Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be a challenging experience, often marked by a range of physical and emotional symptoms, but there are self-care strategies that can significantly aid in coping with the symptoms. In this context, let’s explore effective coping mechanisms for benzodiazepine withdrawal, integrating the four cornerstones of well-being: eat right, move enough, stress less, and love well. Additionally, we’ll touch on the concept of “state driving story,” which emphasizes how our nervous system state influences our thoughts and feelings.
Understanding Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Before diving into coping mechanisms, it’s important to understand that benzodiazepine withdrawal results from the brain adapting to the inhibitory effect of the medication. GABA (the inhibitory neurotransmitter) receptors down-regulate in an effort to maintain homeostasis (balance) with glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitter. People who take their benzodiazepine as prescribed are not addicted, but rather, they are chemically dependent on the medication. Addiction involves drug craving and drug-seeking behavior that is often detrimental.
Coping Mechanisms for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
1. Eat Right
- Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet: Consume a WFPd diet to nourish the gut microbiome, reduce the risk of diseases, and help boost mental health.
- Hydration: Stay well-hydrated. Dehydration can worsen withdrawal symptoms.
- Avoid Stimulants: Reduce or eliminate caffeine and sugar, as they can aggravate anxiety and sleep disturbances. Do not drink alcohol until you are completely recovered, as alcohol works on GABA receptors.
2. Move Enough
- Gentle Exercise: Engage in mild to moderate physical activities like walking, yoga, or swimming. Exercise releases endorphins, which can elevate mood and reduce stress.
- Consistency: Aim for regular physical activity, but listen to your body and don’t push yourself. It’s okay to rest if you feel you can’t move very much. Honor your body’s needs.
3. Stress Less
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help in managing anxiety and improving mental clarity.
- Breathing Techniques: Deep breathing exercises can be particularly effective in calming the nervous system.
- Routine: Establishing a daily routine can provide a sense of stability and normalcy.
4. Love Well
- Social Support: Stay connected with supportive friends and family. Social interactions can provide comfort and a sense of belonging.
- Self-Compassion: Be kind and understanding toward yourself during this challenging time. Practice self-care and acknowledge your progress.
- Practice and Outward Focus: Put your attention onto others. Be kind, generous, forgiving, etc. Practice acceptance and patience. Curiosity, awe, and wonder, are helpful, too. Be grateful, even in benzo withdrawal. Gratitude rewires the brain for the better.
5. State Driving Story
- Awareness: The state of your nervous system drives your thoughts and feelings. Be aware that if your thought and feelings are negative, your nervous system is in the protect state (fight, flight, freeze). If your thoughts and feelings are positive, your nervous system is in the connect state (ventral vagal response).
- Observe. Don’t Absorb: Observe your negative thoughts and feelings. Don’t absorb them. Know that they are generated by your hyper-excited nervous system and do not necessarily reflect the truth or reality.
- Create a Comfortable Environment: Make your living space soothing and comfortable. This can include soft lighting, comfortable seating, calming music, and a peaceful atmosphere.
- Engaging in Hobbies: Reconnect with hobbies or interests that bring you joy and relaxation.
- Learn Something New: Learning gives us a dose of dopamine and helps us take the focus off of our symptoms thus reducing our suffering.
- Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can provide an outlet for expression and reflection.
- Get Out in Nature: Spending time in nature helps your nervous system to calm down.
- Garden: Grow something! Gardening has been proven to help with anxiety and depression.
What coping skills have helped you the most? Share your thoughts with us!