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Count on This Countdown Technique to Manage Anxiety

Countdown to Reclaim Calm and Manage Anxiety. As for the exercise itself, it is all about your senses, starting with your sense of sight.

When you hear the word “countdown,” what comes to mind? 

Our guess is that you think of quite a number of things before you think about a way to manage anxiety.

You might think of the countdown to a rocket launch. You might think of a weekly countdown of the most popular songs in the country. You might think of a countdown to Christmas or of the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

But there is, in fact, a kind of countdown that can be an effective tool for addressing anxiety when it arises. And knowing how to use this tool can be important to a person in recovery from a substance use disorder.

Let’s look at why that might be the case—and then dive into the details of the technique itself.

Anxiety can be an Enemy of Recovery

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are often intertwined in ways that can be hard to untangle. 

When a person is struggling with one of the various forms of depression or with a disorder grounded in traumatic experiences or with anxiety or panic disorder, it can be tempting to try to address the difficult symptoms by “self-medicating” with drugs or alcohol. That, of course, can be the first step on the road to a substance use disorder.

Alternately, if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may find yourself experiencing more—and more intense—symptoms of one or more mental health disorders. 

In the end, it does not matter much which disorder develops first. What is important to remember, however, is that a person’s recovery can be put at risk by difficulties related to mental health—including feelings of anxiety.

Countdown to Reclaim Calm and Manage Anxiety

When anxiety pops up, it can put you in a tailspin in a hurry. You might feel your heart racing. You might start to breathe rapidly and heavily. You might start to sweat and find it hard to think clearly. All of these feelings are alarming in and of themselves—which means that anxiety can feed upon itself.

The key, then, is to find a way to interrupt the cycle quickly and effectively. That is where a simple countdown technique comes into play. 

Before the Countdown Technique to Manage Anxiety begins, it can be helpful to take a few slow, deep breaths to give yourself a chance to shift your focus from the anxiety to the exercise. As for the exercise itself, it is all about your senses, starting with your sense of sight.

Identify five things you can see. Take your time. It might be helpful to name each one out loud, though you certainly don’t have to. It makes no difference what five things you settle on. Just take a moment to really look at five things in your field of vision.

Next up, name four things you can touch. Again, take your time; actually reach out and touch the four objects you identify. Consider the different textures you encounter with your full attention. 

Now name three things you can hear. Often, we are surrounded by sounds that do not really make an impression on us. This is a chance to stop and really listen for a few moments. What can you hear in your immediate environment? What can you hear a little further off? Is there a background sound that you tend not to notice when you are paying less attention?

Identify two things you can smell. This may take an extra moment or two. In fact, you might be in an environment that seems largely devoid of aromas. If so, you might bring your coffee cup up to your nose to take in its scent. You might have a pack of gum or mints you could sniff. Or maybe you can detect the scent of your soap or your laundry detergent.

Lastly, name one thing you can taste. That coffee, gum, or mint might come in handy here. Whatever you choose to taste, let it linger in your mouth for a moment. As with each of the senses above, the key here is to take a moment to really focus on something you might otherwise not really notice.

Here at the end of the Countdown Technique to Manage Anxiety, it can be helpful to take a few more deep breaths while you check in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Still feeling anxious? There is no reason you can’t do the exercise again. Bringing your attention to your senses will help to ease the anxiousness you are experiencing.

Don’t Worry About Where to Find Help

At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we have the expertise and experience necessary to address your substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be tangled up with it. We’ll see you through medically supervised detoxification, our robust rehabilitation program, and the early days of your recovery journey via our continuum of care

Many things in life can lead to anxious feelings, but where to get help for a substance use disorder does not have to be one of them. When you are ready to get sober, our team in Kansas is ready to help.

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