During times of stress and uncertainty, it is understandable that we may want to turn to our old ways of coping to escape from the constant flood of coronavirus updates. Whether that escape is through substance use or coming back to an unhealthy mental health pattern, navigating this unpredictable and unprecedented time may seem impossible without returning to old emotional responses.
But is there another way to get through all of this panic without backsliding? The answer is YES. While it may not be easy to overcome, there are ways to ease the emotional stressors that COVID-19 and self-quarantining may be causing. Let’s take a look at what the signs of impending relapse are and how you or your loved ones can manage those symptoms.
What Can You do to Stop Relapse During COVID-19?
Warning Signs of Relapse
- Changes in feelings and attitudes
Relapse has little to do with the action of using drugs, alcohol or returning to a certain mental health pattern. Relapse is built on emotional responses that can lead you to backslide. You may find yourself in a negative thought process due to never-ending media and news updates, Instagram stories, or Facebook posts. These thoughts can lead you to think that it’s ‘okay’ to return to damaging habits in order to numb the impact of negative thoughts.
- A heightened state of stress or anxiety
Stress can take many forms. Sometimes stress can look like anger, sadness, hopelessness, irritability or defensiveness. Other times, it can look like pretending as if everything is okay, heightened energy levels and overactivity. No matter what form it takes, it can affect how you approach your recovery and leave you feeling on edge.
- Isolation from your support network
Now more than ever, we are experiencing isolation from our core support groups. Connection, however, is the key to getting it through the toughest times in recovery. Depression, stress and anxiety can make us want to isolate even more than usual, to the point that we may not want to pick up the phone and ask for help. That is when the brain begins to seek out old pathways to combat boredom and mental strain.
- Poor eating and sleeping habits
When eating and sleeping habits begin to change it is likely that you need urgent attention. Eating and sleeping patterns play a large part in our physical health and when we see a sudden change, whether it is an increase or decrease in eating or sleeping habits, this can be an indicator that your mental and physical being is in distress.
- Loss of control
Feeling a loss of control can influence us to seek out risky behaviors. When you stop checking in with yourself to assess how your behavior is affecting your wellbeing and that of your loved ones, then you may be on the verge of letting go completely and falling back into harmful patterns.
How to Navigate Through It
- Understand your triggers
You have done so much work to understand yourself through treatment and therapy. Take some time to think through those personal triggers, understand why you are feeling temptations to repeat old behaviors and return to the tools your therapist has given you to make it through the tougher times.
- Practice healthy self-care
Self-care is going to be key in relieving those feelings of stress that can lead to relapse. Getting back on track with healthy sleeping and eating habits, meditating to curb obsessive thoughts and keeping active will all help to soothe negative thinking.
Going along with mediation, studies show that breathing exercises trigger body relaxation which can benefit both your physical and mental health. When our body is triggered to relax, we no longer produce the stress hormone Cortisol. Reducing stress overall is great for the body but it can be especially beneficial when we are faced with backsliding.
Staying active plays a large role in controlling energy levels and can help with creating a healthy routine. When we exercise we tend to sleep better and wake with higher energy levels. Studies also indicate that exercise releases endorphins and can help relieve obsessive, negative thoughts.
- Think about how far you have come
You have already made it this far. Just think about all the progress you have made in your recovery journey. You fought a tough battle to get to where you are today. Give yourself some credit and think back on all your achievements. It may seem very difficult right now. But when you overcome these feelings, just think of how much stronger you will be.
- Stop scrolling and turn off the news
We all want to stay connected during this time of uncertainty, isolation and fear. We all want to check our phones or news broadcasts for the latest updates on COVID-19 and what it means for us. But if constantly checking your phone or watching the news is leading you to feel overwhelming amounts of stress, then it is time to put the phone away and turn off the TV. If your family or friends are the ones filling you in with media updates, kindly let them know you are struggling with your mental and physical health right now and need a break from the news.
- Ask for help
Most importantly, when you are on the verge of relapse it is necessary that you seek out help. Call your sponsor or call your family and check with your resources on how you can attend groups. Many facilities, like Promises Behavioral Health, are offering virtual sobriety meetings to help everyone in this time of need. Other mental health and sobriety services are offering online chats to speak directly to peers and counselors through their own apps.
No matter how you respond to the current events, understand that you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself. It is natural to struggle with old behaviors during times of heightened emotional stress. But there is hope and we are here for you. Check our list of additional resources below.
- Rooted Alumni Virtual Meeting Calendar
- Pocket Rehab App
- Headspace Guided Meditation App
- BetterHelp Therapy App
- Sober Movement Instagram
- Shine Meditation App
If you or your loved one needs extra support at this time, we want to help. Call us today.