I had an extremely traumatic withdrawal experience. I’m thankful that it’s over. I’m thankful too, that I didn’t have to deal with the chaos that is going on in the world today while I was recovering. The added stress is a big challenge. How do you cope with benzo withdrawal in today’s turbulent world? One day at a time, with the four cornerstones of well-being in mind: Eat right, move more, stress less, and love well.
- Eat right. A whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPB) is the healthiest for everyone. There are countless studies that show the superiority of a WFPB diet, including its ability to reverse heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and other diseases. In benzo withdrawal, it’s critical that we feed the body proper nutrition so that we can better heal. All animal protein causes inflammation and turns on the sympathetic nervous system response of fight/flight, while some plants, on the other hand, offer HDAC inhibitors that are thought to help repair damaged GABA receptors. A whole-food, plant-based diet can help keep our nervous system more calm and steady during benzo withdrawal and these turbulent times.
- Move enough. It’s important that we move our bodies as 80% of the brain’s neurons are dedicated to movement. The important thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it. Too much exercise can flare benzo withdrawal symptoms. Finding the “Goldilock’s” sweet spot is key. Walking, swimming, stretching, and yoga are good choices to try. See what works best for you. Movement helps the body metabolize stress hormones, which we have in abundance during benzo withdrawal and in today’s stressful world.
- Stress less. I could write a book on how to minimize stress! But these things are key in benzo withdrawal:
- it’s best to stay in the moment and not time travel to the past or the future. But in benzo withdrawal, that can be difficult to avoid. Our hyper-excited nervous system catapults us into the future with frightening “what if…” thoughts. We also visit the past with “I should have…”, or “Why did I..?” thoughts. The future holds our fears, the past, our regrets. What can we do to stay grounded in the moment? First, we must know when we are time traveling. Awareness is key. Once we are aware that our thoughts have taken us into the past or the future, we gently return our thoughts to this moment. We look around and remind ourselves that we are safe, right here, right now. Safety is the prescription for everything. It calms our nervous system and our minds. What do you see, smell, feel, taste, and hear? Focus on what’s around you. Observe your breath. Is it fast? Shallow? Be with it, simply observing. Any time your thoughts pack their bags for time traveling, return to the present moment, acknowledging that you are safe—even with all that is going on in benzo withdrawal and in the world.
- Minimize your exposure to stressful news. Flooding our nervous system with disturbing news isn’t helpful. We don’t have to put our heads in the sand, but we certainly don’t have to focus on the things we can’t control. Minimizing our time on social media, watching or listening to the news, or engaging in conversations about world events can help keep our nervous system more calm. It’s important to put our energy into things that we can control, rather than worry about those things that we can’t control.
- Create a calm environment. Have space inside that is comforting to you. Create outdoor space, if you can, where you can relax and enjoy the sun and the breeze and nature. Playing soothing background music can also help calm the nervous system.
- Avoid people, places, or things that you know rev up your nervous system in withdrawal.
- Love well. Let go of resentments. Avoid judging yourself or others. Know that everyone is doing their best with the neurophysiology that they have. Be kind and gentle with others, and with yourself. Remember, forgiveness is the ultimate form of compassion; extend it to yourself and to others.
- Practice acceptance, gratitude, humility, and be of service to others as best as you can be.
During benzo withdrawal, we are often quite needy for reassurance that we will recover. During times of high stress, such as what we now face with the pandemic, social unrest, politics, fires, storms, etc., we may need more reassurance than usual. That’s okay. Just keep in mind that compassion fatigue does happen, so do your best to not overburden one person. Create a support network so that you have a few people who can help you. It’s best to tell someone what it is that you need so that they are clear about your expectations. Be as direct as you can be: “I need help getting food,” or, “I want a hug,” is better than saying, “I need help,” or, “I am scared,” and expecting the other person to know what you need. You may be feeling ashamed about your neediness. Do your best to let go of that! Neediness is simply another benzo withdrawal symptom. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Once you are more recovered, you won’t be as needy.
Remember, nothing is permanent. Benzo withdrawal will pass. The wildfires will burn out. The storms will weaken and disappear. The social unrest will be soothed. The election will come and go, and the pandemic will resolve at some point. Life will sort itself out. Your job is to recover and to go out into the world a better person for having traveled through such rough and rocky terrain, ready to help others. You can minimize your suffering as you recover from benzo withdrawal if you keep in mind the four cornerstones of well-being. Eat right. Move enough. Stress less. Love well. If you need help with any of these, feel free to book a coaching session with me, or join my support group, Mornings With Jenn. I’m here for you.
Monday, September 28th, you can join my support group, Mornings With Jenn for a FREE day to see if it’s a good fit for you. Message me for easy details.