The year 2020 has been a stressful time for billions of people across the world. The pandemic, in addition to its health implications, has caused unemployment, economic upheaval and isolation, as well as sudden and dramatic changes to life as we knew it. As we mourn the loss of our plans and dreams for 2020, many of us have noticed an increase in our consumption of alcohol, marijuana and other mind-altering substances. How can we prevent substance abuse and find healthier ways to cope during stressful times?
Stress is the body’s natural response to external events or changes, whether it’s a single event or a recurring issue. These events can be either positive or negative. You may feel stressed on the first day of a new job, even though you are happy and excited. Research shows there are three types of stress: routine stress from daily life, stress as a result of sudden negative change and stress as a result of a traumatic event. The pandemic has brought about all three types of stress in many people. Our daily lives are more stressful as we navigate the challenges of social distancing, homeschooling and working from home. We have experienced sudden negative change as the entire world adapts to the pandemic and its various implications. We experience trauma as we witness the deaths of loved ones and others around us.
Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Everyone copes with stress in different ways. A common method of managing stress is the use of drugs and alcohol. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows there is a direct correlation between stressful events and substance use. With many spending increased time in isolation, there’s an increased risk of drug abuse due to boredom and depression. While drugs may provide temporary relief from stress, long term use of these substances can lead to several physical and mental health issues.
Most of the time, we cannot predict or prevent stressful events due to several factors outside of our control. Within our control is how we respond to stress and the mechanisms we use to cope with difficult situations. It’s very important to find healthy methods of dealing with stress so that we are less likely to rely on substances. Healthy coping mechanisms include exercise, reading, creating art, practicing a hobby or caring for a pet. Determine some activities that you can turn to when you are feeling stressed.
Know The Risk Factors for Substance Abuse
Risk factors are the situations that are likely to cause us to turn to drugs or alcohol. If there is a history of substance abuse in your family, you may be more likely to abuse substances, too. Perhaps you notice that your use of alcohol or drugs increases when you are stressed about finances or your relationship. Maybe you tend to drink more after watching the news about the pandemic, racial injustice or police brutality. Assess your habits and patterns to determine when you are more likely to use substances. This way, you can predict stressful situations and put measures in place to utilize one of your healthy coping mechanisms.
People often begin using or increasing their use of drugs and alcohol when they are unhappy about something in their life or they are unsatisfied with the direction their life is heading. Maybe you love your job, but you are unhappy with your relationships. Maybe you are spending too much time at work and not dedicating enough time to self-care and your passions. It’s important to feel fulfilled in all areas of your life to create a feeling of balance and contentment.
Seek Help for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
Mental illness and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. Those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder may turn to substances to cope with the pain and difficult emotions brought about by their mental illnesses. It’s important to know that relief is possible by seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. Therapists and psychologists are trained in treating mental illnesses and are able to help you to manage difficult emotions in a healthy way.
As we continue to cope with the daily and long-term effects of COVID-19, our mental and emotional health must be safeguarded. Flourish Psychology’s expert therapists in Brooklyn Heights, NY will help you overcome your challenges, change the way you think, and cultivate a resilient sense of well-being. Please contact us for a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.
Written by Francine Derby
Self-care related to working out has drastically changed in quarantine. Thus, many at home workout programs are trending. We’ve all seen online workout programs that promise results in 7 days, weight loss, or a changed body. These fake promises can really scare us into paying money for “quick change” that society deems necessary. They also lead us to question whether or not their workouts work for us. So, before jumping into a workout, we first have to ask ourselves a few questions, such as “what is a perfect workout, and how can I achieve it?
The Perfect Workout Is One Where You Have Fun
Are you having fun when working out, or do you dread having to pull out your yoga mat, or weights to prepare for exercise? This is an important question to ask yourself before starting a workout. Workouts are supposed to be fun. You should always leave a workout feeling good. A workout should make you want to do it again. If you find yourself being anxious about working out, then it may not be the best workout for you. Workouts should be done willingly and freely, not out of fear or panic.
One way to combat boring, or lackluster workouts is to find a workout that aligns with one of your hobbies. If you like to dance try Zumba, hip hop workouts, or ballet focused workouts. if you like to sing find workouts that are set to your favorite songs. If you are a big fan of celebrities try learning the choreography to one of their songs. if high impact workouts are too draining, switch to low impact or ” no jumping” workouts. This keeps things exciting, new, and fresh. They also make for a fun workout that you will want to do again.
Make Sure You Feel Confident
A perfect workout helps you feel strong and confident. Workouts that help you love the body you’re in while working towards the body you want are the best for you. Workouts should focus on helping you feel great, and take focus off obsessing over weight or burning calories. Workout instructors that do not shame you or put you down when working out help you feel more confident. Workouts that nurture you and are patient with you in the learning process build up your confidence. This also allows you to feel powerful, and sure of your own abilities.
When tuning into a workout video, pay attention to how the instructor speaks to your or the audience. Is the voice nurturing, caring, motivating, and kind? is the voice demeaning, harsh, or unkind? If the voice of the instructor or the mood of your workout feels like the latter, then it is time to find another workout. Make sure to find a workout that helps you feel motivated, praised, and comfortable. Once you find a workout that does that, you find that it’s worth the search.
A Perfect Workout Allows You to De-Stress
Workouts that help you de-stress and relax are great. This is because they can serve as an outlet, and create a space that allows you to feel calm. Workouts that add to your stress only increase anxiety. and this is not ideal. This connects to the point of workouts being fun. A workout should not feel like an obligation, or a job. The combination of fun, feeling confident and strong, and less focus on weight and calorie burning leads to a workout that is void of stress. Workouts that are aimed at decreasing stress and tension include yoga, pilates, tai-chi, or cardio. Focus on finding workouts that take away some of your stress, avoid workouts that add to it.
Overall, the perfect workout is the one that feels good. They should be fun and allow you to feel strong and confident. They should not control you or make you feel like you need to change. If a workout feels negative, it’s not you that needs to change, it’s the workout! Seek workouts that you can customize to your level, needs, and body! For example, The Down Dog app has workouts that you can customize fully from the length of the workout to the area of the body you are working. An added plus is you can customize the instructor’s voice and music too!
Your workout is for you! So, the “perfect workout” is one that decreases stress and makes you feel positive about every part of you.
Are You Struggling With Your Body Image or Disordered Eating?
If you are struggling with your body image, or if you are worried you may have an eating disorder, contact us to schedule a free consultation. Our psychologists specialize in body image and eating disorders and will help you regain a positive self-esteem while decreasing disordered eating issues.
In the past few months, COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. The virus has not only affected the physical health of many individuals, but it has also taken a toll on the mental health of many. As a result, it is important to take steps to calm the heightened anxiety, and stress that has come as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading to learn how to calm anxiety and stress during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)