Updated: Oct 1
In a time where our whole world has been turned upside down, dealing with uncertainty has taken a whole new form.
A situation where the outcome is unknown is terrifying for some. And the feeling of not knowing needs to be numbed out and better left suppressed. Avoidance for most people is an easy concept with little to no consequences. But for others, a chemical approach is a much more preferred method.
So what happens if I use mood-altering substances to avoid my feelings and situation? Quite simply put, you are doing nothing. And nothing changes if nothing changes. Not dealing with how I’m feeling leaves room for them to pop up again and again. The default way will be the quick fix of taking something to feel better or not feel at all. Problem with this, it opens up Pandora’s Box to problems that might have long-term consequences.
Let's look at the story of Joe:
Joe is an average guy, a married father with a nice job and generally very content with his life. He likes spending time with family and friends enjoying a good party whenever there is one. Every night he has a beer or two and whenever he goes big he doesn’t necessarily like the feeling of a hangover but not enough for him to take it easier next time.
Joe has been stuck at home for weeks with the lockdown and at first, he welcomed the downtime. But over time, he got irritable with the wife and kids simply because his routine of going to work every day has been interrupted. A lot of us place a value on our productivity and sitting at home day in and day out doing mundane household chores start feeling like Groundhog Day. His few beers a night starts increasing and before he knows it he’s run out. Irritability increases and he starts taking his frustration out on his family. With the extension of the lockdown, Joe’s work informs him there will be implications with their salaries for the foreseeable. Now added to his frustration, is the reality of financial insecurities. Fear sets in on a whole other level. Joe is not a talker, so if he is not snapping at someone, you’ll find him isolating, staring into space, completely quiet and reserved.
There is a few ways Joe can handle his situation. He can find a way to stock up his bar fridge and drown his sorrows. Avoid his situation and the way it is making him feel. But the implications of this can have devastating effects. Suddenly he becomes completely despondent, his wife is left handling everything in the household. She becomes resentful and makes her feelings known. It leads to continuous bickering. Suddenly the fights are not about just his drinking and isolation. All the little things that have been bottling up over the years are thrown into the mix.
Life barely changes back to how they were. The lack of sufficient income has put a huge dent into their savings. Everything they had planned on doing will have to wait. Joe finds himself looking for excuses not to go back home and ends up at bars after work. Things have completely spiralled out of control.
Or, he can accept his situation and trust that this is a situation completely out of his control and try to think of alternative solutions to make up his loss of income. He can take solace in the fact that eventually things will get better and this is not a permanent thing. He distracts himself with joining in with the household activities and spends the evenings with his wife sharing his feelings. And in doing this, he doesn’t feel alone.
The purpose of this example is to illustrate the implications of our situation changing at any given time. And yes, this is based on a worldwide epidemic and chances are we might not see something like this in our lifetime again. But the reality is our situations are never guaranteed. And by not dealing with our feelings as and when things arise may lead to dire consequences. We may never learn how to have healthy relationships and start becoming victims of our own circumstances. We start believing that we will never have a better job or a happy healthy marriage. So again, nothing changes if nothing changes. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and our feelings and work through them. Taking the detour may very well lead to a dead-end eventually.
There is a lot of misconceptions around addiction and alcoholism and one of them is it will never happen to me. We meet a lot of people who have been able to function normally for many years without it being an issue. Every now and again things might spiral out of control but eventually, they get back on track. Truth is, it then takes one significant event to tip them over the edge and suddenly the floodgates are open. It is clear to see that their behaviour over the years was avoidance, being ‘strong’ for the most part. Keeping up an appearance which served them well for the most part. But the exterior starting cracking and they simply do not have the strength to keep it up anymore.
So how can you help yourself when dealing with uncertainty?
First and foremost, talk about it. If you feel uncomfortable seeking professional help, find a friend or family member you can confide in. Be wary of those who thrive on drama and negativity. Speak to someone who shows compassion for your situation but help you come to a solution to your problem. If the person makes you feel more negative towards your situation afterwards, it may keep you stuck.
Be proactive. Change your routine and find healthy distractions.
Make a list of things you can do to pick yourself up. It is difficult to be creative and come up with ideas when you are not in the best of moods. Then pick something off the list next time you feel down or obsessing over your situation.
Uncertainty can lead to fear. And FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Remind yourself of it when you are fearful. You know you might not be in control and not being in control is something that freaks you out but more often than not, the things you tell yourself is going to happen never does. We tend to think of worst-case scenarios in moments like these when in actual fact the outcome was far less serious than what you imagined.
Journal. Writing down your feelings might help you put things into perspective.
Meditate. Just sitting in a quiet spot and tuning out helps clear your mind. Try starting with some guided meditation with your earpieces in if you struggle to switch off. Soon you’ll be comfortable with the silence. We think of way better solutions to our problems when our minds are clear.
Share responsibilities. Set up a daily schedule to help each other out with the chores. And have your schedule include a daily ‘Me-time’ and ‘Us-time’.
Tag if you need a time-out. Speak to your partner about calling a time-out when you feel things are getting too much for you.
Speak up. If something is bothering you, talk about it. It’s easy to see how people do not address the things they dislike build up into resentments. If you feel you are doing most of the lifting, ask your partner to sit down with you to a nice cup of coffee and raise the topic of your concern in a respectful way. On the flip side, if you easily get annoyed and address the issues immediately, chances are you’ll find that your concerns are not being heard. The way we express ourselves will determine its effectiveness. If you do find that you could’ve handled the situation better, it is not too late to make that cup of coffee and apologise. Try talking about it when you are both calm.
Stay connected. We all need human connection. Keep in touch with friends and family.
If you are a religious or spiritual person, remind yourself to stay faithful.
And most of all, this too shall pass. Try and look at the things you can be grateful for. We often feel that our circumstances are detrimental and nothing will ever be the same again. But chances are, someone is worse off than you. Be thankful for what you do have, rather than the things you would’ve or could’ve had if the situation was different.
If you do feel that when times are tough you tend to follow the route of using alcohol or other substances or behaviours to avoid your situations or feelings, look at our blog about addiction. Remember, there are different types of severities so even if you feel you have a minor problem, please seek help before it is too late.