How to Manage Anxiety Without Drugs

Managing anxiety can be a challenge in early sobriety. Due to previous substance use issues, you may be apprehensive about going on medications to manage symptoms of anxiety, and justifiably so. Luckily, there are things you can do to cope with anxiety without using medications. You do not have to live your life on your anxiety's terms.


While it may seem like an ordinary task, there are many benefits to walking. For one, it is a healthy way to clear your mind. When your anxiety spikes, walking can help regulate your heart rate and get oxygen flowing to your brain which can put your mind at ease.

Another benefit to walking is that it can get you out of stressful situations. Say you are in a situation that triggers your anxiety. Rather than staying in that situation, step outside and go for a short walk to calm down and clear your mind. This will then allow you to reenter the situation with a level head and not be dictated by your anxiety. 

Breathing Exercises

At times of great anxiety, you may enter into an anxiety or a panic attack. These attacks usually involve hyperventilating, so getting your breathing under control will be very beneficial. Here are two breathing exercises that can help you regulate your breath and allow your anxiety to subside:

In Through the Nose, Out Through the Mouth

This exercise is designed to help your motor skills be the focus of your brain. When your brain has to focus on each part of your breathing individually, it can sometimes help calm you down as your brain is less fixated on the source of your anxiety and more on performing the correct breath action.

Visualize Your Breathing

Visualizing your breathing helps with the same purpose as the last exercise: it is meant to distract you. Instead of distracting you with motor skills, this exercise allows your brain to do something other than panic. Visualizing your breath can be done in many different ways. The most common way is to imagine your breath traveling through your body. Imagine that, when you breathe in, the air spreads and fills not only your nasal cavity to your lungs, but to the tips of your toes and the ends of each strand of hair on your head. When you breathe out, imagine filling a balloon with all your anxiety. Push it out and let it float away.

Fitness and Yoga

Physical fitness is great for reducing anxiety. As the saying goes, “What's good for the body is good for the mind.” With fitness routines, you can mentally dismiss the stress of daily life. Another reason fitness is excellent is that it can be done anywhere. Fitness does not only happen at a fancy gym. You could do something as simple as a few push-ups when you have some spare time in your day. 

Yoga is a great low-energy activity for treating anxiety. If you do not like more traditional forms of exercise, yoga may be perfect for you. Yoga is a routine of stretches and poses to help increase flexibility and strength in the body and promote mindfulness. 

When you are doing yoga, your mind is focused on your movements so that it can no longer focus on your anxious thoughts. As mentioned earlier, yoga is a low-energy activity, so just the act of doing yoga can help work through anxiety. Yoga, much like recovery, is not something that you perfect in a single day; it is something you practice until, over time, you may find your anxiety reduced over time.

Both fitness routines and yoga also help you get oxygen flowing through your body and to your brain, which is a big part of managing anxiety.


Meditation is a great way to promote mindfulness for managing anxiety. If you get anxious due to the stress of the day, meditation may be for you. It is a way to step outside yourself for a moment and relax in a calming environment. You can find guided meditations on the internet or you can meditate by yourself with positive affirmations or the breathing exercises mentioned earlier.

None of these practices guarantee that your anxiety will disappear. It could take multiple measures or it could change by the day. What is important is to give them all a try and see what ones work best for you. Keep in mind that something that worked yesterday might not work today. The fact that you are making an effort is the biggest factor in healing. Some people are ruled by their anxiety, but you do not have to be one of those people. You do not have to let it control you. You can overcome this.

Finding ways to manage your anxiety without medication can be tricky. You may think that medication is the only way or that you can't properly learn or implement coping skills on your own. Know that you are not alone in this process. There are people out there who want to see you get better, and help you do so. NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, can be the place to find that help. Our experienced staff can help you and the ones you care about navigate anxiety and how it affects your daily life. We offer support for those who are struggling with substance use disorder and mental health problems. If you need additional help in your recovery journey to manage anxiety, NorthStar provides aftercare and alumni programming. You can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.

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