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Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Fuel a Wave of Addiction?

Will the COVID-19 pandemic fuel a wave of addiction? The 2020 pandemic is still a significant problem throughout the globe — especially here in the U.S. In addition to the physical issues associated with the virus, more research surfaces about the pandemic’s lasting mental health effects.

Unfortunately, many predict that mental health professionals won’t keep up with the number of people who need help with depression and anxiety due to this pandemic.

That means more people will undoubtedly turn to other coping mechanisms. As a result, we will likely see a wave of addiction in the coming months and even years.

Since February 2020, doctors and ER units nationwide have already seen an explosion in alcohol-related issues. Sales of alcohol have also consistently gone up throughout the pandemic.

Knowing this, how do we approach this wave of addiction?

The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused plenty of more issues than merely physical illnesses. People who once dealt with addiction are at a greater risk of relapsing. Those who feel as though they don’t have anywhere else to turn may look at alcohol or harder drugs like opioids for the first time.

What aspects of the pandemic are contributing to these mental health issues?

The biggest one, undoubtedly, is loneliness. Even if you consider yourself to be an introverted person, people are social, by nature. Feeling completely isolated and disconnected from others can make you feel alone, without any support. Studies show the negative impact of loneliness lasts for years. It can even impact your physical health.

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the uncertainties of this entire pandemic. People have lost jobs, children run risks going to school, and even though places have started re-opening, many states still have mask mandates.

There is still so much anxiety surrounding COVID-19, and it only builds up with the upcoming (and volatile) presidential election. Feelings of anxiety combined with feelings of loneliness, are often a recipe for disaster.

How People Cope on Their Own

Because depression and anxiety are so prevalent, there are a variety of ways to deal with them. Some people take medication; others seek therapy. Sadly, far too many people find harmful ways of coping, including drug and alcohol use.

Pseudo Comfort

Since January of this year, for example, Texas has seen a massive rise in both alcohol and guns/ammo sales — which is a horrible combination. But, people are looking for ways to numb whatever worries they may be feeling. That goes far beyond alcohol into harder drugs. When you learn more about opiate addiction and the brain, you find that it can lead to euphoria feelings. Who wouldn’t be looking for that right now?

Unfortunately, the effects of drugs and alcohol don’t last, so people need more and more to get by.

Substance Abuse

Will the COVID-19 pandemic fuel a wave of addiction? Absolutely. But, there is hope for those feeling anxiety from the effects of this pandemic.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, stressed, or overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone. Still, you also don’t need to turn to a substance that will only compound the issues.

Even if you can only reach out to someone digitally, do whatever it takes to make connections and find your support system. The times are still uncertain. Together we will see it through, and you don’t have to depend on substances to feel better about the state of the world.

Feel free to contact me if you’re struggling to get through this pandemic or visit my page on opiate addiction and the brainto learn more about how I can help. Together, we can work on more effective ways to work through your anxiety so you can manage your symptoms daily.

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COVID-19: Understanding the Risk of Burnout for Medical Personnel

While everyone has been impacted in some way by the pandemic, we can probably all agree that healthcare workers and medical personnel have been at the front lines of this virus from the beginning. In addressing the many challenges of COVID-19: understanding the risk of burnout for medical personnel is so important. And this will likely be the case for many months to come.

With millions of cases across the globe, we have come to depend on medical personnel to help the sick, keep us informed, and keep us educated, all while putting themselves at risk of catching the virus, too.

Across the country, healthcare workers have been working longer, more stressful shifts. You’ve probably seen photos or videos of the marks on their faces from having to wear masks for so long. What we can’t see are the emotional effects this pandemic has caused.

Burnout for medical personnel is a real thing and could happen to anyone in the healthcare field thanks to these stressful, uncertain times.

Many of us wonder, how can the risk of burnout for medical personnel be reduced? What can healthcare workers do to keep themselves not just physically safe, but emotionally and mentally healthy, too?

What Are the Risks?

A recent survey of over 1,000 healthcare workers from 34 hospitals in China found that over 50% were experiencing depression, while 44.6% were experiencing anxiety. Perhaps the most staggering statistic is that over 71% of healthcare workers surveyed said they were feeling distressed.

In the U.S., we haven’t had enough time or research performed yet to determine how this pandemic has affected our medical personnel fully. However, as most of the country has been under some form of “shelter-at-home” order for more than 50 days, we can assume that those 50+ days have all been full of stress and exhaustion for our healthcare workers.

It’s vital to understand that there are many reasons why medical personnel could be experiencing burnout right now, including:

  • Longer working hours
  • Seeing an alarming number of patients not recover
  • Not allowing family or friends to visit the sick
  • Worrying about their own health and safety

What Can Be Done to Reduce the Risk of Burnout for Medical Personnel?

When you’re a frontline healthcare worker, it’s hard to simply “take the day off.” Medical personnel is often viewed as heroes and for a good reason. Most of them are eager to get to work helping others and making major strides to combat this virus (and other illnesses along the way!).

If you’re a medical professional or know someone who is, taking care of yourself during these uncertain times is more important than ever. Though you might not get to take time off that you want or deserve, there are other things you can do to reduce the risk of burnout.

Establish a Self-Care Routine

Starting with simple self-care can make a big difference. Find moments throughout the day to practice mindfulness, or take a few calming, deep breaths to relax. Get outside as often as possible when you have a break. Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of being in nature each day can boost your energy and reduce stress levels.

Find a Listening Ear

Most importantly, find someone to talk to.

Having a support group around you during these times can help. It allows you to express your concerns and even “vent” about what you’re going through.

Seek Professional Support

If you don’t want to talk to family or friends, you might benefit from critical incident stress counseling. If there is one thing we’ve all learned from this pandemic, it’s that we need to work together to get through it. Healthcare professionals aren’t immune to that, either.

 

If you’re in the healthcare field and feel stress pulling on you, feel free to contact me for more information — or to talk. Your mental and emotional health can be (and should be) a priority.

I offer online therapy, so please reach out to me today or visit my page on critical incident stress counseling to learn more about how I can help.

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Is It All Hype? How to Manage Anxiety from the News

It’s nearly impossible to avoid the steady news stream surrounding the coronavirus pandemic that has swept over the world. So how do we manage anxiety from a global crisis?

Whether you always hear new data or statistics or you’re buying into what “news” is being posted on social media, it’s easy to feel anxious. You might also be scared about the situation, in general, or even wonder if it’s all hype.

This virus isn’t the first illness or other major world event to cause anxiety among many of us. And, it won’t be the last. Still, what can you do to manage anxiety and feel less fearful about what’s going on around you?

Take a Break

Perhaps you think the news is blown out of proportion. Or maybe you don’t believe everything you read or see on television. Nevertheless, an excellent way to manage anxiety over it is to step away from the news for a while.

Closeout of your social media accounts, turn off the television, and stay away from your phone. No, it’s not always fair that you have to completely “shut down” for a while to avoid the news. But, sometimes it’s the best option.

It’s often the constant, sustained stories of hopelessness and fear from the news that can continue to trigger your anxiety. By taking breaks throughout the day and focusing on something else, you can manage those triggers. As a result, you can handle your symptoms better.

Try spending your time doing things that will not only distract you, but that can reduce stress. Try reading, exercising, or even meditating. These activities can help you to feel more mindful and less anxious.

Focus on What You Can Control — Not What You Can’t

When you’re dealing with anxiety, it’s not uncommon to feel as though your world is spinning out of control. If you want to manage anxiety, it’s essential to recognize that there will always be things out of your control, such as losing a loved one to this virus. But, there are things you can control, like going to counseling for loss.

You can’t control how many people catch the virus. You can’t control what happens to those who do. What you can control is how you respond to what the news is saying.

You choose what to believe, and you decide how to act on it. When you put yourself in control of those things, you’re giving yourself more power and taking away the authority of your anxious thoughts.

Find the Moments of Positive News

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when scary statistics and predictions continuously bombard you. While you don’t necessarily need to go looking for “happy news,” pay attention to the positive pieces that pop up on the air.

This pandemic, for example, has shown great moments of humanity. People are helping others. Workers are donating their time. Restaurants are giving food to children who are out of school. Younger people are checking in on seniors.

There are bright moments, even in negative stories. So, don’t focus solely on the doom and gloom of the current situation (or any news story). You don’t need to ignore the negative things to find and appreciate the positive news.

Struggling with Headline Anxiety

If you’re trying to manage anxiety amidst the news of the coronavirus or other happenings in the world, you’re not alone.

These are uncertain times. It’s crucial to make your mental health a priority. Unfortunately, that isn’t always easy to do when you’re stuck at home, surrounded by the news all day, every day.

If you’re having trouble managing your anxiety, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Anxiety typically doesn’t go away on its own. Thankfully, you don’t have to manage it alone. Feel free to contact me for more information about working through your anxiety or visit my page on counseling for loss to learn more about how I can help.

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8 Daily Practices of Generosity & Gratitude

All across the web, we encounter articles and lists urging us to become more successful. While some of this content can be helpful, most of it takes for granted that we all similarly define “success.” Sure, we need resources to survive and thrive. But what about the many other elements of an enriching and fulfilling life? In particular, what good is our material gain if we have not cultivated daily practices that enhance and expand our sense of generosity and gratitude? Here are 8 daily practices of generosity and gratitude that take only a little investment and yet the pay off can be life-changing.

Generosity in the Digital Age

We are all connected in previously unimaginable ways. However, even a casual glance at the dreaded Internet “comments section” demonstrates how our digital connections don’t always result in generosity. To be a giver means more than likes and shares or color-coded profile pictures. Quite often, it means doing something more face-to-face. But whether IRL or online, generosity is intended to describe a selfless act.

As the inimitable Fred “Mister” Rogers once stated: “I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said ‘yes,’ when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to somebody else.”

Gratitude in the Digital Age

Our devices have the power to extract us from the present moment. When we are not present, gratitude is hard to find. Gratitude lives in each moment — in the here and now. It is a counterbalance to the allure of social media notifications. It is an antidote to the notorious “fear of missing out (FOMO).”

8 Daily Practices of Generosity & Gratitude

1. Start Each Day With Intention

There is so much we cannot control. Our greatest power, therefore, lies in controlling what we can. Set an intention for each day.  Take responsibility for yourself, your feelings, and your responses to others. Strive to make your time and energy count.

2. Take Tech Breaks

Again, our devices can shatter our most generous and grateful tendencies. Schedule deliberate breaks to be present in our own life — and the lives of others.

3. Pay Attention

The poet Mary Oliver reminds us: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Your attention may be the greatest gift you can bestow on anyone. It is also the lens through which you recognize for whom you and to what you show gratitude.

4. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Don’t leave things to chance. Keep a daily journal of the things that make you feel grateful.

5. Ask Others If and How You Can Help

Helping is not about what we think others need. It’s about letting them guide us to be generous.

6. Pledge to Listen More and Listen Better

A version of paying attention, listening is a gift. Increase your listening time. Hone your listening skills.

7. Get Involved in Volunteer Efforts — Or Create Your Own!

There are so many helpers out there. Get involved. If you can’t find a group doing what you wish to do, create a new group! There is always a need – so stretch and give of your time, talents or both.

8. End Each Day By Choosing a “Headline”

Before you fall asleep, mentally “write” a headline to describe the highlights of your day. Honor your efforts and pledge to do more tomorrow.

How to Tap Into Your Generosity & Gratitude

None of us are immune to daily stresses and pressures of modern life. There is no shame in asking for help with our emotional growth. Working with a therapist provides us with such an opportunity. Frequently, we may be our own worst enemy when it comes to cultivating daily practices. Your counselor is like an unbiased guide offering another set of eyes — experienced and trained eyes.

Together, you can identify behavioral patterns that hamper your growth. From there, new approaches are created and tried out. This process of discussion, followed by trial and error, is a proven path toward personal evolution and fulfillment.

Please contact me today if you’re ready to begin this journey toward a more fulfilled life. Or, visit my page on heart disease and depression counseling to learn more.