How to deal with drugs and alcohol in the face of pandemic anxiety

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We’re all feeling the effects of this seemingly endless pandemic. Now that we are into nearly one year of having our freedom restricted, our social ties limited and our routines disrupted, it’s not surprising that huge numbers of us are experiencing overwhelming feelings of boredom, anxiety, stress and isolation. The factors below have led to many of us seeking escape, if only temporarily:

• Lack of regular schedule due to working from home
• Overwhelming feelings of boredom from restricted activities
• Anxiety about health, finances, working from home, balancing kids’ needs
• Widespread availability of alcohol and cannabis

The boundaries between the workweek and weekend have disappeared.

As of January 2021, 94% of Canadians reported they were working from home.

When your kitchen or dining room table has become your workspace, it becomes challenging to get away from the “office”. This has many Canadians partaking in extending weekend activities such as drugs or alcohol into the work week, in an effort to draw the line between work and “time out”.

Try this! Physically put away your laptop; let after-hours work calls and emails wait until morning. This will help “close” the office, put a definite end to the workday and give you time to recharge.

Restricted activities have resulted in overwhelming feelings of boredom.

There’s no disputing the fact that not having restaurants for dining out, shops to wander through and movies to view on the big screen has put a huge crimp in our social calendars. Compounding this has been the fact that limits have been placed on our social circles, so we can’t get together with others in the same manner we used to. Without the usual onslaught of stimulation, days have turned into the “same old, same old”. Rising numbers of people are turning to alcohol or drugs as forms of entertainment.

Try this! Expand your mind instead of engaging in mindless activity. Take a virtual family trip and explore new places, attend a TedTalk and broaden your horizons, even take an online course to brush up on a skill or get a new certification that you had no time to do before.

We are living with the anxiety of not knowing when the world will return to normal.

While anxiety and fear aren’t new, what is new is that right now, anxiety-provokers are coming at us from all directions. Global leading anxiety expert Margaret Wehrenberg, calls this ”ambient anxiety” that can include everything from worrying about how to navigate the grocery store, being hyper-vigilant about how physically close people are to us, fearing returning to work and our kids returning to school, and obsessing over our health and whether we (or our loved ones) have been exposed to the virus. Ambient anxieties also extend to things beyond the pandemic, as we also face stressors like race riots, forest fires, social protests and more.

We’re coping by putting ourselves in what Wehrenberg calls a “Corona time blur”, where we turn to recreational substances to allow ourselves to lose sight of what day or time it is.

Try this! Margaret Wehrenberg’s just-released book Pandemic Anxiety gives you strategies for coping with the ambient anxieties we are all facing. Or, register to hear Margaret speak live about pandemic anxiety on February 17, and receive her new e-book free!

More and more Canadians are turning to alcohol and cannabis to deal with anxiety.

Research shows that Canadians are drinking more as a result of the pandemic.

A 2020 Nano poll showed that 25% of these people fall in the 35-54 age range. That same poll revealed that Cannabis use for those aged 18-34 has increased 14%.

Little wonder: liquor and wine stores have been deemed essential services and are conveniently open, and the increasing number of cannabis stores opening is making this recreational option more widely available.

Try this! There are many changes you can make in your daily life; the more you do, the more control you may have over how you deal with anxiety. Some coping strategies include:

  1. Limit the news you watch on TV and get on social media.
  2. Try to connect with at least one friend or family member each day.
  3. Do things that help your mind and body: exercise, eat well, get enough sleep.
  4. Keep track of your drinking so you stay in control of it.
  5. Be aware of what your triggers are and look for ways to avoid these.
  6. Find other ways to manage the anxieties and stresses you are feeling.

Remember, alcohol and drugs are only a temporary escape and won’t help you deal with the issues that are causing it. Once their effects wear off, you’ll be facing the same anxieties and stresses as before. There are healthier ways to cope with anxiety, some of which are suggested above.

If you feel you can’t manage on your own, here are some resources that can help:

Join this webinar to learn more about coping with pandemic anxiety

Pandemic Anxiety: How the World Has Changed Anxiety & What to Do About It

Wednesday, February 17
1:00 pm – 4:15 pm EST

Leading anxiety expert and renowned author Margaret Wehrenberg leads you through how to suffer less panic, increase stress resilience and block health anxiety. BONUS! Receive a free e-copy of Margaret’s new Pandemic Anxiety book when you register for this webinar. Learn more

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