Today marks day 26 of the longest government shutdown in US history. Those affected by the shutdown include the more than 800,000 government employees going without pay, as well as many more negatively impacted by the stalling of important government agencies. As the stress and financial burden continues to rise, it is important for those affected to stay mindful of their rising anxiety levels. It is especially important for those in recovery, who may be facing not only the financial burden and changes in daily routine, but also the diminishing support of crucial addiction and mental health services.

In times such as this, the stress of the situation often feels like it is out of our control. The urge to escape or take back control through addictive behaviors may be strong, but it is important to remember that engaging in these activities only hurts us in the long run. We do not always have control over the circumstances that affect our lives, but we can always choose how we react to them.

Below are some tips and exercises to help you stay calm and present in those moments when anxiety, cravings, and urges are high.

Slow Breathing

This first activity is an easy way to relax when you are feeling panicky, or feeling as if you cannot catch your breath.

Simply inhale for 4 counts. Hold for 7 counts. And exhale for 8 counts.

Continue for as long as you need, or until your breathing has relaxed.

If you’d like, you can use this visual aid to help.

Mindful breathing

This next exercise is a helpful way to clear your mind and center yourself when you feel that your worried and anxious thoughts are getting the best of you.

Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.

Close your eyes and focus on the inhale and exhale of your breath.

As your mind begins to wander, simply accept whatever thoughts come to mind without judgement. Bring your attention back to your breath.

This can be done anywhere, anytime, for as long as you need.

Body Scan

In times of stress, it can be easy to ignore our own needs, and we may forget to listen to what our body is trying to tell us. A body scan can help us relax and get back in touch with ourselves.

Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.

Close your eyes and bring your attention to the top of your head. Take note of any tension or pain that you may be experiencing in that area.

Slowly work your way down the rest of your body. Take the time to focus on each area, and notice whatever sensations arise.

Continue all the way down your body, until you reach your toes.

It may be helpful to draw a quick sketch of your body once you have finished the scan. You can use colored pencils or markers to identify different sensations that you experienced. For example, a red spot may indicate a headache.

Distraction

When anxiety, urges, and cravings are high, sometimes the best plan of action is to distract yourself with an activity you love. Hobbies, creative projects, exercise, and spending time with family and friends are great ways to take our mind off tough situations.

If you need a distraction with a little more kick to it, you can learn here how to activate your mammalian diving reflex here. All you need is a bowl of ice!

Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t

If you are really struggling, it is always a good idea to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or your sponsor.

In case you are looking for help with any addiction or mental health issue, you can reach out to us here at Williamsville Wellness. 

And if you are looking for more practical financial solutions to this current situation, these resources may be helpful to you.

Finally, if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self harm, the national suicide prevention hotline is always available to offer support.

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