We have seen an increase in a variety of mental health issues since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the lockdown, the loss of loved ones, the change in job status, and the general anxiety of a major illness spreading through our world, people have found themselves in unfamiliar territory. When faced with these fears and stressors, some have turned to therapy, some have turned to self-injury, some have completely withdrawn, and some have turned to drinking and began engaging in addictive behaviors.
So, you might be wondering why is this happening and what are the dangers in drinking as a coping mechanism?
When someone is faced with a difficult situation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, they may feel that their only coping mechanism is to drink alcohol. They find that drinking numbs the emotional fears and anxieties that they cannot face on their own. People will find that after a stressful day or a stressful event, the only way they know to unwind is with a drink in their hand. COVID has only added to those daily stressors that people deal with. Drinking has become an acceptable way of dealing with this because for most, this is unprecedented territory. No one knows what the acceptable reaction is to the way we are living. Therefore, given the nature of the world we live in right now, this has become an increasingly popular coping skill. However, there is danger to this choice. You have the well-known risks of becoming addicted and dependant on the drink. You will find yourself needing multiple drinks just to get through the day. This can lead to physical addiction symptoms, as well as emotional dangers such as increase in violence and anger. The more you lean on alcohol as your stress relief, the more you put yourself at risk for these and many other detrimental effects. It is important that you deal with the emotions, anxieties, and stressful feelings you are suffering from. We do not know when this pandemic will end. Therefore, it is important to face these fears head on now and develop a healthier way of dealing with the stress. Some ways that you can deal with these feelings include engaging in physical activity, proper nutrition, meditation, or finding a mental health professional to speak to in order get to the root cause of your thoughts. Sometimes, just speaking to someone and verbally expressing your thoughts can be the stress relief that you need. Drinking does not need to be the answer.
Always remember, you must acknowledge the past and embrace the present to enjoy the future. If you drown out the present, you will not be able to enjoy your future, which we hope can be very bright.
HOW TO CALM ANXIETY BEFORE BED
Many people suffer from nighttime anxiety and anxiety that happens right before you try to fall asleep. I like to call this, ‘sleep anxiety,’ which is basically due to having anxiety about not being able to fall asleep. You get worried that you won’t be able to fall asleep and then think that you are going to be very tired tomorrow and it isn’t going to be okay. These thoughts can keep you up at night and lead to interrupted sleep, restless sleep, or even no sleep at all.
So, how can you go about calming the anxiety before bed? I have found that taking time to decompress and clear your mind has helped many patients. Creating some form of a transition from daytime to sleeping is highly recommended. We can’t just expect the mind to go to sleep on demand. We need to transition just like we transition to go outside or when we get home. I would recommend that you minimize screen time before bed, take a warm bath, engage in deep breathing, leisurely reading, or even listen to a sleep story on the Calm app. The goal is to reduce the nervous thoughts in your head, so your mindset is clear, calm, and positive before you head off to sleep. Try to reduce the pressure that you put on yourself to fall asleep. Accept that you may just end up resting and that is also good for the mind and body. Also, remind yourself that worrying about it is usually a much worse feeling in the moment versus the next day when you are feeling tired. You won’t feel as anxious, and it won’t be as bad as your imagining, and it never usually is. Also, remember that you don’t need to try to fall asleep. When your mind gets as relaxed as it can be, it does the work itself and involuntary.
MENTAL HEALTH & SELF-CARE
In recent months, mental health in sports has come to the forefront of the news. You will often hear people discussing Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles and the decisions that they have made in order to put their mental health first. There is a stigma around mental health and even more so when you are in the public eye. The pressure to be perfect and have the ideal public image can put stress on your mental health and prevent you from taking the steps needed to give yourself self-care. If you are expected to be a role model, whether it be to your friends and family or as a public figure, you need to be in the proper mental state to do this in a positive light. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot properly represent yourself in a way in which you can inspire others.
It is important to take a break, sit with yourself, and take part in daily self-care rituals. There are few ways in which you can engage in self-care. Some of these include:
1. Putting your phone away and getting off of social media for a period of time
2. Taking a walk or engaging with nature
3. Enjoying a bath with calming music
4. Reading a book for leisure
6. Expressing yourself in a journal
There is nothing wrong with putting yourself first and taking care of your mental health is the first step in doing that.
INSECURITY IN RELATIONSHIPS
Many people suffer with insecurities, whether it be about a physical appearance, intelligence, or their social skills. In some instances, these insecurities can appear in your relationships. Insecurities can come from unresolved internal issues, such as low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, and general anxiety. When these issues are not dealt with, they can topple over into your personal relationships.
There are many ways in which insecurities can appear in a relationship. You may:
So, when this happens, you might ask yourself what you should do. How can you work on your insecurities or help your partner through their insecurities? There are a few things that you can do to help yourself through this process.
Insecurities do not have to ruin your life. There are ways in which you can work on getting to the root cause, develop newfound confidence, and strengthen your communication skills. Once you face the past that has been dragging you down, you can find a new light and a new perspective in which to live life.
WHAT IS COMPLICATED GRIEF?
There are three types of grief that people can go through. These are acute grief, complicated grief, and integrated grief. Acute grief happens after a loss and the symptoms are normal to have for months after. These symptoms will fade over time. However, sometimes the symptoms of acute grief never go away, and this is when it becomes classified as complicated grief. These symptoms can last for years and the idea of moving on seems to be impossible for you. Once you get past the time period of complicated grief, you will enter the phase of integrated grief. This is when you have accepted the loss and can resume your life as normal once again. This is not to say the pain is gone or it hurts any less. It just means you can function as you once did before.
Some examples of complicated grief could be the inability to deal with the loss of a parent or child or the inability to move on for years after a relationship ends. Complicated grief can be treated in psychotherapy using a variety of modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychotherapy can help you come to terms with the loss and develop skills to move forward with your life. You can learn how to get through the day with the pain but without letting the pain stop you from living. There is hope if you are suffering from complicated grief. Use the resources given to you which might be psychotherapy with a mental health professional and/or a strong friend support system. Utilize these opportunities to find out why the grief has hit you in such a strong way and what you can do to combat these difficult feelings.
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, which is a component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, focuses on rationalizing irrational/negative thought patterns and replaces them with more rational/positive thought patterns. Our thoughts lead to how we feel and then our feelings lead to our actions. This thinking starts off by analyzing an event and then analyzing it in a way that could be either negative or positive. By using this approach, you can work with your clients to figure out what the irrational belief was to lead a client to abuse alcohol or substances. There must have been a self-defeating negative thought or trigger that led the person to abuse the substance. These irrational beliefs can lead to negative emotions and therefore, taking part in negative behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse. By using REBT therapy, you can help to challenge and disrupt the negative thoughts and beliefs and change them into positive thoughts and behaviors which in turn would lead the person to not need to turn to substances due to the person interpreting the event in a less intense and less negative way— lessening the behavior to abuse substances or alcohol.
A popular technique that is used in REBT is the A-B-C technique. This stands for activating events, beliefs about events, consequence, disputing irrational beliefs, and new emotional consequences. Let’s apply this to someone with substance abuse problems.
A: Activating Event: A spouse decides to end their marriage to their partners
B: Irrational Beliefs: Thinking you are not worthy, there is something wrong with you, the world is not fair to you, you will never find someone
C: Consequence: Feelings of unhappiness, depression, and anxiety leading to drinking and substance abuse
D: Disputing Irrational Beliefs: Asking yourself why the relationship ending means you cannot find someone else and why it makes you unworthy of love.
E: New Emotional Consequence: My wife decides she doesn’t want to be with me and that is okay because I deserve to be with someone who wants to be with me and I will be able to find someone.
Ghosting can happen in all types of relationships. It can happen in friendships, romantic relationships, and even familial relationships. Ghosting happens when someone just disappears from your life. They cut off all communication and virtually disappear. They stop answering messages and in other terms, become a “ghost.” Why do people do this? People may ghost for a few reasons. They may ghost because they don’t know how to communicate well and are uncomfortable with the situation. Instead of facing it head on, they choose to avoid the situation altogether. Additionally, those who ghost lack the courage to communicate their issues and tend to have low self-esteems. There is also a selfishness associated with choosing to ghost rather than communicate. More often than not, the issue lies with the person doing the ghosting, not the one who has been ghosted. As more and more people learn to hide behind the screen of their phone and computer, ghosting will continue to become a prevalent issue in our society. Until people learn how to properly communicate their thoughts and feelings, ghosting will continue to be seen as a suitable coping mechanism.
In today’s ever-changing climate, we are now seeing an increase in jobs becoming remote and more people transitioning to permanent work-from-home positions. While this has many benefits and perks, we are also seeing that it leads to an increase in stress and a reduction of a work-life balance. When you work in an office, you have the ability to clock out and leave work behind for the day. As you work from home, at times there can be no disconnect or it may be challenging to set boundaries on when to end work for the day. Additionally, one may also find working from home to be distracting due to confounding variables such as other people around you and distractions. The consequence of this can lead to job resentment, stress, anxiety, and possibly poor work performance. It is important to set boundaries and designate work time from personal time, even while working from home. Speak to your supervisor and set times that you will be on the clock working and designate the times that you are unavailable. Plan out break times when you put your phone down, close your computer, and let yourself take a breath. Your mental health is very important and even as you work from home, it is important you allow yourself the time to breathe and take part in enjoyable, and relaxing personal activities. An additional setup in the home that makes for a conducive work environment may also be beneficial.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is something that can happen in all types of relationships, whether they be romantic, friendships, family, or even work relationships. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that happens when someone tries to manipulate you into questioning your own reality and sanity. For example, someone will try to make you feel like you are in the wrong when in reality, they should be taking the responsibility. Gaslighting can manifest in relationships when someone is feeling the need to control the other person. They want to gain the upper hand and avoid being held accountable for their own actions and behaviors. Ultimately, the one who is gaslighting wants to have the power in the relationship and always be right. Therefore, their actions and words are used to make the other person feel wrong.
Some phrases that can indicate gaslighting would be:
“Are you sure? You do not often remember.”
“You are just trying to make me feel confused.”
“Why are you overreacting, this is not a big deal.”
“I did not say that. You are making that up.”
“That idea is just crazy. Who did you get that from?”
Interestingly, gaslighting is also sometimes correlated with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). However, not everyone who takes part in gaslighting behavior will be diagnosed with a mental illness disorder.
If you feel that you have been a victim of gaslighting, there are steps you can take to get away from this behavior.
If you are struggling with someone gaslighting you or even if you are the one doing the gaslighting, there is always help out there. Seek out the help of a mental health professional who can help you through these challenging times. You can learn to adjust your behavior, get to the root cause of why you are gaslighting, and learn to defend yourself if you are being the one gaslit.
Gaslighting does not have to control your life and rule your future. You ultimately have the power over your future.