Are you feeling overwhelmingly stressed?

Does that question make you want to laugh, scream, or cry?

Higher levels of anxiety are not uncommon as we navigate a world changing at a rapid pace! We’ve heard this message before: now is the time for us to work and cope together – mental health is by no means a luxury but rather a vital necessity.

As restrictions are lifted in our province, the consequences of COVID-19 showed us how complex an issue it is, and we feel the weight of its impact globally across all societies.

Depression, grief, fear, panic, and anxiety are characteristic responses in the face of abnormal circumstances. Distressing occurrences such as the pandemic and the threat of war between countries cause considerable feelings of terror, defenselessness, detachment, bewilderment or unsettling emotions that adversely affect an individual’s outlook, actions, and ability to function in society successfully. We have seen how it can affect individuals differently physically and emotionally. We can be left feeling unprotected and confused. Turning to coping mechanisms in the face of obstacles is a typical response.

A potential hazard arises when the coping mechanisms become more harmful than healthy.

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted issue with numerous influences affecting it, ranging from one’s familial and societal milieus, traumatic events, hereditary aspects, and social acceptability. Many studies theorize the connection between addictions and mental health disorders. The substance abuse issue escalates in Canada and worldwide. The effects of this phenomenon are far-reaching. Alcohol and other drugs can trigger a sensation of elation, and continued use and misuse could result in unhealthy habit formations. Attempts to cease substance misuse can elicit debilitating symptoms rendering the individual to believe the addiction is all-powerful.

The social and economic upheavals triggered by the pandemic have increased alcohol consumption and other substances. Images on social media appear to glorify drinking, selling a glamorous lifestyle. Individuals living with substance misuse disorders are more vulnerable during tumultuous times, and relapse is a reality. We must strengthen support rather than delay it to reduce the risk of further damaging impact to the individuals.

What Can You Do?

  1. Lean on Friends and Family. Chances are, you’re not as alone as you think.
  2. Remind yourself of what sparks happiness in your life and pursue those activities.

Identify activities that are: Enjoyable Increase your confidence or sense of mastery · Are functional in decreasing the negative consequences of turning to substance misuse

  1. Identify the triggers that make you vulnerable to turning to substance misuse and how you will address these triggers.
  2. Increase your self-care and schedule it into your routine: meditation, yoga; healthier eating habits; exercise, etc.

Getting Help If therapy is suggested for you or if you have been pondering it, knows that the support is there. You’ve heard this before, and I’ll repeat it, it’s OK not to be OK. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Counseling is a safe and judgment-free zone. A counselor can support you with coping with challenging situations and finding ways to manage and thrive.

This article is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Psychotherapists are not able to diagnose medical conditions. It is always recommended that you speak to a medical doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

***Liz Marques is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) in private practice in Milton, Ontario and offers both in-person and virtual counseling appointments.

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