For the past several months, we’ve been talking about COVID-19 and how the pandemic has added an extra layer of stress for most people. Fear and anxiety about what’s going to happen can be overwhelming and may have caused you and your family members to feel some strong emotions. Public health actions, such as social distancing and working from home, have also provoked some of us to feel isolated and lonely and others to feel overstimulated and trapped at home with their whole families.
Are You Feeling Anxious?
Most likely, you’ve been trying to find ways to cope with all of these changes and the uncertainty that’s come with them. It’s been challenging for a lot of us to know how to cope, especially when access to the things we’ve relied on for relaxation, stress reduction and enjoyment have been limited. Concerts, retreats, social gatherings, the gym, sporting events, and trips are things a lot of us use to de-stress. If your anxiety has been getting the best of you, you’re not alone.
Symptoms you may see in yourself or family members as a result of feeling anxious may include:
- Problems with friends, family members, work or school associates.
- Changes in your sleeping or eating patterns.
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks.
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
Using Drugs and Alcohol to Cope
Without access to your go-to coping tools, you may have found yourself or your family members turning to drugs and/or alcohol to cope. Using substances is one way to feel relief from anxiety. And uncertainty. So, it makes sense that many people are drinking or using more since the pandemic began.
In a Washington Post Health & Science article, As Pandemic and Stay-at-Home Orders Spread, so does Alcohol Consumption, author Caren Chesler explores the increase in alcohol consumption since COVID-19 began. The article notes that increased drinking has been a common phenomenon for people because no one knows exactly how to deal with the stress of this pandemic. While sustained or increased use of drugs and alcohol is not an optimal solution, it may be what you’ve found yourself doing to cope. If this has been your experience, we understand and are here to help.
The Unknowns of This Year’s Back-To-School Season
Now that it’s August, the new school year is fast approaching (or has already begun for some of you), and almost every aspect of what this school year will look like has been clouded in uncertainty. It seems like everyone’s talking about what’s happening with schools—from pre-k to college.
There’ve been news reports, specials on TV, online chatter, phone calls between friends and family, and what seems like constant communication from school districts and universities about updates on the latest decisions being made. Whether you’re a parent, student, teacher, administrator, policy maker, or friend/family member of someone in school, you’ve likely been thinking or talking about what will happen and how things will turn out amidst all this chaos.
No one really knows what this school year will look like, and most schools and colleges are navigating the changes one day at a time. Trying to remain calm, while remaining flexible, might feel like the biggest challenge of all. Uncertainty seems to be one of the only constants.
Exactly how the upcoming school year is affecting each of you will be specific depending on your personal situation. If you’re a parent of school-aged children whose classes will be held online, you’re also faced with having to figure out how to work while your kids are learning from home, or if you’ll be staying at home to help them out. If your kids are going back to school on campus, you may be worried about the risks of catching the virus and keeping your kids and household safe.
Uncertainty and Anxiety
Uncertainty is challenging for most of us. As humans, we don’t handle it very well, especially because uncertainty is an elusive fear, rather than a specific fear. For example, you might have a fear of snakes or heights, which are fears you can do something you can do about. In the absence of something definitive to be afraid of, our minds tell us that the way to deal with the elusive fear of uncertainty is to overanalyze it.
Our brains go into overdrive and we try to think our way out of it. This causes us to ruminate, which is to repetitively go through scenarios in our heads to come up with the most likely outcome. Our minds are trying to help us by making known that which is unknown. But this cyclical/obsessive thinking often causes us to feel anxious and stressed, which makes it difficult to feel okay and to come up with constructive solutions.
The good news is that there are tried and true ways to help manage and mitigate anxiety that do not include using drugs or alcohol to cope. The following tips can help.
Tips for Coping with Anxiety
To cope with feelings of anxiety, we encourage you to read a blog we posted earlier this year on 6 Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels and Reduce Your Anxiety. This article offers practical solutions to help you manage increased stress. Adults and kids can use the tips suggested to get more centered—both physically and emotionally—in the midst of all the unknowns of the 2020-2021 school year.
We also suggest making a list of things that you can and cannot control, which helps calm the mind and can aid you in managing all these uncertainties. It’s as simple as getting out a piece of paper and listing two columns: Things I Cannot Control and Things I Can Control. Write as many thoughts under each column as you can. For example, when it comes to going back to school during COVID, your lists may start off with something like this:
Things I Cannot Control
- I cannot control what the district decides about whether to do learning online or in class.
- I cannot control what other families do in terms of social distancing or wearing masks.
- I cannot control whether or not school sports will resume in the fall.
Things I Can Control
- I can control what my child will need if their classe are online and how to equip them if they are going to go back to classes in person—hybrid or in-person model
- I can control the decisions we make as a family about social distancing and wearing masks.
- I can control whether or not I encourage my student athlete to practice their sporting skills at home or in small groups.
- I can control how I take care of myself, physically and emotionally, so that I have the healthiest approach to uncertainty
There’s a very funny SNL skit starring Bob Newhart called “STOP IT!”. Bob plays a therapist whose solution for all his clients’ problems is for them to just “Stop It!” It’s an older video, but it’s well worth watching, especially if you could use a laughter break, and because most of us wish we could just “Stop It” when it comes to feeling our anxieties.
If You’re Concerned About Your Use Of Drugs And Alcohol To Cope – Take Our Free, Anonymous Self-Assessment Test(s)
Whether you’re already in recovery and worried about relapse or you’re worried that you’re using drugs and/or alcohol more than normal to cope, there are things you can do to discover more and to get help. Temporarily drinking or using drugs may work to relieve intense or hard-to-manage feelings. However, this is not a good longer-term solution and can lead to complex issues. Authors Susan Sonnenschein and Elyse R. Grossman published an opinion piece in Market Watch, Parents Stressed by Coronavirus-Driven Remote Schooling are Drinking More specifically about parents who’ve been drinking more while they’ve been struggling with at-home schooling as the result of COVID-19. The article provides some helpful insights and discloses that this is a phenomenon that many parents have been dealing with.
If you’re curious about whether you’re drinking has become a problem, you can take this alcohol self-assessment to discover more.
If you’re wondering whether you’ve been abusing or have become addicted to drugs while trying to cope, this self-assessment can help you to find out where you stand.
Both of these self-assessment tools offer a list of simple questions that you can answer with a scoring guide included to evaluate your alcohol and/or drug use. You can complete them in the privacy of your own home. No one else will know you’ve taken the assessment(s), and only you will know the results.
We’re Here To Help
Upon the completion of the self-assessments, if you believe there may be a problem with drugs or alcohol (or you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction), we have many services to assist you in finding your personal path to recovery. We offer a variety of counseling services including, alcohol counseling, drug counseling, family counseling, and codependency counseling. We encourage you to visit our website to learn about the services we provide and how we can help.
If you’ve been worried about a loved one’s addiction and think it may be time to do an intervention, Linda Kagey is a certified Love First Interventionist. Linda can address any questions and concerns you have about doing an Intervention, and she can lead your family through the effective and loving process of a Love First Intervention.
We also offer a variety of services to help with treatment for addictions. If counseling is not enough at this time, we offer a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for adults. If you are in early recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, we also offer Recovery Coaching to support you on your path of sobriety.
Addiction is a family disease, and everyone needs support and a safe space to heal. We will guide and help support you in creating an addiction recovery strategy that’s personalized for you and your family. There is freedom from the pain and shame. Take a powerful first step – ask for help – and start your healing journey today.
We invite you to call us at 832-928-0211 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We’re happy to discuss your specific needs and answer any questions you have.
As COVID continues to be a threat to public health and safety, we are providing all of our services online at this time.