In these unsettling times of isolation and lockdowns due to coronavirus, it’s extra important to protect our mental health. Addiction is a mental health concern, and so part of recovery is being aware and supportive of one’s own mental health. Here are our tips for protecting and supporting your mental health and recovery during a coronavirus lockdown:
1. Stick to your routine. If you started every day with a shower and ended every day with a cup of tea, keep it up. If you went to therapy or counselling every week, maintain that schedule via phone or video chat. If you went to three meetings a week, keep going to three online meetings. Maintain a regular and healthy sleep routine, keep your fitness levels up, and make sure you’re getting three meals a day.
2. Limit your exposure to the news. Getting an update once a day is plenty; keeping your eyes glued to Twitter or the TV is overkill. If you’re feeling particularly uneasy, avoid the news altogether and ask a sensitive friend to pass on any important updates that would actually change the way you live your life day to day.
3. Stay connected. Talk to your friends, your family, your sponsor, your neighbours, anyone who is up for a chat and understands if you want to talk about something else today. Stay engaged in the text threads where friends are sharing memes and jokes. Do not let a day go by without having one good interaction with someone you like.
4. Get some exercise. If you used to go to the gym, find ways to modify your routine and do a similar workout at home. If you were never a gym rat, start with a brisk walk or a beginner yoga class on the living room floor. Exercise can make a real difference to your mood, and if your mind has been keeping you awake at night, being physically tired can really help with sleep.
5. Get outside. Even if it’s just onto a balcony or into a backyard, getting some fresh air and feeling the sun on your face will help you overcome the feeling of being cooped up. If you can, a long walk while catching up with a friend or listening to a comedy podcast can turn a day around. If that’s too ambitious right now, just sit in a sunny window for a few minutes and feel the warmth.
6. Remember Step 12. There are always ways to be of service. Send a text to your friends in recovery, particularly newcomers, and make sure they know about the online meetings. Check on elderly neighbours or overwhelmed friends, and offer to pick up groceries or medication for people who are struggling.
7. Stay grateful. When everything is so uncertain, it can all be a bit distracting from the facts. Take a moment each day to centre yourself and write down three things you have to be grateful for. Just the process of being grateful and expressing it has been show to improve mood.
8. Refresh your space. Keep your living space tidy, and if you’re craving a change, try moving some things around to make your space more calm and comfortable.
9. Reach out for help. If your friends and family isn’t checking on you, let them know that you are struggling and need support. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to reach out to, call a support line:
Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-4357
Gerstein Centre: 416-929-5200
Distress Centres Ontario: 416-486-2242
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566
10. Go easy on yourself. If all you can do today is read this, that’s a start. You’re doing research to support yourself, and that’s an excellent step in the right direction. You’re doing great. Set yourself a realistic and achievable goal for the end of the day.
How are you protecting your mental health during a coronavirus lockdown? Share your tips in the comments below!
Staying connected is such an integral part of recovery, which makes the current situation an especially tricky one for people in recovery. To support the recovery community, who has extra pressure to stay safe and sane, here are seven tips for staying connected and protecting your mental health during this time:
1. Pick up your phone. We’re so lucky to have all the communication tools we do today, so make the most of them! Group text threads can replace support groups, FaceTime calls can replace coffee dates, and video conferencing can replace meetings. Set up regular video chats with your sponsor and closest friends, and treat them like normal hang outs. Make a cup of tea and get into your favourite chair, or set out on a walk “together”, and focus on each other for a while.
3. Focus on your self care. To stay safe and sane, take care of yourself in every way you can. Keep your living space clean and tidy, maintain your hygiene, eat and sleep regularly and well. Put on an outfit you feel good in every morning, and allocate time to do an activity you enjoy every single day.
4. Meditate, or try. It’s not for everyone, but in times like these that can really increase our feelings of anxiety or depression, it’s worth a try. Headspace has created a free collection of meditations, sleep, and movement exercises called Weathering the Storm.
5. Enjoy the #TogetherAtHome concert series and hashtag. The Together At Home concert series features some huge musical acts (Coldplay, John Legend, and more) performing concerts for us from their living rooms, and the concerts stay online so don’t worry about missing them. The hashtag on Twitter and Instagram are where people are sharing games, activities, and other ways to interact with each other from our homes.
6. Maintain your schedule. Keep waking up at a healthy time, keeping going to bed 7-8 hours before you want to wake up, and keep eating three meals a day at the usual times. Keep attending 12-step meetings online. If you have more time on your hands now than you used to, start filling up those hours with healthy activities immediately. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but have never had time? Whether it’s being able to run 5k or knit a sweater, there are online tools available to help you, so start working toward goals that will help you occupy your time and keep you focused on self-improvement.
7. Watch a TV show with your friends. Use a tool like Netflix Party to watch something together, or just agree to watch an episode per day or per week, and share your reactions in your group chat. Choose something gripping or hilarious, whatever works as a distraction from current events and gives you something to bond over with your friends.
8. Listen to podcasts that boost your mood and support your recovery. There are so many excellent comedy podcasts, and a number of amazing recovery podcasts, that can be great company while you’re taking a long walk, cooking, cleaning, or just relaxing.
Have you already been using these tips for staying safe and sane? How are they working for you? Share any of your own tips in the comments below!
It’s the dream, isn’t it? Being able to work from your couch, not having to get dressed or commute or survive office chit chat over a broken printer? Except now that we’re all living the dream, some of us are discovering that working from home can really mess up your home life, and isn’t always as easy as it sounds. To help those of you who are new to this style of working, here are 10 tips and tricks for working from home from someone who has been doing it successfully for a few years:
1. Keep waking up at your usual time, and go through your usual morning routine, including getting dressed. Even if you’re just changing from dirty pyjamas to clean ones, change your clothes. If you’re going to be participating in any video chats, have a nice, clean shirt ready to throw on.
2. Use your commute time to do the things you never used to have time for in the mornings, like eating a proper breakfast. The better your breakfast is, the less likely you’ll be distracted by hunger and snacking later, so fill up on a bowl of oatmeal with fruit preserves and nuts, or a veggie omelet.
3. Use another few minutes of your commute time to get in some exercise. Whether it’s a walk in the neighbourhood or a YouTube yoga or an Instagram Live workout, getting your blood flowing and shaking off the night is a great way to shift your brain over to work mode.
4. Make your bed. It’s a lesson we all learn in treatment, and there’s no reason to quit now. In fact, making your bed as soon as you’re out of it is even more important now that you’ll be home all day, tempted to get back into it. A made bed will remind you that you’re not allowed back in until bedtime, so get back to your office!
5. Office? What office? Yeah, it’s time to set one up. Create a workspace wherever you can, with whatever you need to get your job done within reach. If you aren’t home alone, make sure a good pair of headphone are part of your setup, both so that you can participate in phone meetings, and to drown out distractions around you. If possible, position your workspace somewhere where you get as much natural light as possible. Make sure you are at your workspace the minute your workday starts.
6. Use timers. When your kids want to play, when your partner wants to chat, when you’re starting to think taking out the garbage would be a welcome distraction, refer to your timers. For yourself, you’ll want to implement the Pomodoro Technique with timers like Focus Keeper or Marinara Timer. These will help you stay focused on work for reasonable chunks of time, and lay out breaks when you need them. For your kids, set a timer somewhere they can see but not touch, like an oven timer, that lets them count down the hours or minutes that are left until lunchtime or the end of your workday.
7. Take a normal lunch break. When the timer goes off, walk away from your workspace for as long as your lunch break normally lasts. Eat something, play with your kids, chat with your roommates, partner, etc. Step outside, do some stretches, and prepare yourself to dive back in for the second half of your workday.
8. Stick to your normal quitting time. This works for you in two ways. 1. You have a deadline to work toward, and 2. Your work won’t leak into your personal time. Without a strict schedule, the hours can blend into each other and suddenly the day is over and it can feel like you didn’t accomplish a single thing. As you’re approaching the end of the day, start working on a list of what you’ll need to work on tomorrow — you’ll be grateful for that list in the morning! When your last timer of the day goes off, shut it all down and walk away. This is your chance to attack your personal to do lists and house chores, attend an online meeting, and spend time with family and friends. (Bonus: you can use your evening commute time for another exercise break to shake off the workday!)
9. Head to bed at your usual time, which should be 7-8 hours before your alarm clock is going to go off. The sense of accomplishment when you get into a made bed after finishing a full workday and enjoying an evening of leisure time is amazing.
10. Go easy on yourself. It can take a while to get used to working from a new space, especially when it’s the space you have always associated with being the exact opposite of work. Some days won’t be as productive as others, and that’s okay. The people you live with are also adjusting to this new reality, so be patient with each other as you settle into some new routines.
Let us know how these 10 tips and tricks for working from home helped you make the transition to remote working, and share your own tips in the comments below!
“My plan was to have my new daughter, breastfeed her to health, and then do all of those I loved a favour, and, well, check out early so to speak. Luckily, my daughter was born healthy and as I kept my promise of keeping her fed, I would begin to sketch while I was up at night. These sketches were as raw as those receptors reawakening in my brain…”
If you’re working in the mental healthcare profession, including addiction rehabilitation – or if you’re in recovery and treatment for addiction – chances are good that you’ve heard of the DSM-V (often referred to as the DSM-5).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been around since the 1950s, helping guide healthcare decision-making by doctors and other mental health professionals in North America and worldwide.
It’s not the only tool doctors use to help diagnose mental disorders like addictions, but it is a commonly used resource. And despite the criticism against it, and some of the challenges of using it in everyday practice, the DSM is a valuable tool healthcare professionals need to know about.
What is the DSM-V?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook used by healthcare professionals to guide diagnosis of mental disorders. The DSM-5 (or DSM-V) is the latest edition of this handbook, published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association.
The DSM is constantly under review and revision by the Association as research and understanding of mental health increases and improves; further editions are expected if and when updates need to be made.
What makes the DSM so useful is its comprehensive catalogue of descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for doctors to use when talking to each other, and to patients and their families, helping ensure consistent and reliable diagnoses as well as usable data for research.
Addiction in the latest DSM
The DSM is commonly used in addiction and rehabilitation to help diagnose and treat people’s addictions and other mental health issues.
Importantly, the DSM-5 defines addictions to alcohol and drugs as psychiatric disorders. By including addiction in the DSM as an aspect of mental health, the psychiatric profession has reinforced what we know from research and rehabilitation: that addiction is a brain disease.
The major change regarding addiction in the DSM-5 edition is that it combines together the categories of substance dependence (addiction marked by a pattern of compulsive use or loss of control) and substance abuse disorders (using in a manner that causes problems but does not have a pattern of compulsive use) under one broad category called “substance-related disorders”.
Substance-Related Disorders and the DSM
Specifically, the DSM-5 recognizes substance-related disorders resulting from the use of 10 separate classes of drugs:
Plus, the DSM-5 lists two distinct groups of substance-related disorders: substance use disorders and substance-induced disorders. Both groups are important in the diagnosis, treatment, and research of drug and alcohol use and addiction.
Challenges to Using the DSM
The DSM is not the only reference out there to diagnose addiction or any other mental health condition. The World Health Organization publishes the International Classification of Disease, which is often used side-by-side with the DSM as a compatible tool for diagnosis and monitoring.
Some, like the National Institutes of Health, have criticized the DSM for focusing too much on superficial symptoms and a lack of measurable, scientific signs of mental health disorders. Others, like Alcoholics Anonymous, prefer to use models outside such clinical classification systems.
However, here at Renascent we recognize that the DSM does contain the most up-to-date criteria currently used for diagnosing mental disorders like addiction, and that despite its challenges, it is routinely and widely used.