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Staying sober can be a challenge for many people in recovery. Add a stressful event — like a pandemic — into the mix and things can get a whole lot more challenging, quickly.
Stress levels for the whole world are high. Due to the spread of the coronavirus and subsequent social distancing and self-quarantine practices, we are seeing a huge shift in our day-to-day lives: we don’t know for how long we will be stuck inside, people are stockpiling food and household items leaving people without everyday necessities, some are losing their jobs and facing economic hardship, and we are having to homeschool our children while trying to keep our jobs.
It’s extra challenging for people in recovery, as mutual-aid meetings are canceled and we are prevented from spending in-person time with friends in recovery.
Stress plus losing our sense of routine is a recipe for relapse. However, returning to drinking or using during these difficult times will just be like pouring gasoline on a fire. You will invariably feel worse; your anxiety and sense of despair will only increase. Then you’ll be left with feelings of shame and guilt for wanting to escape your hard-won recovery.
Using during difficult times just isn’t the answer. In fact, this is an opportunity to use the tools you’ve learned in recovery, learn some new coping mechanisms, and maybe even help others to stay grounded during the storm.
We’ve listed our top ten tips to stay sober and cope with the stress of uncertain times.
1. Take recovery online. Many mutual-aid programs offer online meetings, and a number of recovery community organizations are providing extra resources during this time. Check out:
2. Keep a routine. Try to stay in your usual routine by getting up at the same time, eating at the usual time, and starting work at the same time. If it is at all possible work in a different area in your home, preferably at a desk (even if this is the kitchen table).
3. Take regular breaks. Try working for an hour and then taking a ten minute break. Set a timer and then stretch and walk around the house during your break.
4. Start walking 10,000 steps a day. You can easily reach this step goal by four or five walks a day for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how quickly you walk). Walking will clear your mind, reduce your stress levels, and get you out of the house.
5. Try meditation. Download a new meditation or app, like Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, Buddhify, Sattva, 10% Happier, Simple Habit, Omvana, or Meditation and Relaxation Pro, and practice for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the middle of the day (or any other time you feel stress and overwhelm), and 10 minutes before bed. It will help regulate your nervous system and promote relaxation.
6. Call a friend. Whether you call because you’re having a difficult time or to see how a friend is doing, talking to someone helps.
7. Schedule online therapy. This is the perfect time to speak to a professional to process your challenging feelings and improve your mental health. Make a list of difficulties throughout the week and work through them with a therapist on a weekly or even bi-weekly call.
8. Drink lots of water and eat nutritiously. As tempting as it is to get takeout and eat what you want, you will feel much better if you eat nutritiously. Your brain needs lots of healthy fuel and hydration to keep you focused and reduce your stress levels. Aim to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, fiber, and lean meat and fish. Limit processed foods that are high in salt and sugar.
9. Limit news and social media. Reading about the spread of the virus, increasing death toll, and panic will only raise your stress levels. If you want to check in daily, do it before a walk or meditation. That will help you return to a level of calm afterwards.
10. Get creative. Another great way to process feelings and emotions is art. Draw, paint, craft, knit, create a healthy meal — do anything that gives your mind a short break.
While it’s a really uncertain time in the world right now, it is much easier to cope with it while sober. However, if you are struggling and need assistance, please contact us see how we can help: 888 306 3122.
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