Isolation has long been known as one of the defining features of addiction. So what does a more physically distant, socially isolated world mean for those who are already struggling?
We all need love, acceptance and belonging on a basic human level. When we feel cut off from these, the impacts on our wellbeing can be felt drastically. As such, social distancing and sheltering in place can prove extra challenging for people with preexisting concerns around addiction and mental health.
The Impacts of Increased Isolation
Staying at home and practicing social distancing is a double-edged sword. While it’s necessary to slow the spread of Covid-19, the isolation it requires also increases depression and anxiety. This can cause us to feel cut off from others at a time when we most need access to our support systems. Many of us may even be separated from our loved ones for the duration of the lockdown period, if we live alone or far from our families.
While the recovery process teaches us to reach out to others for support in times of need, this can feel farther out of reach when the routine of physical gathering is suddenly no longer available.
Aside from loneliness and boredom isolation can involve, we’re also being faced with a daily fear of the unknown. We are living through a time marked my uncertainty – a feeling that can be notoriously difficult to sit with. And of course, the underlying fear that we will get sick, or that someone we love may suffer, only adds to the tension.
According to the CDC, the stresses being prompted by this pandemic are causing:
Increased worry and fear
Disrupted patterns of sleeping and eating
Problems with attention and focus
Exacerbated mental health issues
The CDC also recommends that “People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.” And as elevated anxiety levels are linked with relapse, those who have already completed addiction treatment are understandably concerned.
Risk of Relapse
Isolation is a hallmark of addiction, and a drastic upswing in alone time can lead to a worrying state for some. A reality that’s difficult to face is a tempting one to escape from with drugs or alcohol. Profound boredom, another of addiction’s most common effects, is becoming increasingly pronounced during shelter-in-place.
Those who are already in treatment share similar fears, with many choosing to extend their program for fear of returning home to an isolated environment. And those who are currently seeking addiction treatment are facing difficulties as many centers have stopped accepting new clients.
But although today’s circumstances present some unusual challenges, there are a number of things we can do to stay safe and sane during coronavirus:
Reach out to your support network, and make a conscious effort to step up contact. Video calls may offer more of a sense of togetherness than texts and chat. Try scheduling a call each day with friends and family members who are supportive, understanding and optimistic. Use this time to strengthen the relationships that already add meaning and color to your life.
Keep it Moving
Exercise is proven to help addiction, and not only because it distracts from ruminating thoughts. Physical movements help to ground you: to get you out of your head and into your body. Think of your mood as an energy that can be physically moved through and out of you. Make movement a regular part of your day – even if you don’t feel like it at first, you’ll undoubtedly feel better afterwards.
Studies show that being in nature significantly improves your mood, and boosts your creativity and problem-solving skills. If you feel stuck in a funk, go for a walk – try to make it a daily routine. Even getting 15 minutes of sun per day in your own yard, or taking a break to contemplate the natural life you can observe from your window, can go a long way in lifting your spirits.
Starting a small garden (or showing your existing one some extra love) can be an especially gratifying process. A garden requires your nurturing attention to grow, and connects you to the natural cycles of the Earth. And there’s no greater satisfaction than harvesting your own veggies, flowers or herbs.
Find Therapy in the Kitchen
Cooking can be a soothing creative outlet, and a powerful way to engage your senses and nourish yourself from within. It can also be a form of mindfulness that allows you to focus on the details of your tasks and quiet a racing mind. Making nutritious, whole-food meals for yourself helps strengthen your immune system and balance your mind-body connection. Did you know that most of your serotonin is produced in the gut? Feed your gut-brain connection, and watch your mental health thrive.
While this time is unsettling in some ways, in others, it’s an incredible opportunity for self-reflection. While most of us have spent years on a ceaseless treadmill, wanting to make life changes but moving too quickly through the cycles of external pressure to feel like we’re able to, in this once-in-a-lifetime moment, the world is actually still. This silence sets the stage for deep listening – to yourself, to others and to the messages of life’s wisdom. Use this as a chance to practice sitting with your feelings and cultivating acceptance of the uncertainty that permeates our lives, now and always.
For many struggling with addiction, there may not be an adequate substitute for the connection that an immersive, in-person experience offers. Your wellness is a necessity, and it’s important to reach out for support when you need it.
The Sanctuary is receiving guests, and we’re taking careful steps to make sure those who are with us are as safe and healthy as possible. See our frequently updated Covid-19 protocol here.
We’re also partnering with a sober coach to offer pickup and ground transportation within a 1,000-mile radius of our center.
If Covid-19 is presenting a rough patch for you, there’s no need to suffer in silence. We’re available to answer your questions and connect you with the resources you need. Call us anytime at (877) 710-3385 or email us at [email protected] – we’re here to help.
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.
He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]