How do you stay mentally healthy during a pandemic?
As the grim numbers from COVID19 in the US pass 35K dead and 600K+ infected, we are reminded that this is an incredibly stressful time, for all Americans, and all Nevadans. Not only are we worried about a widespread pandemic, but we are also worried about paying our rent or car payment or health care premiums, or how we are going to feed our kids tonight. To put it another way, this is a really stressful time, and it’s even more stressful if you are already coping with an addiction or a mental illness.
We still have an epidemic within the pandemic. The substance abuse epidemic still rages, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Compulsive use despite negative consequences can have disastrous results. Psychoactive substance use can lead to dependence syndrome – a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological patterns that develop after repeated substance use and that typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.
All of this is made worse by a global pandemic and economic crisis.
Unfortunately, Isolation and substance abuse go hand in hand. How many alcoholics are currently thinking, “well I’m stuck at home so one beer won’t hurt?” The pandemic is exacerbating the cycle of addiction for many. Being out of work, being bored, not having healthy things to do is a dangerous recipe for people already teetering onto a path of substance abuse disorders.
And even for those without, who may have been perfectly mentally healthy at the beginning of this crisis, the isolation, high anxiety, stress, and boredom, can take their toll.
For both those in outpatient treatment, family members, and even those with no substance abuse problems but who may find themselves struggling right now, here are some helpful tips we have learned over our many years working with patients:
Join a recovery meeting online, or any kind of meeting. Zoom family meetings have become quite popular right now. Check out Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates on specific fellowship meetings. Also check out Facebook for groups you can join to chat with people going through the same thing. I personally attend regular support groups online.
In-home workouts and yoga – I have tried online yoga, boot camp and Peloton classes.
Reach out and call at least 3 friends daily.
If you have a therapist or a counselor, set up a FaceTime or call with them.
Find a Facebook group that you have similar interests in – one friend showed me his Texas Meat Smoking group he is active in. Another friend, who has chickens, showed me the Raising Chickens group his fiancé belongs to.
Be mindful of your own and others stress related to schedule changes.
Make a list of people you can reach out to and follow up with a phone call, video
chat or email. I check in with several sponsees and a sponsor regularly.
Reach out and see how you can assist family members and friends who are isolated, or home bound.
This is a great time to clean the garage, garden or straighten out your closet
AA meetings – https://www.12step.org/social/online-meetings/
NA meetings – https://region51na.org/virtual-meetings/
Smart Recovery meetings – https://www.smartrecovery.org/smart-recovery-toolbox/smart-recovery-online/
These are just a few of the many tools we all have in our mental health toolbox. Companies like Crossroads and VegasStronger are always here to help as well.
We realize these are unprecedented times and we are here to help, however we can. Afterall, that is what this is all about – helping each other in our greatest time of need.
Dave Marlon is the CEO of CrossRoads of Southern NV, NV’s largest drug and alcohol addiction rehab center, as well as Founder of VegasStronger. When Dave isn’t counseling patients, he can be found with his wife Carolina and their two teenage boys. You can reach Dave at email@example.com