Dealing With The Struggle
Even though it’s a situation that has been going on for about a year now, it’s important to consider how the pandemic may be impacting your life and any addictions you may or may not be aware you have because of it. The pandemic is practically an on-going chronic stressor that nearly everyone continues to experience worldwide right now.
If, for example, you are asked to hold a piece of paper with your hand sticking out for 1 minute… it won’t be that uncomfortable. If you’re asked to hold your hand out with that piece of paper for 1 hour you will definitely feel uncomfortable and it will start to hurt. Now, imagine that you are then asked to hold a book while holding your hand out for an hour. The longer you have to hold your hand out and the more weight you are holding up, the greater and greater the stress and discomfort. At first it will be physically uncomfortable but at some point you will also start to feel emotionally and mentally stressed.
This is a basic example describing the impact of chronic and increasing levels of stress. The point of understanding this is to give a clear example of the ongoing stress that the pandemic is creating for everyone. When the pandemic first started it seemed to be upsetting, jolting and disturbing for the entire world. However, there seemed to be more of a sense that it would end or phase out in the beginning. But now, after we have gone through and are still going through multiple phases of the pandemic, the existence of COVID-19 seems to have become the new norm. Quarantining, wearing masks, social distancing, the COVID cases and death rate…it’s become part of our daily lives at this point. We now have a vaccine to combat the virus and so there is hope things will change…but we are still dealing with the after effects of the stress and unnatural, difficult lifestyle many of us are being forced to live with.
The social isolation and stress from COVID-19 has increased the levels of risk for substance abuse, addiction or relapse. More than this, the higher risk for substance abuse can increase the chances of respiratory, immune system and pulmonary changes that can put someone at greater risk of COVID-19 complications. Alcohol use weakens the immune system and can increase the risk of infections to disease. Cocaine, opioid, smoking and vaping use can all weaken the immune system as well as impair the respiratory system…which also puts you at greater risk of complications due to COVID-19.
Besides the social isolation, there are also additional stressors from the daily news of what is happening in the world with COVID-19, changes in the economy and just generally a lot of uncomfortable changes in how our reality has changed. Families are under more pressure and stressors with lack of childcare, working from home, and isolation. The anxiety, stress and depression that is being caused from COVID-19 and COVID-19 related issues are all potential triggers for addiction or relapse. We are having to adapt to a new and more challenging reality that has been going on for almost a year now.
The point of stating all this isn’t to bring the obvious to attention or to cause further emotional stress or upset. It’s meant to help recognize stress or any behaviors you may not be aware are even going on in your life. It’s not uncommon for example, to be drinking more alcohol than you realize. Some estimates are that alcohol drinking has gone up 2-3 times on average in many American households since COVID-19.
Here are some suggestions for how to help support yourself during this difficult time, which unfortunately we don’t know how long will last for. One of the keys to stress management is learning how to thrive in times of ambiguity, uncertainty and chronic stress. Yes, it’s wonderful to be hopeful and positive. However, learning tools for resilience is something that is helpful at any time.
- Create or maintain supportive relationships. Positive social connections provide a buffer to difficulty and stress to almost any situation.
- Set attainable goals. Working towards goals helps you to feel empowered and focus forward toward the future. It can give you something positive to think about and concentrate on no matter what is currently happening around you.
- Create a positive perspective of yourself. Be your own best cheerleader. Support and encourage yourself no matter what the stressors and challenges. Putting yourself down or doubting you can handle challenges will only discourage you and make difficult situations harder.
- Think positively about change. Accept that change can sometimes be a good thing. We never fully know how one thing will lead to the next. Even though a situation can be difficult now, it may lead to something unexpected and good in the future.
- Believe you can somehow navigate whatever happens. No matter what lies ahead or what is happening around you, if you have confidence that you can navigate the situation and figure it out, challenges will be much easier and less stressful to deal with.
- Daily Self-Care. Make sure to take care of yourself everyday. Even if it seems minor, like taking 10 minutes for yourself a day, it adds up and will make a big difference! If regular, on-going stress causes harm…then on-going, regular self care can be a positive antidote -and something you can control despite any chaos and change that may happen.
- Take action where you can. With so much seeming out of our control with COVID-19 and circumstances surrounding it, take the small actions that you can. Demonstrate the control where you can in your life, even if it’s something small like being able to work out 30 minutes a day. Make positive choices and decisions where you can so you can feel you have some degree of influence over your life.
- Practice Mindfulness. Do small and regular mindfulness practices everyday. Practicing being in the present moment reduces stress and helps you to feel grounded in the hear and now and to get out of your head. It makes everything easier to deal with, as you take things step by step.
- Practice gratitude. Practice gratitude in your everyday life. Be thankful for yourself, your abilities, the positive things in yourself, and the positive people and things in your life. Being somehow thankful for almost anything that happens… turns a ‘negative’ into a ‘positive’ and becomes easier and easier the more you practice:)
Learning how to navigate difficult times is an important part of recovery. It can take practice, but the more you practice the easier and more automatic it will become. 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.