Recovery From Co-Dependency
Learn to Manage Your Anxiety
Okay, so now you understand co-dependency, where it comes from and how it affects you. You want to heal and recover. So where do you start? It can feel so overwhelming that you may feel paralyzed. Remember, you don't have to do it perfectly. (Or anything else for that matter).
Ideally, I recommend that you start by finding a therapist who understands co-dependency. If you or an immediate family member works for an employer that has an employee assistance program, that is an ideal place to start. It won't cost you anything, at least for the first few sessions.
If you don't have access to an EAP and you have medical insurance you can begin with a therapist who is on your panel. If like many Americans you don't have medical insurance, but don't qualify for Medicaid, call your local United Way agency and ask where you can get counseling on a sliding scale.
There are many advantages to beginning with a therapist. Your therapist will provide emotional support, objectivity, information, and proper diagnosis. Some co-dependents have a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety and/or post traumat6ic stress disorder. Many people become so accustomed to feeling sad and angry that it becomes normal to feel that bad all the time.
Whether you see a therapist or not, I highly recommend Al-Anon if you qualify. To go to Al-Anon, you have to have or have had a relationship with someone who has or had a drinking problem. Al-Anon is supported by voluntary contributions at meetings. Normally, members contribute a dollar to a basket that is passed around, but you don't have to. Al-Anon will give you accurate information, and the closest thing that I have ever seen to unconditional support from humans. Recovery is much easier in such a loving and supportive atmosphere.
Why do I keep mentioning support? It is absolutely necessary to be successful at recovery. The people that you over function with are not going to like it when you begin to set boundaries and maintain them. They know what buttons to push to make you uncomfortable enough to withdraw these boundaries. As a matter of fact, whenever you work on changing any co-dependent behaviors you may experience anxiety. Therefore, any recovery program involves learning how to manage anxiety. Hopefully, we can learn to this in a healthy way. To do this, we need to understand the biology behind anxiety.
As you learn about anxiety, remember that there is a frightened child inside of you who thinks you can't survive without co-dependent behaviors. Not only will you survive, but you will thrive.
Back to anxiety. All humans have a stress response as a biological imperative to enable us to survive. When faced with a crisis we have a chemical change in our bodies. It begins in our hypothalamus, increases our heart rate, speeds up our breathing, and slows down our digestion. Our bodies are flooded with adrenalin, and we become stronger, faster and super alert.
The crisis our ancestors suffered involved encounters with wild animals and other life threatening situations. We had to either fight or run, hence the term "fight or flight. The crises we experience in 2010 rarely involve fight or flight to cope. An annoying co-worker, an argument with a loved one, in-law trouble, or worry about finances; none of these require adrenaline.
Nevertheless, our stress response is triggered and
we are deluged with adrenaline. The excess adrenaline makes us feel agitated and uncomfortable. If we do not do something physical to burn it off over time, we can become anxious.
Therefore, it is logical that the best way of all to manage anxiety is some type of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise means elevating your heart rate for a sustained period. A minimum of 20 minutes 3 times per week will make your heart healthier and help reduce your anxiety.
More often is even better. How high should your heart rate be? Take 220 - your age and you want to be between 60-85% of that number. For example, if you are 40 years old 220-40=180. 60-85% of 180 is between 108-153 beats per minute. You don't have to run a marathon, a brisk walk is more than enough.
Other ways to manage anxiety include relaxation training and changing your thinking. I will talk about these other methods next month.
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