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By: Lauren McRae
With the uncertainties and stress surrounding COVID-19, those who are newly sober, or have been in recovery for a while, may find it hard to stay on track. Maintaining a routine during this time can greatly benefit people with substance use disorders as creating an environment of stability leads to decreased anxiety and increased well-being.
Patricia Astrene, LCSW, CADC, Clinical Program Manager of the Doreen E. Chapman Center, recommends developing a recovery wellness plan to use as a tool for staying sober. Consider implementing the following tips in your own recovery journey.
1. Attend a virtual recovery meeting You can access virtual group support through your cell phone or computer. Please see the following resources for more information:
Chicago AA Remote/Online MeetingsChicagoland Region Narcotics Anonymous Online Meetings Smart Recovery Illinois Buddhist Recovery Network Cocaine Anonymous Hotline: (312) 834-3784
2. Take care of your SEEDS Sleep – Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can improve your mood, health, and productivity. Eating Healthy – Nourishing your body with the nutrients it needs will help you feel like your best self. Exercise – Exercise is a natural energy and mood booster. Take a walk around the block access free exercise and yoga classes online. Doctor/Therapy Groups – You are not alone in this journey, reach out to therapists or support groups.Sober – Go to virtual meetings or call a sober/supportive friend
3. Get OutsideIf it is possible to maintain social distance in your neighborhood, try walking, running, or biking outside. Surrounding yourself with fresh air and nature can relieve stress and anxiety and boost your mood. Even just spending some time on your porch or in your backyard can be beneficial. Consider gardening, reading outside, or chatting with your neighbors from a distance.
4. Focus on Today Focus on small things you can accomplish each day and build a routine around these tasks. Small goals like eating a healthy breakfast, going for a walk, cleaning your space, and going to bed at the same time each day can help you create a daily routine that keeps you focused on what you can control in the present. Try to focus on what you can accomplish now, rather than worrying about tasks you may have in the future.
5. Meditate Remember to breathe. Watch your breath go in and out for two minutes. Try a free guided meditation app on your phone. Focus on mindfulness. These activities help you stay in the present and focus on each moment of the day rather than what lies ahead in the future or what has happened in the past.
6. Practice Gratitude Write down three new things you are grateful for each day or journal about a positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours, no matter how small it may seem. Expressing gratitude for the people, experiences, and things in your life can help you remember what is important to you and bring positivity to your daily routine.
7. Express Kindness Express kindness through a text, email or phone call. Try reaching out to a new person each day. Spreading positivity and thanking those around you for the ways they enhance your life can help to build strong social connections that are essential to maintaining recovery.
8. Avoid News Overload With constant changing updates regarding COVID-19 and every news outlet covering the pandemic, it can be hard to take a break from overloading yourself with information. Try to be conscious of how much media you are consuming as it can lead to added anxiety and stress. Give yourself media breaks throughout the day and focus on other positive activities.
9. Find Positive Distractions While staying home, it can be challenging to distract yourself from the stressors of work, recovery, and the pandemic. Find activities that you enjoy and that can help you focus on the present. Positive activities can be reading a book, watching a funny movie, cooking a meal, learning a new skill like an instrument or practicing a new yoga position, tapping into your creative side by drawing, painting, or journaling. Adding activities to your day that you look forward to and bring you joy can boost your mood and decrease stress.
10. Ask for Help It is a stressful time. Remember that you are not alone. Call a sober friend, contact an addictions therapist, call a self-help hotline, join a virtual recovery meeting, or contact the Chapman Center. The Doreen E. Chapman Center now offers telehealth options. Please call (847) 570-3100 or visit our Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Recovery Page for more information about our substance and alcohol use programs. A clinical staff member can answer questions you may have about our programs and offer confidential counseling to guide you on your recovery journey. We are here for you.