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  • Writer's pictureRyan Witkowski

Don’t Quarantine Your Recovery: How to Manage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

In these strange times we have all had to made sacrifices, often difficult ones involving our own health and well-being. For many of us attending 12-step meetings, Life Ring, Smart Recovery, or any other support group, those are no longer an option. Aside from missing the programming those various institutions offer, you will also be missing the most crucial aspect of these meetings: contact with our peers.

Study after study show that peer support is the number one criteria for ongoing, quality recovery. Everyone will be losing some type of connection during this time. Part of self-care and recovery for many is simply having a daily routine that includes work, childcare, commute and other usual tasks. Our daily schedule and tasks have all been interrupted. As mentioned in the previous post, “the opposite of addiction is connection”. Losing connection to our peers / support system combined with losing connection with the essence of how we usually fill our days will undoubtedly leave much to be desired.

The question now is, what do we fill those vacancies with?

The chaos and busyness of our culture often times keeps us focused on external factors of our lives while our aspects of our internal worlds become neglected. Left with significantly less distractions and as our worlds shrink, these neglected issues parts and pieces may begin to make their presence known. Again, refer back to 7 Signs You May Be Struggling for a refresher on what that might look like.

Pandemic or not, life must go on and our recovery process in this life must continue. This worldwide crisis provides an opportunity for us to fortify our health, wellness and recovery and help us gain valuable tools to increase our connection with ourselves.

Here are 5 tips to help keep you grounded and connected to your continued recovery and growth:

1) Pick Up The Phone But Not To Text

When face to face interaction is less of an option many of us will naturally attempt to increase communication with friends and acquaintances both new and old. This is a fantastic coping skill, however, the benefits of communication are greatly decreased when done through text messaging. We need to experience the finer point of communication to derive pleasure from the interaction. Instead of texting. pick up the phone and call or video chat. Experiencing the nuances of verbal and non verbal communication in the case of video calls creates a positive psychological and physiological reaction that will have lasting impact.

Many in recovery and especially early recovery have significant anxiety which makes picking up a phone or videochatting someone a terribly anxiety provoking experience. Solution? Use a voice message through your texting app that way you can get all the benefits of real human contact with significant less anxiety.

2) Pay Attention to Your Physical Body

When life was “normal”, distractions easily kept our attention on those stressors which lie outside of us, leaving us to react as we saw fit. This barrage of stimulus, even for the athletes amongst us, tended to distance us from what signals are bodies were sending us. Sore Joints? Tense Muscles? Pain? GI issues? Skin Blemishes? Or maybe just an overall sense of disconnection from your own body. Does it feel like something you have to manage and “ deal with?”

Every single article on the internet related to health is going to tell you to exercise and then list of the myriad of benefits. If you are already someone who exercises regularly, fantastic! Giving attention to your physical body can often give clues to areas in our emotional lives that are not being nurtured and in some cases, neglected. The body has a way to manifest emotions through physical sensations and symptoms. Caring for and paying attention your body can be any number of activities including but not limited to light stretching, full body scan meditation, walking, foam rolling, yoga, cycling, weightlifting , calisthenics dance or any other number of methods. Use this time to be mindful of your energy level, stiffness, pain and be curious what other emotions might be tied to these sensations. Two minutes once a day is vastly more beneficial than once a week for one hour.

3) Less Youtube and Social Media and More Reading Books Related to Recovery

There is nothing inherently wrong with Youtube or social media because you can find good quality content. The issues arise when scrolling through YouTube and social media become distractions or avoidant behaviors that begin to mimic an addictive tendency. These platforms are set up to provide us with consistent dopamine bursts. There are an endless number of extremely well written and informative books related to addiction, substance abuse and related subjects. Reading (or even listening to audio books) forces us to dedicate time, without distraction to learn and invest in ourselves. This not only increases a sense of pride and accomplishment, it also adds to our recovery tool belt. For now, books can help fill in a space where meetings used to take up. Even consider calling a friend in recovery to discuss something interesting you read.

4) Change of Scenery

Lets face it, the places we used to spend our time, even those we took for granted (like work) are most likely closed. As a result, our options for what environments we spend our time in are limited. In the past, addiction had made our world very small. Social distancing literally, once again, makes our world very small. There are only handful of places to physically go. This is where we need to be creative. If you work from home now consider splitting up your work day between different areas of your home and yard. Consider even working from your car in a nearby park. If you have been going to the same grocery store since quarantine began, consider changing things up and going to the next town over. If you have been taking walks (and you should be) change up the route or walk in a new nearby neighborhood. When you are outside try to see if you can find the novelty and intrigue in how quiet and non-cluttered everywhere is. If you really want to get creative, consider rearranging your house and adding some decorating touches.

5) Be Mindful of What You Put Into Your Body. And I Just Don’t Mean Food.

With higher stress and a new daily routine, we will all inevitably be faced with urges to increase consuming comfort foods. “Everything in Moderation” is a common piece of advice. Lets be honest here and say “moderation” in anything isn’t typically an asset most recovering addicts have whether its been 10 years or 1 day clean. With that said be willing to do a daily inventory of your eating habits and ask if your choices are in line with your values in recovery. Feel confident in making an honest appraisal and making the necessary change.

Food is not the only culprit that can be detrimental to our health. The other big item of consumption is media and online content. Yep, we're talking about it again. It is well documented that the media's (including social media) depiction of world events, and especially crisis, are linked to increased anxiety, depression and other mental health symptoms. Be intentional in what kind of media you choose to consume as well as the frequency and duration. There is a fine line between remaining informed and becoming engrossed in every newsflash. Fear and uncertainty over time can take a toll on even the most steadfast soul. If you notice that the news or social media feed is increasing your stress and anxiety, the most caring and mature thing you can do is to step away and engage in another activity or hobby. If there is something that is crucial that you must know chances are someone will inform you sooner than later. In summary, its time to go on a media diet while the Pandemic continues.

You won’t regret it. Let your reality be shaped by your surrounding community and those who you share your life with on a daily basis.

New behaviors are much more effective when you engage with them more frequently. For example exercising for 5 minutes a day / 7 days a week is exponentially more beneficial that exercising for 20 minutes two times per week. In recovery the smallest most minute changes in mindset and behavior, over time often make the most profound positive impact. Those with addiction histories often carry the mindset that unless things are carried out perfectly and on a large scale then there is no point in putting the effort forward. In recovery it becomes apparent that progress and growth are born from the subtle consistent daily actions that over time leads to major differences. So as the world around you seems drastically different from the one you knew yesterday, see if subtle changes in your behavior can lead to big differences in your life.

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