COVID-19: Keys to Long-term Recovery

The COVID-19 virus has impacted and will continue to impact every aspect of our lives. Fortunately, we can get a head start on successful recovery from these effects by taking lessons from people who are grieving and those who are battling substance abuse.

At first glance, this may seem an unusual comparison. Maybe losing loved ones to the pandemic ties into grief support, but how can economic and social turmoil be calmed by that? How can sobriety, long-term or not, be remotely related to any of these subjects? It turns out the three are closely related in coping strategies and systematic approaches required for our world to reintegrate into working communities that are safe and healthy.

Your own previous life experiences may have prepared you well to face returning to work and helping your children return to school during a challenging time with confidence and time-tested tools that work. Start planning now. Having something to look forward to is an added benefit.

Key #1: Information 

Reliable facts are the best base of your operations as you design a plan for yourself or your family. Choose sources wisely and look for advice that includes physical safety as well as economic, social, spiritual, and mental health components. Use an outline to make sure you cover a transition from now to the next few weeks to months — and possibly a year or two — ahead. Remember to fine-tune your plans as situations and information change.

Mental health may become the biggest challenge of all during this time and on into recovery. Look for telehealth options and include counseling in your self-care plans.

Key #2: Support

You don’t have to do this alone. The journey back to normalcy probably will be a long one. Begin contacting people, groups, and organizations that can work with you now. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a free eBook, COVID19 Resource and Information Guide, that includes topics such as stress, anxiety, working at home, safety (when you don’t feel safe at home), and more. Find local support and food banks through churches or city offices. The one thing that even long-term survivors of any challenge need and depend on is support.

Key #3: Patience

Cultivate a sense of patience. COVID-19 has caused a lot to change in our lives. Some of these changes will be permanent. We will be doing things differently for a long time to come. Settle in and think about this situation in terms of long-haul solutions. Including self-care in your routine and periods of rest can help.

When you consider our past, having “instant-everything” as we did before may not be something we want to bring back. Start a gratitude journal and see what comes to mind before you make that kind of decision. 

Key #4: Openness

Being ready to help someone else whenever help is required is one of the basic tenets of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Why? Because helping someone else gives us moments of self-healing like nothing else can. Taking your mind off your own grief often provides the first glimmers of hope that recovery is possible. And taking your mind off your COVID-19 fears will help in the same way. This does not mean you will not consider your sobriety, your grief, or your fears again but will manage them more reasonably. 

The world has changed, but we can take the best of those changes and incorporate them into a new life design. What do you want your life to look like? When can you tackle your own challenges to make that vision come true? Who will help you with your plan? And how, for all of us, can we know if we are having a panic attack caused by anxiety or symptoms of the virus that can look and feel similar?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), it may be difficult to distinguish between COVID-19 symptoms and panic. From Chief Medical Officer Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD and the ADAA Board of Directors, “If you have a fever, shortness of breath and a cough, you should be screened preferably by a drive-through screening station now available in many locations.”

Call your county health department to find the testing location that is right for you. Nemeroff continues, “It is important to note that shortness of breath and other somatic symptoms that resemble the flu in general and COVID-19 in particular are often experienced by patients with anxiety disorders such as panic disorder. Because evaluation in a busy emergency department is associated itself with some risk of contracting the virus, care should be exercised in making the decision to visit such a facility.”  

For more information from the ADAA that will be updated daily, visit Coronavirus Anxiety – Helpful Expert Tips and Resources.

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