The COVID-19 pandemic has shocked the world, and many of us have witnessed the carnage left in its wake. While some of us are reeling from lost family members, being laid off from work, or battling recovery during these unprecedented times, our mental health continues to be tested.
Unfortunately, despite the news of a potential vaccine on the horizon, COVID-19 continues its devastation worldwide, and in most U.S. states, numbers are trending in the wrong direction. The strain is being felt in our hospitals and healthcare system, which, at times, has been overwhelmed. The lockdowns are necessary for slowing the spread and easing the burden for our front line workers, and as vital as it has been, it was challenging for those in the recovery community. The number of drug overdoses soared, and relapse became a severe threat for many.
The road ahead is going to be filled with uncertainty, and facing another round of lockdowns can have life-changing effects or someone struggling with addiction. If your city decides to go into another lockdown quarantine, you might be wondering how to stay clean this time around. Let’s take a look at how you can safeguard your sobriety.
Connection is one of the most vital pieces of recovery, and those going through the process know that other people are a lifeline in their recovery. Community connection and social bonds are essential for many reasons. One such reason is to drive away from the feelings they experience during isolation, which may eat at your mental health. When you feel alone or cut off from the world, it’s damaging to your mental health. Connecting with others will help you feel like you’re a part of something bigger and people around you care.
Community connections help people feel like they’re part of something bigger, which helps create a support system of accountability. When you’re connected with others, you form deep bonds, and they care about what you do with your life. You’ll be expected to show up to meetings and maintain contact with others to let them know how you are. It’s also true of employment and being part of a family. If you don’t show up, you’ll have someone checking up on you, holding you to a higher standard. This is a crucial piece of recovery, which is hard to maintain during quarantine.
During your time spent in treatment, you’ll go through group therapy sessions to build social skills. You might also attend 12-step meetings on a regular basis. During lockdown, meeting with others is a challenge, but quarantine doesn’t translate to total isolation with the advances in technology.
Video chatting, social media, and other online tools will help you connect with family, friends, and coworkers. It’s important to remember, don’t just call a person once in a while during lockdown. You must make regular attempts to schedule appointments to speak with family and friends. Many treatment programs and 12-step programs are adapting to social distancing by hosting online meetings. It helps with the feelings of isolation that quarantine causes.
“Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” This old saying is meant to promote productivity, and it points out an essential truth – idleness causes your mind to wander. If you are feeling bored, you will look for something to do. It may be mindless scrolling through social media platforms for some, but it means dealing with cravings and triggers for those in recovery.
Boredom is a bad emotional state that brings on feelings of discontentment. As you’d expect with other negative emotions, your brain will attempt to find ways of positive stimulation. For those in recovery, their reward centers have been conditioned to seek drugs and alcohol as sources of positive emotions. Only through a continued focus on healing, coping techniques, and help from others can individuals resist the urge to give in to their cravings.
The COVID-19 lockdowns have left many of us with nothing to do. There is nowhere to go, no deadlines to be met, and no expectations at all. When you couple this with the stress of facing an economic downturn and a global pandemic, it can easily send people into their vices seeking comfort. You must fill your day with purpose, no matter the circumstances. It could be as simple as catching up with an old friend, taking a new class online, or learning how to bake. These are all positive means of dealing with the pandemic without drugs or alcohol. It will help you avoid being idle and bored.
In some cases, stress is a positive weapon that helps you take action, stay alert, and fuel productivity. In a global pandemic, stress will cause you to take the virus seriously and take the necessary precautions. Unfortunately, stress can cause effects detrimental to your health, and it could lead to sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
You must find ways to manage stress effectively in quarantine. Fortunately, there are many ways to address anxiety and stress related to the pandemic. You must limit your news and social media intake, prepare your family, and follow the latest COVID-19 prevention practices.
If you’ve been through the recovery process, you are already aware of strategies to cope with stress. You must get back in touch with them and speak to others in recovery about how they’re managing stress. There are some other vital options to manage stress, as well.
Exercise is an ideal way to manage stress because it involves physical effort. Other methods include reading, meditation, and other mental tasks to help cope with stress. When you’re dealing with stress and your mind is filled with anxiety, it’s hard to focus on other things.
Another stress management technique vital for your overall health is sleep. A consistent sleep schedule is a must, and according to the CDC, a third of adults won’t get the recommended amount of sleep. You won’t have trouble getting enough sleep during quarantine, but you might struggle with consistent or restful sleep. With no work or other obligations, you may be staying up longer and sleeping in later.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule will help you to avoid sleep disorders and maintain restful sleep.
Those in recovery will learn the value of connection through listening to others’ problems and acting as a support group. Group therapy and other 12-step programs force you out of your mind and listen to others. It is mutually beneficial because when you support someone else, you build connections that create your support system. You must reach out and ask how others are doing – it will improve your time in lockdown and make a world of difference for someone else. We understand these are challenging times, but if you practice these skills, you can manage your sanity and make it out of this stronger than before.
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
CDC. (2020, April 15). CDC – Sleep Home Page – Sleep and Sleep Disorders. from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). 12-Step Facilitation Therapy (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opiates). from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-4
Hicks, T. (2020, March 23). How People in Addiction Recovery Are Dealing with COVID-19 … from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/coronavirus-isolation-can-be-difficult-for-people-with-addictions