Tips for Staying Sober During the Pandemic
The pandemic has been tough on everyone, but for those who are working on staying sober, the stress and loneliness that it’s brought on can be particularly damaging. There are many different ways to feel affected by the pandemic, and in some cases negative feelings could amplify a desire to drink or to revert back to old, bad habits. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel—both for the pandemic itself and for those who are staying sober despite its many hardships.
Below, we’re looking at the unique ways that the pandemic might be affecting those in recovery, with actionable steps that can be taken right now to cope with the stress and loneliness that may be occurring as a result.
Pandemic Stressors and How They Affect Those in Recovery
There’s no denying that the pandemic is—and has been—a stressful experience. And for many people, it has been an isolating experience as well.
While staying home has been necessary to protect our own physical health and the physical health of those around us, it’s very normal to be feeling the mental health effects of such a drastic change from normal life. Even those who live with others may be feeling isolated, despite not truly being alone.
When it comes to people in recovery and loneliness, it’s undeniable that feeling isolated can be triggering. Staying sober is in many ways a community effort, with individuals relying on their support systems to hold them accountable and help them maintain a sense of normalcy despite their new lifestyle. To feel isolated is to feel disconnected from that support system, and to lose out on the benefits that come with it.
And then there’s pandemic stress. Aside from the stress of getting sick, there’s also stress over loved ones getting sick, over economics and/or fear of job loss, and over witnessing others suffer or worry. But finding ways to deal with stress in recovery is essential, even (and perhaps especially) when that stress is far beyond what we’re used to.
Coping Mechanisms for Sobriety
We can’t magically make the pandemic disappear, but we can take steps to cope with some of the things that make staying sober in the midst of it feel so very difficult to do. Here are some simple things that can help make it easier.
Coping with stress:
Writing helps us untangle our thoughts and identify patterns in negative thinking, both of which can be crucial for sobriety.
Walking and at-home exercises are helpful distractions that can be kept up with during the remainder of the pandemic, and they offer the added benefit of giving off endorphins that can improve mental health.
Meditation is a form of self-care that can help individuals feel more grounded and more present, both of which can help eradicate cravings and serve as a reminder of larger goals.
It’s easy to be pessimistic right now, but aim for optimism instead. Positive thoughts have the power to modify our perception and give us more hope for the future.
Coping with loneliness:
Make a daily schedule and stick to it.
Routines help break up the day and give us a sense of accomplishment and something to look ahead to.
Balance social media time.
Do use social media to stay connected to your close friends and family, but log off if you notice you’re feeling anxious as you scroll or envious of other peoples’ pandemic lives.
Talk to friends and family members.
Support systems haven’t dissolved in the pandemic; they’ve just become less centralized. Stay in touch via phone calls, texts, and video chats to remind yourself that the people who love you are still there for you.
Sign up for online courses.
Have something you’ve always wanted to learn? Sign up for an online course and meet others with similar interests.
Other techniques that can help with sobriety during this time include being aware of triggers and seeking out healthy distractions for them, keeping substances out of the house (even if your friends or housemates aren’t sober), and seeking professional help via telehealth if the coping mechanisms above aren’t enough.
The pandemic absolutely can be lonely and stressful, but don’t allow yourself to revert to old habits as a result. Regardless of your circumstances, make a plan to stay safe and sober, and follow through for accountability.
If you need more support, we’re here for you. Contact us today to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our mental health professionals.