As we enter Month 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to reflect upon what we are learning and what we’re continuing to struggle with.
Staying home day after day has become a gift for some, but torture for others.
With so many uncertainties about what tomorrow will bring (and having already lost so much in terms of work/life balance) we may also have lost the ability to maintain healthy coping strategies. Our regular exercise routines may have fallen by the wayside, along with our social connections, entertainment, travel, etc.
As a result, many are looking for ways to numb the hopelessness and pain, and are either turning increasingly to drugs and/or alcohol, or struggling over their relationship with food.
Social determinants of health — including where we work, play, learn and live — play a large part in determining who is at higher risk of increased physical or mental health challenges, and who is more likely to experience substance abuse.
Self-isolation has meant increased time alone, or with family, partners and children. Schools have been closed for over three months now, and childcare demands (as well as the additional tasks needed to support our children’s continued online education) have impacted the homeostasis of the family routine.
Additional workload or loss of job and income has increased across the world, creating high levels of stress and anxiety, depression, hopelessness, insomnia, etc.
And as the pain grows, many turn to consuming drugs, alcohol or food as a means to cope.
The good news is… there are many resources available to help: self-care strategies, individual and group support options, and one-on-one treatment.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol, drug and/or food addictions, or know someone who is struggling, here are my top 10 recommendations for what you can do, and to whom you can reach out during this time of physical distancing and self-isolation.
- Remember that you are not alone.
- Breathe, meditate and practice presence (learn about mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based eating).
- Move your body through exercise every day: walks, yoga, etc.
- Accept and challenge your thoughts and feelings, including worry and fear. (Learn about how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you change your thought patterns and habits for more balanced, healthy, happy days.)
- Eat healthy, which begins with thoughtful meal planning. (Reach out to a nutritionist or dietician for additional support.)
- Connect with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours through online platforms (WhatsApp, FaceTime, Messenger, Zoom, etc.).
- Seek online or telephone treatment with your doctor, naturopathic doctor or psychotherapist. Medication, natural supplements, and evidence-based psychotherapy can go a very long way!
- Join a support group: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre).
- Connect with a sponsor (through a support group).
- Contact CAMH for more support and treatment options.
Remember, the COVID-19 pandemic will end one day soon. In the meantime, you are not alone.
Practice presence, moment by moment by moment.
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