By now, we all understand just how important social distancing is to slow the spread of infectious disease. For the first time in living memory, we have largely retreated to our own homes and stayed there as much as possible. And when we have to go out, we are wearing masks and staying six feet away from one another. It is difficult and stressful.
For people in recovery, the levels of difficulty and stress are heightened, which raises an essential question for many, many people: How do you maintain your sobriety while also maintaining the kind of isolation necessary during these unusual times?
The Challenges Are Many
Maybe, like a lot of people, you feel trapped by the restrictions currently in place regarding social contact. Maybe you are struggling because you currently cannot attend your Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Or perhaps you are worried you won’t have access to medicines you need to treat co-occurring disorders like depression and will be in greater danger of relapse as a result.
All of these (and more besides) are legitimate concerns—and so finding ways to deal with them at this difficult time is essential.
You Can’t Control Everything, But You Can Control Some Things
It’s natural to feel helpless when your routine is upended and there is lots of uncertainty in your life. But there are still plenty of things you can do to help maintain your sobriety.
- Eat a healthy diet. Set aside the temptation to stress eat and keep your commitment to improving your physical and mental health through good food choices.
- Exercise. You can exercise at home or, with proper precautions and a commitment to social distancing, outside. Taking a walk or a run or riding your bike is a great way to get the mental health benefits associated with spending time outdoors and with getting in some moderate to vigorous exercise.
- Practice mindfulness. A mindfulness practice can lessen anxiety and help you stay grounded. There are many online mindfulness options to help you get started. Some are subscription services, but there are many free options as well. You can set aside some time each day to work through mindfulness exercises, and you can also use mindfulness techniques when stress suddenly seems as though it might overwhelm you.
- Immerse yourself in a hobby. Hobbies can keep your mind off of the stress you may feel and keep cravings at bay. Put together jigsaw puzzles, read an entire mystery series from the beginning, take up knitting, take online guitar tutorials, try your hand at drawing or painting, work your way through a challenging video game, and more. The key is finding something you enjoy that can provide a useful distraction.
Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Be Social
It is extremely important to remember that we can still connect with friends and family in many ways even though we currently can’t gather together. Many people are turning to social media to share inspiring stories, express their needs and concerns, or just share funny jokes. Used judiciously, social media can help battle loneliness. Just be sure you don’t fall down a rabbit hole of alarming news or political squabbling. If your social media feed is increasing your anxiety, find a different way to connect.
For example, you could go old school and use your phone to talk with another person. And with the many free video conferencing options out there, you don’t have to be limited to hearing one another’s voices. You can see the faces of your loved ones via the wonders of technology.
It may even be a wonderful time to write letters to people who are important to you. Personal letters are a rarity these days, but they can be a meaningful way to let someone know you are thinking of them. Even letters to yourself—perhaps in the form of an ongoing journal—can help you address negative feelings that threaten to weigh you down.
Look for Ways to Help Others
Sometimes what we really need when we are feeling helpless and hopeless is a way to help others. Can you donate to a food pantry or drop off some books in the neighborhood Little Free Library? Can you make a grocery run for an elderly neighbor (being sure to take appropriate precautions for yourself)? Can you sew masks or send notes of encouragement to healthcare workers? Activities like these can remind you to maintain a spirit of service and gratitude, which in turn can support your mental health and your sobriety.
We Are Still Here to Help
Peak View Behavioral Health is closely monitoring the ongoing public health crisis. That said, we remain committed to serving individuals struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorders. If you need help, don’t wait to reach out. We are prepared to craft a personalized plan for your care and treatment.