Increased family time paired with decreased access to support is leading to an increase in the use of unhealthy patterns of coping. Since the start of this pandemic, we have been forced to live without those things that once aided us in maintaining a healthy state of mind. Without those, many have turned to the use of substances to curb both boredom and the stress and anxieties that exist in this new way of living. This increased use of substances can cause many issues that, if we are not careful, will follow us long after this pandemic has ended.
Here are some things to consider if you believe you or someone you know may be using alcohol or other substances in an unhealthy way,
- Why are you using? Many of us have taken on new roles in our homes, and are doing two to three times more than we were before. We do not have time for self-care like we once did and tension is running high. It is normal to need support and time for relaxation, however, if you are using substances as a way to disengage from your children or spouse, or as a way to stay awake to complete all your tasks, you may need some additional support.
- When are you using? Many of us have had a glass of wine at the end of the day or a few beers on the weekend with friends. Some of us have attended a virtual happy hour with family or colleagues. These are normal and even encouraged by some as a way to relax and recharge. However, if you are grabbing that first glass during nap time and continuing on throughout the evening, or adding something extra to that morning coffee as a way to get the day started, you may need some additional support.
- How is your body responding? When we introduce substances into our bodies and continue using for longer periods of time our bodies begin to become dependent. As a result, when we discontinue the use, whether due to sleep, loss of access, or in an effort to cut back, our bodies will fight against this in what is known to many as withdrawal. Some withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced as a result of increased use include nausea, headache, cold sweats, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. These symptoms are not exclusive to substance abuse and maybe things experienced by many due to the constraints of this pandemic, but if you are experiencing these things along with increased use of substances, you may need some additional support.
- How are your relationships? Being locked up with family day in and day out can create conflict for even the most well-managed relationships. Tensions run high and conflict resolution skills get thrown out the window. We are all struggling and need a break from one another. However, if you are noticing that your increased substance use coincides with your conflict, you are reaching for substances instead of communicating your need for additional support, or your spouse has started to verbalized their concern about your increased use, you may need some additional support.
- What can you do instead? Coping is a word being thrown around a lot these days and today is no different. If you are using as a means to manage boredom, run from conflict, or deal with the stress and fear of this pandemic, your coping tool kit needs an update. If you are bored, get out of the house and go for a walk. Use mindfulness techniques to notice your surroundings and bring a sense of stillness to your world. If you feel disconnected from your partner, go on a “to-go” date. Get take out from your favorite restaurant, turn on the music in the car, and sit in the parking lot just being with one another. If this new normal has got you down, put on work on video and get your body moving. Drink a glass of water, take some deep breaths, and remember what you are grateful for.
Who do you want to be when this pandemic is over? It will end and we will all be expected to get at it and recover much more quickly than we think. If you need support, reach out. You do not have to allow these efforts at coping to negatively impact you or your family any longer. We are here to help.