Experts are concerned that the coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm for substance abuse disorders to be on the rise. Reports indicate that Americans over 30 have been drinking more this year during Covid than the previous year; the consumption increase is about 14% (JAMA). This has resulted from an increase in isolation, stress and uncertainty. We are all suffering from the absence of “in-person support.”
What are these statistics telling us? Be alert, be more sensitive and more consciously aware of how YOU are behaving and responding to the crisis. This is a call to action! You have to be prepared for the long haul. Are your needs being met? Take a reading on the condition of your own social and emotional well-being. As the leader in your family, you have to have your act together before you look to support anybody else. Ask yourself, “am I drinking more than usual? Am I having that extra beer or am I filling my wine glass a little higher because I’m feeling stressed out and alone? Am I letting down my personal guard because this pandemic is dragging on and the end is clearly not in sight? We all know that responsibility begins with us! That’s the first place to begin a safety check. Am I getting enough social connection and support? With the gyms and work out areas closed or limited, am I getting enough exercise – even just a walk around the block with my neighbor (before the snow comes)?
This is a very difficult time for everybody, not just with people who might have a substance abuse condition. I want to call your attention to 7 strategic and helpful ideas that my colleague, Dr. David Treadway, expressed in his recent article in the PsychotherapyNetworker.com.
1.) Just getting by without making things worse sometimes is a worthy goal. We are faced with an invisible enemy, one that we can’t really fight or flee. Sometimes, it’s just better to hold that thought or feeling for a moment, rather than expressing it, to let the intensity subside, rather than increase it.
2.) Humor: try to share with friends any humor you come across that lightens the journey like: “homeschooling is going OK, except two kids have been suspended for fighting and the teacher has been fired for drinking on the job.” Humor is helpful.
3.) Daily Centering Practice: it’s important to schedule healthy self-care several times a day, as if your life depended on it. It does.
4.) Chosen silence: there may be times when one member of a couple might want to talk about their fears and feelings while the other really can’t handle it at that moment. It’s important for partners to be able to say “no” kindly but directly when they aren’t able to be emotionally responsive to each other, and to schedule a time for later.
5.) Practice tender loving care: try to take turns giving small, tender gestures of love and support like – giving a back rub, cooking a favorite meal, doing a partner’s chore and giving one partner time to sleep in. This works best when you each ask for one clear gesture each week, schedule it, and do it, even if you’re not in the mood. It’s a reminder that you are there for each other and have each other’s back.
6.) Consider folks you know that may need a hand: cook for the sick neighbor, check in on friends who are alone, shop for people. Trying this may actually make you feel better.
7.) “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
These are just a few ideas that can help you stay the course. The end is not in sight; so, we must stay alert and prepare. If you would like to discuss this topic further or if I can be of help, let’s continue below.