes talk therapy and support groups as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you have been trapped in a life controlled by drugs and alcohol and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.

“The Sky Is Falling”: Anxiety and Addiction

Most of us are familiar with the old folktale about Chicken Little. In one of the more familiar versions, an acorn falls from a tree and hits Chicken Little in the head. Chicken Little decides that the sky must be falling and that the king needs to be warned. He (or she in some versions) sets out, proclaiming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Along the way, he meets other animals who join him. Different morals have been drawn from the fable, among them that you have to have courage and that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.

The term “Chicken Little” has come to refer to a person who is unreasonably anxious or afraid and who spreads unreasonable fear or anxiety to other people. In psychological terms, Chicken Little was probably suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and had a tendency to catastrophize–that is, to always expect the worst possible outcome from a situation.

What Is Anxiety?

Everyone gets anxious or nervous from time to time–you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t–but an actual anxiety disorder is not just something you experience from time to time and it doesn’t just go away. People who suffer from anxiety tend to be easily irritated and to think the worst of any given situation. They frequently have trouble sleeping, difficulty in making decisions, and are plagued by self-doubt. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety can interfere with daily activities and can have a negative effect on job performance, school work, and relationships. Several types of anxiety disorder have been identified. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively about everyday concerns including their health, work, and social interactions. Symptoms include irritability, feeling restless or edgy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and a general feeling of worry. Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has recurring, unexpected panic attacks. Symptoms include heart palpitations, pounding or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling short of breath or as if you are choking or smothering, and a general feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack and people who have had panic attacks tend to become afraid and worried about the panic attacks themselves.

Phobias are described as “an intense fear of a particular object or circumstance,” but the fear the person experiences is out of proportion to the actual danger. Examples of phobias include fear of heights, flying, spiders, or snakes. If a person has a phobia of a particular object, say spiders, the person will worry a lot about encountering a spider, take extreme measures to avoid spiders, and become extremely and immediately anxious if they come across a spider. Agoraphobia is a specific phobia in which the person is very anxious about two or more of the following situations: using public transportation, being in an open or an enclosed space, crowds or lines, or being alone outside of his or her home. Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being in social or performance situations, and if a person has separation anxiety disorder, he or she will be very fearful of being away from the person that he or she is attached to. Although separation anxiety disorder is often associated with children, adults can suffer from the disorder as well.

Can Anxiety Lead to Addiction?

Anxiety disorders are commonly associated with substance use disorder. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you might turn to alcohol or drugs in an effort to lessen the anxiety and make the symptoms more bearable. You may get relief that way, but only in the short-term. In the long-term, drugs or alcohol can actually increase your anxiety, so you can find yourself in a repeating circle: You feel anxious, so you have a few drinks; the alcohol (in the long-term) increases your anxiety, so you have a few more drinks, and on and on it goes. You could end up with two problems–the original anxiety disorder and a resulting alcohol use disorder. A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) interviewed more than 43,000 people who had suffered from anxiety in the previous year and found that fifteen percent of them met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, about twice the rate for the general population.

Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is frequently used in treating anxiety because it helps people to see the ways in which their thinking is unhelpful or distorted. Clients learn ways to reframe their thinking with respect to their phobia. 

Treatment for anxiety can also include mindfulness exercises and meditation, both of which calm our minds. Breathing exercises can bring us back to a calm place very quickly. These techniques can retrain our brains, so we realize that we aren’t in actual danger–that the snake dozing in its habitat at the local pet store probably won’t break the glass, escape, and destroy everything in its path.  

Like Chicken Little, when an acorn falls on our head, we need to realize that it’s just an acorn. The sky is not falling.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder as well as an alcohol or drug addiction, both conditions need to be treated. If only the addiction is treated and not the underlying anxiety, it will be very difficult for treatment to be successful. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat substance use disorders and the mental health issues that so often accompany addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We offer traditional talk therapy and many alternative therapies, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. We customize treatment for each client and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just the addiction. We are located near the southern New Jersey shore. If you are seeking recovery and relief from addiction and anxiety, please call us at (833) 801-5483.

Why Is a Regular Routine Good for Addiction Recovery?

If you go through an inpatient addiction treatment program, you’ll find that almost everything happens on a schedule. You get up at a regular time, eat meals at regular times, go to therapy at regular times, and go to bed at a regular time. Obviously, it helps to have a schedule when you’re trying to organize the activities of many people but it’s also important that this routine is fairly regular. Establishing and following a regular routine in recovery has many benefits, including the following.


A Routine Makes Healthy Decisions Automatic


Perhaps the most important reason to have a regular routine is that it helps to automate healthy behaviors. You don’t have to decide whether to get up at a reasonable hour or sleep all day; you don’t have to decide when you’re going to eat or if you’re going to exercise. Once you’ve established a regular routine, you don’t have to put much effort into making these decisions. So, for example, if you go to a 12-Step meeting at the same time every day, you don’t have to equivocate and think, “Do I want to go today? Should I maybe try a different meeting? Can I skip one?” You’re in the habit of going to a meeting at that time so you just go. The same is true of any recovery activity. The less thought and effort you have to put into healthy behaviors, the more likely you are to continue doing them.


A Routine Reduces Anxiety


Anxiety is a common issue among people with substance use disorders and uncertainty is one of the biggest drivers of anxiety. If you have no idea what each day will bring or if you know you will face an unfamiliar situation, you will often feel more anxious than if you know you will have to deal with something bad. 


Having a regular routine reduces anxiety in two ways. First, it’s a way of controlling the things you can control. You have a certain amount of free time each day and making deliberate decisions about how to spend it increases your feelings of self-efficacy. If you use that time wisely, such as going to meetings, going to therapy, getting some exercise, and so on, that will further reduce anxiety.


Second, having a regular routine means you will generally know what you can expect from each day. Of course, we don’t have total control over what will happen but most days you will have a general idea. And just having a reasonable expectation that you know what the day will be like can reduce your anxiety about it.


A Routine Keeps You Busy, but Not Too Busy


When you’re recovering from addiction, especially early on, you want to strike a good balance. You want to stay busy enough that you don’t feel bored, restless, or lonely but you don’t want to be so busy that you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Having a routine gives you a baseline of activity to prevent long stretches of idleness and it also helps you meet your responsibilities in a more or less organized way.


A Routine Boosts Conscientiousness


Conscientiousness is perhaps the single most important personality trait related to substance use issues. A number of studies have found that people with substance use issues typically score high on neuroticism and low on conscientiousness. Although high neuroticism is associated with mental health challenges such as major depression, anxiety disorders, and others, it appears that people who are high in neuroticism and also high in conscientiousness are relatively protected against substance use issues. 


One way to boost conscientiousness is to have a regular routine. We all live on a spectrum somewhere between rigid order and total chaos. If you have struggled with substance use issues, you are more likely toward the chaotic end. Imposing a bit of order on your life in the form of a regular routine can help you make progress on your recovery goals, keep your commitments, and generally feel like you have life more under control. 


How to Establish a Routine


If you’re not generally an organized person, you may not even know how to begin establishing a regular routine. One way is to enter an inpatient addiction treatment program. Most of your time will be structured and you will have to devote very little effort to create a routine. After 30 or 90 days of this, you may not be locked into the treatment routine but it shouldn’t be very hard to continue with some of the main things like when you get up, when you eat, when you go to meetings, and so on.


If you have to create a routine from scratch, the key is to start by creating anchor points. So, for example, your first anchor point might be going to a 12-Step meeting at a regular time each day. If you need a reason to get out of bed, see if you can find an earlier meeting. Another good place to start is with a regular wake-up time. This helps ensure you start your day in about the same place, rather than rushing to catch up on some days. Starting with a regular wake-up time will probably make you go to bed a bit earlier without even trying because you’ll be tired.


Once you’ve established some anchor points of things you do every day, or most days, you can begin to add new things. So, for example, if you decide you want to exercise regularly, start by connecting it to one of your anchor points, perhaps getting out of bed. Another point about adding things to your routine is that you should start small. So instead of jumping out of bed and running 10 miles, you might start by getting up and walking for five minutes or even just getting out of bed and putting on your exercise clothes, even if you don’t do any exercise at all. Then, once that connection is established, build the new behavior gradually. It’s also best to only add one new thing at a time and give yourself time to get used to it.


A routine is an important part of addiction recovery. It makes healthy decisions easier, it reduces anxiety, it structures your day, and it makes you more conscientious. You can build a routine gradually, starting with anchor points, or you can enter an inpatient treatment program, which will help you establish a daily routine more quickly. 


At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovery from addiction isn’t just a matter of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but rather about creating a happier, more fulfilling life. To learn more about our treatment options, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.

Why You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Others in Addiction Recovery

When you first start recovering from a substance use disorder, whether you enter treatment, start going to 12-Step meetings, or some other method, you’re taking your first steps into unfamiliar territory. You’re never quite sure if you’re doing the right things or if you have any chance of succeeding. It’s normal to look around and compare your progress to others to try to reassure yourself or at least estimate your progress. However, making these kinds of comparisons only make you feel worse and endangers your recovery. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others while recovering from addiction, or, really, at any other time.


Comparisons Lead to Depression and Anxiety


Teddy Roosevelt famously said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In our hearts, we know this is true. You might be thrilled with your new car until you see your friend’s new car, for example. There’s always something better out there that can ruin our enjoyment of what we have. 


What’s more, there appears to be something inherent in comparisons that makes us unhappy. One pair of studies found that spending more time on Facebook correlated with more feelings of depression. Perhaps more to the point, the second study in the pair found that people who made more comparisons on Facebook had worse depressive symptoms, even when they felt they were the same or better than the people they were comparing themselves to. 


Perhaps this effect is a mix of uncertainty, self-consciousness, and critical judgment. Either way, making fewer comparisons is an easy way to protect your mental health. This is especially important for addiction recovery, given that at least half of people with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental health issue, chief among which are mood disorders and anxiety disorders.


Comparisons Can Give You an Excuse to Quit


It’s important to keep in mind that pretty much everyone who enters treatment is deeply ambivalent about staying sober. You feel obligated to say and act like you want to get sober and you might even believe it, but the addicted mind is tricky. 


One common problem people face early in recovery is called “terminal uniqueness” in 12-Step circles. It’s the belief that you’re unlike everyone else there in some fundamental way. For example, you may see your own substance use issues as situational and temporary while seeing your peers in treatment or in the rooms as “addicts.” Therefore, you feel you shouldn’t have to engage with treatment in the same way as others. This can be a huge barrier to progress.


On the other hand, you may see someone doing very well in recovery and feel like that person has some fundamental advantage that you lack. You can’t imagine that person starting where you are and ending where they are. You feel like you’ll never be that person, so you might as well quit. Addiction is always looking for a way to get back into the game and comparisons—good and bad—provide that opportunity.


Comparisons Are Never Accurate


If comparisons are estimating your own position, progress, and potential, they are not even particularly helpful for that. No one ever enters recovery in the exact same circumstances. They have different addictions, different mental health issues, different personal histories, different personalities, and different resources. There is an essentially infinite number of combinations, which is why it’s so important for treatment to be individualized. However, it also means any comparison you make is not going to be accurate or valid. 


What’s more, you’re always making comparisons based on limited information. Not only do other people have different advantages and disadvantages, but you never really know what those are. And you never really know how they are doing in recovery. So much of recovery is in your head. Someone may outwardly appear to be doing well but inwardly feel like a train wreck. Furthermore, the future is inherently unpredictable. You never really know who is going to end up having a strong, lasting recovery.


Comparisons are Never Useful


Aside from helping you figure out where you are, you might hope that comparing yourself to others might prove useful in some way. However, that’s typically not the case. While you should certainly listen to others and learn what you can, it’s crucial not to make the mistake of assuming you will have the same needs in recovery as anyone else. Again, this is why individualized care is important. You have to be aware of your own priorities in recovery and stay focused on those, rather than trying to win someone else’s race. It hardly matters if you outdo someone else in some area if it doesn’t help you achieve your own goals.


Comparisons Turn Recovery Into a Competition


Finally, it’s important to remember that recovery is not a competition. Recovery should be about cooperation and mutual support. The more connected you feel to people in your sober network, the more likely your recovery will last. If you want to undermine that connection, one of the fastest ways is to regard all of your peers in recovery as rivals and feel diminished by their successes. In fact, the opposite is true. When one person in your sober network succeeds, it helps everyone. Not only does it show that recovery is possible, but feeling happy for other people’s success improves your sense of wellbeing.


Comparing ourselves to others is one of those things we all do sometimes but we would all be better off if we stopped. Comparisons make us unhappy and don’t provide us with any useful information. It’s far better to focus on the things that matter to us and the things under our control.


 At Enlightened Solutions, we know that joy and happiness are essential to living a sober life. Our holistic programs combine evidence-based treatment with spiritual and wellness practices that help our clients live more fulfilling lives. To learn more about our programs, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.

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