We’ve been talking a lot about the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: the frustration of not being able to go out, the difficulty in trying to get certain items, and the simple boredom of being trapped inside day after day. But what we haven’t talked about is the fear and anxiety of everyday life and how we’re all coping with the stress and enormous change in our daily routines. Many people are turning to alcohol to help cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic. Whether or not you’re in recovery, this is a dangerous road to go down, and drinking to excess does nothing to address the underlying issues at play.
Stress and the Coronavirus
Stress is a common trigger for drinking, so it’s understandable that more people are indulging while stuck at home or dealing with rough days spent working from home. People are scared about the unknown, what’s going to happen to themselves and their loved ones, and may turn to alcohol as a way to block these unpleasant feelings. For others, excess drinking may be attributed to boredom and loneliness, rather than fear. Without regular social interactions and activities, the days can seem to stretch on forever, blending one into another. Drinking can break up the monotony and create a sense of calm. That relaxed feeling is only temporary however, and you could be developing an alcohol dependence without even realizing it.
Alcohol is an addictive substance and indulging in a few more drinks a week than usual can quickly become a habit that is surprisingly difficult to break. Even if you’ve never had a drinking problem before, we are all currently living within a perfect storm of circumstances for developing one.
Beyond simply staying mindful of our alcohol intake, we should all be trying out heathy coping mechanisms. Luckily, we live in age where the right support is accessible. For people who are currently in recovery, or considering seeking treatment, help is available in the form of virtual support and telehealth options. Whether it’s an online support group or talking to a counselor on the phone, knowing you have someone you can reach out to for help will make a huge difference. Isolation is difficult for all of us, but it’s particularly challenging for people in recovery who really need a strong support system to stay sober.
How to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety
People who aren’t in recovery will also benefit from staying in touch with friends and family, to assure each other that you’re doing okay and to find ways to help each other if you’re not. Even if you’ve never been in treatment, this may be a good time to check in with a counselor if you find yourself sinking into depression or addictive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has guidance for those struggling to cope with stress and anxiety, and strongly emphasizes the importance of monitoring and taking care of our emotional health.
There are plenty of activities we can do during this time to fill our days, fulfill creative impulses, and stay active! Some people are doing more crafting, making puzzles, and reading more books. Some people are trying at-home workouts like yoga. You could try baking, meditating, even start learning a new language.
It’s easy to start drinking a little more, then a lot more, and suddenly you can’t make it through the day without a couple of glasses of wine. On social media or in the news, it even feels like we’re being encouraged to drink, with so many people talking about “quarantinis” and virtual happy hours. But drinking to soothe our anxiety is just a temporary fix. Rather than trying to numb ourselves to our new reality, we need to look for concrete ways to get the help we need, stay positive and active, and help each other through the rough spots.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, Spectrum Health Systems is open and available to help. Please at 1-877-MyRehab and speak to our staff before arrival. Start your recovery journey today!