June 20, 2020

6 Ways to Keep our Mental Health & our Sobriety Close during Coronavirus.

Those in recovery can lose their way if they are not extra mindful during these tumultuous days.

With all the noisy daily headlines distracting us from our commitment to sobriety, it is understandable how some in the recovery community may feel a bit wobbly at the moment.

Never in recent memory have so many societal events converged in such a potent way as we are now witnessing. Still deeply immersed in a global pandemic, economic crisis, and now social unrest, our nation is dealing with multiple issues at once.

Still, above all the noise is the urgent need to place sobriety at the top of the priority list.

Individuals in recovery were dealt a particularly harsh blow back in March when key sources of support were suddenly closed off. Because peer support is so intrinsic to the success of the recovery community, this was highly destabilizing until meetings and outpatient therapy services were moved online.

Even with recovery care now available online, the daily distractions caused by all the upheaval, stress, and change placed an added burden on people who simply desire to remain on track. Sifting through all the distractions does require a concerted effort if we are to remain focused on sobriety. Prioritizing recovery is definitely doable.

Restate Your Recovery Goals

With the COVID-19 pandemic turning our lives upside down, it can cause us to lose sight of what is truly important in life. So many other stressors are vying for our attention and energy right now that recovery goals may be pushed into the background. This is exactly the reason why now is a good time to revisit the reasons for beginning our recovery journey in the first place.

Sit down and take a few minutes to write a list of reasons why you have chosen a life of sobriety. Write examples of how your life has changed for the better since you embraced a sober lifestyle. This exercise will help to sharpen your commitment to recovery and can reinvigorate the spirit.

Brush Up Your Relapse Prevention Plan

Chances are that in the past three months, there have been some challenges to sobriety. Most everyone in addiction recovery has experienced the added stress that has accompanied the Coronavirus event.

Of course, there is always going to be stress in life, and in recovery we learn how to regulate stress. However, the prolonged stress caused by the pandemic has been more than most of us are equipped to deal with. This can present a daunting challenge to maintaining our sobriety.

Because stress is a common relapse risk, now is an excellent time to work on a revised relapse prevention strategy. Even if you have years of sobriety under your belt, take a few minutes to ponder the signs of an impending relapse and then list the triggers and what actions you will take to thwart a relapse. How will you respond, how will you divert your attention from cravings, who will you reach out to? All of these steps should be written down. If nothing else, just the simple task of thinking about the possibility and then writing down ways to prevent relapse can help to deter one from occurring.

6 Tips for Focusing on Recovery During Coronavirus

Here are some helpful strategies to keep you from veering off your recovery path:

  1. Enjoy the reopening. Now that lockdowns are lifting and we can stretch our legs a little, get out and rediscover what makes us happy. If gyms are still off-limits, start taking hikes or bike rides. If beaches and lakefronts are open, get out and surf, paddleboard, fish, or swim. Take some short day trips and do some exploring. Make the most of this early summer weather for a boost in vitamin D and a fresh new mental outlook.
  2. Find recovery meetings. In some states, A.A., N.A, and SMART Recovery meetings have begun to reconvene in person, although with modifications. Where these are taking place, members describe sparse rooms with six feet of space between chairs and no shared food or beverages. Some have held meetings outdoors, with folks bringing lawn chairs. If live meetings are not available in your area, continue to tune into online Zoom meetings from home. Any social support is helpful for keeping us focused on sobriety.
  3. Keep perspective. With the constant media focus on the virus and peripheral fallout from COVID-19, it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of despair. Mindfully decide to resist that tendency toward pessimism. This too shall pass. Balance out staying informed on current events with a healthy dose of perspective so you can keep your spirits up. A positive state of mind is protective against relapse or falling into depression. Yes, there is a virus, but to date it has touched only a tiny percentage of the population. Be smart, stay safe, but also stay sane.
  4. Rekindle socializing. Human beings are not built for isolation and loneliness. After months of isolation, many of us have grown weary of our own four walls and will be relieved to be able to socialize again. Now that states are slowly relaxing the lockdowns, we are able to meet up in small groups again. Reconvene with your favorite sober friends over coffee at the local sidewalk café, or join a small group on a run or walk. Just being able to physically socialize again is a treat, even if it has to involve wearing a mask for the time being.
  5. Address mental health. If you are like many of us, you have struggled with increased symptoms of anxiety or depression in recent months. Mental health has taken a beating during the COVID-19 crisis and is likely to remain under pressure for months to come. Mood disruptions can be fuel for relapse, so minding our mental health is an absolute must while focusing on sobriety during COVID. Check in regularly with your therapist via their tele-health platform until it is cleared for them to resume in-office sessions.
  6. Be productive. One of the most protective factors to resisting a relapse involves productivity. Boredom can become habitual if you let it, so resist the temptation to sit around the house, and find something productive to focus on. Maybe you have some deferred home projects to tackle, which is an excellent way to use time while furloughed from work. Set your mind to accomplishing a project or two around the house, or set your sights on volunteering in the community during COVID. There might be a need for help at a local food pantry or for meal delivery services.

Let this unusual event in our personal history be a catalyst for something positive. Instead of allowing ourselves to fall into despair and thus risking our recovery, switch your mindset toward positive thoughts. Make a commitment today to check in with your therapist, meet up with a friend, start a home project, or double up on meetings. Never forget that this too shall pass, and when it does pass you want your recovery to be intact.

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