In the space of a week, the threat of the COVID-19 virus has transformed our world. We are told to stay home, work remotely and, in many areas, shelter in place. Across America, most non-essential businesses have been ordered to close. We’re in an unprecedented time of anxiety and uncertainty.
At Caron, we tell our patients and families that addiction is a disease that thrives in isolation. So how can those in recovery manage through this time of crisis? Here are five strategies for remaining connected to your recovery during this period of social distancing and quarantine.
Staying Connected to Your Recovery
1) Keep Your Support Network on Speed Dial
The good news is that even though in-person meetings are being shuttered, there are lots of other ways to engage with your support groups face-to-face.
We recommend our alumni to stay connected virtually through Zoom, Facetime, Skype, freeconferencecall.com or many other online tools. As a starting point, use the list of people from your meeting who have voluntarily provided it. You can also set-up regular times to talk with family and friends. Whatever your preference - it’s critical to stay plugged into your circle of support on a regular basis.
Online meetings are also prevalent, and they've exploded due to social-distancing protocols. Like in-person meetings, we recommend you try out a few and find one that best suits your needs. Additionally, we encourage alum to continue any counseling by phone or through telehealth if available.
2) Identify Actions You Can Take Today
It’s tempting to numb out during this time but that is also a dangerous path. Instead of binge-watching shows or tuning in nonstop to media coverage, create a plan for yourself and follow it. Structure and accountability are critical for people in recovery.
If you’re working remotely, build in time to breathe, meditate and connect with loved ones. If you are not working during this time, we recommend creating an even more specific schedule so you don’t feel powerless, which can add to your anxiety. That can include taking time to read, journal, do a creative project, knit, cook, exercise, etc. Use this time as an opportunity to learn about something or someone that inspires you.
3) Prioritize Your Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Well-being
Gyms are closing – leaving many in recovery without an important tool for managing stress and anxiety. But there are plenty of alternatives to help you stay active. Look into the variety of fitness resources available online for free: Beginner yoga classes, P90X, plyometrics. Experiment with exercising outdoors if you have a backyard or are allowed to take walks.
We also always encourage mindful eating. This isn't a time to binge on junk food that can have an adverse effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing. There are lots of immunity boosting foods that can also help improve your mood.
Quality sleep is also very important. It’s tempting to stay up late if you don’t have to get up for work but that can quickly backfire. Instead, make sure your bedroom is a peaceful space and leave your smartphone in another room. We also recommend keeping track of how much caffeine you consume. If you’re sitting at home and having a pot of coffee over the course of the day, that's very different than if you typically grabbed a cup on the way out the door.
Finally, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice gratitude and mindfulness meditation. You can improve your sense of well-being and connectedness – which can make a significant difference to staying on track in recovery during this time.
4) Pay Attention to Your Behavior and Ask for Help
From a behavior standpoint, doing something out of the norm can be a tip-off that you need more help to manage stress: Watching six episodes of a TV show in a row, staying up until 1 a.m., buying 11 bags of cheese puffs can all be warning signs you’re slipping into an unhealthy place.
You can also watch for emotional changes. Feeling lethargic, sad or not having an appetite are important to address. If you’re not sure, we encourage you to talk to your sponsor, your therapist or a trusted friend. It’s always better to reach out and ask for help than risk your recovery.
5) Keep Your Sense of Humor
They say laughter is nature’s medicine and I believe that’s true. It’s a very useful tool when dealing with anxiety. Humor allows you to get perspective on a situation. Whether it’s toilet paper memes on social media or your child’s silly dancing – it’s a real-time reminder to stay present and enjoy life.