This year’s global pandemic has brought with it a vast amount of stress and anxiety. And then, there’s social distancing, which brings on a host of other concerns, especially for those in recovery who rely on a community support system. Addiction is the most isolating disease, so add in social distancing, and recovery can seem impossible.
An article from Psychology Today reiterates the importance of staying connected while social distancing: “When people stay connected, they function as one system.” The article also states that perhaps the better term is “physical distancing” rather than social distancing, meaning you can be physically distant while remaining socially connected.
For those recovering from addiction, social distancing can contribute to loneliness, depression, anxiety, or relapse. Isolation triggers hefty consequences, which means it is vital to stay connected with others.
Why is Social Connection Important in Recovery?
Social connection is absolutely crucial for those in recovery. Research shows this fact over and over, and while this list is far from exhaustive, here are some reasons why social connection is so important:
- It provides support and motivation to stay sober
- It teaches us how to be emotionally available for others
- It allows us to build authentic relationships
- It alleviates feelings of stress, isolation, anxiety, and depression
- It builds self-esteem and confidence
- It increases hope and inspiration
If you are in recovery, know that you must stay emotionally connected to others during social distancing times. Here are some practical ways to start:
1. Stay Connected Through Technology
Living in the digital era has its perks. We have full access to communication with others across the world.
Take advantage of the ability to call, text, and video chat with others in a recovery community and family/friends. Most 12-step meetings are available through Zoom, and there are a vast amount of online recovery groups to join. In addition, seek out mental health and addiction recovery professional support if needed. Finding a psychiatrist or therapist online has become a norm, and any service you need is available through a virtual platform.
2. Be Proactive With Your Routine
Addiction treatment centers across the world agree on one thing: a solid routine is essential for recovery. For most, this change is drastic, but the effects are worth it: balance and purpose.
Whether you spend most of your time at home or work (or work from home), maintaining a routine is an ideal way to balance your days and stay connected with yourself and others. Waking up at the same time, doing morning rituals like meditation, scheduling your tasks for the day, and enjoying hobbies or family time all contribute to a sense of well-being and purpose while decreasing anxiety.
3. Limit Media Consumption
It makes sense that you want to stay up to date with news and current events, especially during a global crisis.
However, studies show that too much media exposure can cause more stress, and you may see that in your own life. You may find yourself checking your news feeds every hour or so and find that you are wasting hours of your time that could be spent actually connecting with others. Think about what social media was originally designed for: staying connected with others. If you use social media, use it to connect with loved ones and less for anxiously scrolling through the latest news.
4. Get Proper Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep
The importance of a healthy diet, frequent exercise, and plenty of sleep are widely known, but some may not realize how these three fundamentals work together to increase overall health.
A healthy balanced diet reduces the risks of an array of health problems from heart disease to diabetes. Diet also affects mental health and has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety. Likewise, frequent exercise includes immediate benefits, such as reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, and an overall sense of well-being.
Through often unrecognized in its importance, sleep provides essential recovery for the body and mind. The National Sleep Foundation reports that most adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night; however, one-third are getting less than six hours per night, which proves problematic. Nutritious meals, regular exercise, and enough sleep will help you feel your best, and when you feel well, you are likely to stay connected to yourself and others.
5. Help Someone Else
A secret weapon in recovery is helping others. This means looking for needs around you and seeing how you can help meet those needs.
Dr. Maria Pagano, a professor and licensed psychologist, has researched the impact service work has on those in recovery. To sum up her findings, “helping benefits the helper,” and this truth is seen in recovery circles globally. Helping others gives you a sense of belonging and strengthens your sobriety. Here are some practical ways to help someone else while social distancing:
- Check on other people through video chat, call, or text messages
- Make some deliveries (groceries, in particular)
- Be available to talk to others
- Send cards in the mail (“Thinking of You” cards are great!)
- Make a donation to a charity or someone in need
The main goal is to look around you, think beyond the basics, and see where and how you can help.
It is commonly said that the opposite of addiction is connection. Connection with others is a cornerstone in the recovery journey, and while you should physically distance yourself from others, you can still stay emotionally connected.
Don’t forget that staying connected means to yourself first and then to others. Practicing self-care and giving yourself what you need every day is crucial for both your recovery and well-being. When you fill yourself up first, you have more to give to others.