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Anxiety and Alcohol

Coming to the end of the month, we are reflecting on all the discussions we have had around alcohol and substance abuse. I am happy to leave this here for future reference. Here are some helpful words

and tools to keep in our tool belt. Thank you, Kristina Fyrwald.

Anxiety and Alcohol

In honor of alcohol awareness month, I wanted to bring to light that alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 15 million adults in the United States. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation. This number is staggering, and we know that many people who use alcohol to cope identify underlying struggles such as anxiety. Unfortunately, alcohol increases heart rate, makes it challenging to sleep, and leads to a dopamine deficit for multiple days after drinking: all increasing anxiety it promised to quell. I call this a “leaky bucket” coping skill- one that may “work” temporarily but has an undesired consequence and then more is needed.

With my clients in recovery, I focus on lowering levels of anxiety through nervous system healing. What this looks like is practice moving from our sympathetic “fight or flight” state of constant alarm to our parasympathetic “calm” state. Finding ways to self-soothe is my #1 tool with these clients.

Examples of self-soothing may include:

*Deep breathing: breath in for 4 counts, hold for 7, out for 8 (repeat 3x)

*Time in nature: hiking, going to the beach, walking the dog, gardening, playing sports

*Exercise that serves your body

*Music, art, creating

As well as co-regulating with others:

*Support groups for alcohol addiction/general mental health

*Watching a tv show/movie where you enjoy the characters

*FaceTiming a friend

*Joining a course with like-minded people (cooking class, hiking group, painting class)

The more we soothe and regulate, the better we are able to handle stressors in our lives without substances.

Kristina Fyrwald

Associate Social Worker#98994

Under the Supervision of Amber Keating LCSW #22838

Phone: ‪‪(424) 330-8121


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