Addiction, Coronavirus, & Stress
Coronavirus and Covid 19 have upended the lives of people around the world. The casualties of this viral war are not just caused by the virus itself; its tentacles reach much deeper. The rise in mental health issues has become unimaginable due to the stress, anxiety and fear precipitated by this new landscape.
The world we once knew does not exist anymore. This virus has changed how we do everything from socializing to social distancing to gainfully employed to the highest rates of unemployment. Stay at home orders are breeding loneliness and Isolation, the very feelings that perpetuate the mental health issues being seen.
Stress and negative feelings are of significant concern for mental health, but for those that suffer from substance abuse disorder, it can feel devastatingly hopeless. Anger, fear, anxiety, resentment, and depression can exponentially increase in people with addictions under stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and unemployment. The effects Covid 19 reach long and wide as life changes for all, but for those with addictions, the situation is particularly delicate.
It is essential to recognize when you are having signs of stress. Often times we fail to acknowledge and/or understand the feelings we are having or distinguish between them. It is imperative to know that feelings such as anger, fear, anxiety, resentment, sadness, irritability, uneasiness, depression, when out of control, can lead to suicidal thoughts. If you have suicidal thoughts immediately call
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.
Here are some common signs of stress to watch for.
Lower than usual, productivity and concentration.
Withdrawing, ignoring, or having no contact with family and friends.
Social problems such as lies, defensiveness, and other similar issues.
Headaches, jaw clenching, teeth grinding.
Body aches, muscle spasms or other aches and pains.
Lost energy, tiredness, lethargy or fatigue.
But what if the stress you are feeling coincides with an addiction?
Stress, caused by a variety of feelings as discussed, has to be recognized, understood and be managed. Often times, as an addict, drugs, alcohol, food, or other substances disallows the addict to feel any emotions at all or can have the opposite effect and make these feelings much more intense. To manage your stress it is imperative that you learn to feel the emotions that drug and alcohol addiction diminishes or escalates so you can have the appropriate stress responses.
The key is to acknowledge your stress. Take stock of your drug intake, alcohol consumption, or any other substance that has the potential of being abused. Look not only at the amount, but also more importantly, the feeling at the time of consumption. If you are using drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress and isolation from the viruses’ impact, it could be you're not managing your stress at all. You could be feeding an addiction. Managing stress with drug, alcohol, or other addictions is stepping out on the wrong path.
If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, please reach out for help. You could be suffering from the stress that comes with addiction or someone else’s addiction. Reaching out for help during the pandemic or anytime could save yours or a loved one's life.
Ways to help manage stress
Healthline.com has some useful tips to handle stress with or without an addiction.
Exercise, when done regularly, can alleviate anxiety. Exercise lowers stress hormones and releases endorphins, which are mood enhancers and act as a natural painkiller. Exercise can also improve sleep, which gives energy to deal with everyday issues. Forms of exercise include; walking, biking, dancing, rock climbing, running, and even gardening. The list is endless, the point is to find something you enjoy and keep moving.
Caffeine is a stimulant so try to lessen caffeine intake. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks all contain caffeine, which can increase stress and anxiety. Reducing amounts of caffeine will help in keeping calm.
Journaling can help relieve stress. The actual act of writing on paper, as opposed to using a keyboard, can be therapeutic. If you're not a writer, doodling in an art journal can have the same effect. Both forms of writing and doodling will help relieve stress and anxiety when you focus on pen and paper.
Facetime, video chat, or getting together while social distancing with family or friends will help relieve stress. Even just picking up the phone can lower the risk of anxiety.
Make sure you smile and laugh. Laughing, even when faking it, triggers the brain's happy chemicals, which in turn lowers stress and tension.
Saying no when you need to say no. Taking on more than you can handle will increase your stress level. Using the word “no” can alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed. Also, asking for help when you need it will relieve stress as well.
Practice deep breathing as it lessens stress and anxiety. Getting oxygen to your lungs activates the relaxation response. This video will help you learn how.
Spend time in nature. Studies show that spending time out in nature helps heal the mind and relax the body.
Spend time with your pet, after all, who doesn't feel refreshed after spending time with a pet?
Practice these as often as you can, combine them or change them up, but find ways to reduce your stress and to keep your mind healthy in these uncertain times.
If you suffer from addiction, these lonely days can be devastating. Reach out for help. It could save your life.