Anxiety, Addiction and COVID

In addition to dealing with COVID, COVID-related deaths, illness and isolation…many people are currently struggling from mental health issues related to the ongoing pandemic. Some of these may run from mild anxiety or depression to extreme difficulty with panic attacks, severe depression and hopelessness.

If you are living with or often surrounded by family members struggling with mental health issues, this can feel contagious and also affect you. For many people, they are now dealing with mental health issues so significant that they have never experienced anything like it before. Or conversely, it may be that the issues that are arising are a result of problems that have been ignored or overlooked for many years. For example, if someone has underlying depression but was able to manage it in the past through socialization and outside activities…COVID and the ensuing isolation from the pandemic created a situation where old ways of managing depression are no longer possible and they may be confronted with rising levels of isolation and worsening depression.

When underlying mental health issues are allowed to grow and increase, people often turn to addiction to escape and ‘manage’ it. This may include increases in drinking alcohol, drugs, gambling, over-working, over or under eating, sex addiction, pornography addiction…even addiction to video games. Basically anything that helps the person escape the painful emotions they are dealing with and being confronted by. 

Children, adolescents, adults and the elderly can all slip into addiction without evening realizing it. It’s something that can happen whenever you’re trying to manage what may seem like the unmanageable. When you’re overwhelmed by mood swings, insomnia, panic attacks and/or severe depression for example- it may feel like nothing will help you get out except for something all-consuming so you can escape.

But there are other ways, healthier ways, to deal with painful emotions… before addiction creeps in. Part of this is to surround yourself in positive environments as much as possible. This may mean improving your home or living situation. It can mean being careful of who you interact and spend time with. Emotions are contagious and when we spend a lot of time around certain people, or family and friends, we are impacted by the emotions around us. The environment we surround ourselves in can have a major impact on us. 

Making sure to protect yourself and be aware of how you feel on a regular, moment-to-moment basis is an important part of managing painful emotions or underlying mental illness that can lead to addiction. Mindfulness, awareness of your environment and the influence of positive or negative people in your life is important for helping to manage whatever is happening with you, especially during challenging times like what we are all experiencing now with on-going concerns and isolation from COVID.

In addition to what is mentioned above, below are some suggestions on how to manage your emotions while being isolated, struggling with underlying mental health concerns, being around negative environments and people, as well as coping with the ongoing uncertainty of the situation we find ourselves in with the pandemic. 

1) Take care of your mind and body– be aware of what you need to take care of yourself and make self care a priority

2) Be kind to yourself – practice kindness and compassion towards yourself and understand that many of us are dealing with difficulties and living under higher than normal levels of stress

3) Maintain a routine – create some sense of normalcy for yourself. Having something you can count on can be helpful for navigating on-going uncertainty from COVID

4) Take time to do activities you enjoy – be sure to set up activities to do that you can look forward to. It’s important that no matter what is going on around us we have something to look forward to in the future.

5) Spend time in nature– Nature is very healing and supportive. Spend time in nature that you enjoy. Maybe you have an appreciation for the mountains, the desert, forest, beach…whatever it may be, try to take out time to enjoy it. 

6) Exercise however you can – Exercise is a very important part of managing mental health and underlying stress. It gives you a break from the daily routine, worries and rumination you may be experiencing and helps support you to feel uplifted and physically stronger. So many of us are now more inactive than ever before because of COVID restrictions. So make time to move and be active 🙂

7) Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms – be aware of how you’re managing your negative feelings. Are you over-indulging yourself in unhealthy things you wouldn’t otherwise do? Or are you finding healthy ways to manage stress?

8) Participate in a regular relaxation practice -Engage in some kind of practice to help increase your levels of relaxation and calm. Maybe this is meditation, or maybe it’s just taking 15 minutes out in the morning to sit quietly with a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, make it a priority to help calm yourself everyday. This is important for mental heath and for relaxing the body’s stress response, which when overactive for too long can create worsening mental illness.

9) Spend time taking care of others– This helps you to take the focus off of yourself and can build your self-esteem

10) Follow guidelines for how to prevent the spread of the virus

11) Volunteer or donate – volunteering can be helpful for feeling you’re improving others’ situations, and can help you feel empowered that there is something you can do to contribute despite ongoing direct and indirect stressors of COVID

12) Be kind to others – being kind helps build your confidence and increases positive feelings about yourself and others. It generally creates more of a sense and belief that there is good in the world. Believing there is goodness helps to manage mental health concerns, addiction and reduces the stress response. 

13) Be an example of support and calm  – If you’re able to be calm and balanced, it will indirectly have a positive effect on others too. 

An important part of mental wellbeing during this time of COVID is taking care of yourself and being aware of what is happening with you everyday. Mindful awareness of your thoughts, feelings and experiences can help reduce the potential for addiction and help you realize you may need to make changes or need help. Silver Lining understands that you have spent a lot of time dealing with difficult emotions and triggers during your time using drugs and alcohol. These experiences impact your sobriety and a treatment plan for living your best life in recovery. Our policy of treating small numbers of people in each group allows us to get to know you and the exact type of help you need to learn to be kind to yourself and achieve your goals. We help you flourish now and in the future. Let our Huntington Beach location be where you begin again! Call us today for more information. (866) 448-4563.

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