Finding a Hobby as an Adult

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A few weekends ago, I decided that I was going to try my hand at sewing dresses for my two girls. After watching a few YouTube videos and drinking too much coffee, I thought to myself: “Yeah, I can totally do this. I borrowed my step-mom’s sewing machine and set off for our local fabric store.

Once there, I immediately felt overwhelmed. But I kept going! I ended up buying way too much fabric and some overpriced fabric scissors, decided I didn’t need a pattern (yes, really), and went merrily on my way.

I am happy to report that after a bit of trial and error, I actually created some really cute pieces! Though I wouldn’t advise anyone to look too closely at the stitching, I’d consider this new adventure in sewing a grand success.

What I realized is: (1) It feels good to try something new; (2) It also feels good to be challenged; and (3) I needed a new hobby more than I’d realized.

Like many out there, I have come to rely too heavily on a COVID-19 routine of binge watching and social media scrolling during my down time. Even though I don’t have a lot of down time to speak of with two young children, I will waste it all on unproductive—and sometimes mentally draining—habits.

So, let’s talk about the importance of finding hobbies during this time.

Why are hobbies particularly important right now?

De-stress: Research has shown that having a hobby can help you cope with stress and anxiety. Doing something you love can actually improve your mental and physical health, making you more resilient during difficult times.

Take focus off of the negative: When you are busy doing a hobby, you have less time to focus on the negative. For example: having too much down time without focus can lead to doom-scrolling on social media, which can negatively affect your mood.

Give motivation or meaning: Finding something you love and that brings you joy can give you a sense of purpose in life. During times like these, when routines have been uprooted, it is important to redefine what meaning can look like.

Sense of accomplishment/sense of control: COVID-19 has challenged many people’s feelings about what they have control over in life. And this can feel really unsettling. When you may feel like there is nothing you can do right, or nothing you can control, a hobby can be a really helpful thing to put your energy into.

Create connection: Many times, we can find connection to others through our hobbies. While it may not be physical connection right now, having a shared hobby with someone can be a really powerful thing, and can strengthen your relationships.

How do I find a new hobby?

  1. Something you’ve always wanted to do: Start by asking yourself this: “If I won the lottery tomorrow and never needed to work again, what would I do?” There will probably be some clues based on your answer. And even if the answer is “nothing,” try to dig a little deeper.
  2. Look to your childhood: Remember back to when you were a child. What were some things that you loved to do? Did you like dancing, playing the recorder, or building Legos? What about swimming or writing short stories? All of these things can be turned into an adult hobby.
  3. Shop around: If you can’t think of anything right off the bat, try a handful of activities. Keep trying hobbies on for size until one fits! Walk around a craft or outdoor sports store until something piques your interest. Just keep in mind that shopping around can be a costly exercise, so try something out before investing too much money. There is nothing worse than buying a drum set, just to find out that you lack rhythm (true story).
  4. Take a class: Right now is the best time to try something because there are so many virtual options! Cooking lessons, yoga classes, and painting courses can all be found online—and many times, for free! Find some links to classes here
  5. Find something useful: It is always a major bonus when you can find a hobby that serves multiple purposes. In my case, I can save a bit of money by making clothing at home, while also challenging myself and having some fun. If I get good enough, I could even begin gifting my creations to family and friends!
  6. FUN!: This is the most important part; a hobby needs to make you happy. Don’t take it—or yourself—too seriously. Just give something new a try, and try not to overthink it.

How to incorporate a hobby into your schedule

  • Evaluate your use of free time: If you are thinking, “I have no time for a hobby,” then I urge you to reevaluate your down-time. I was guilty of thinking this, too, but then realized that I think nothing of wasting an hour or two per night scrolling through my phone or sitting on the couch. Finding a hobby that you want to do will help to break these habits.
  • Schedule time: You don’t need to make time for your hobby every day, or even every week. But when you are feeling extra stressed or down, make sure to use your hobby as a go-to coping strategy, and find some time for it. Consider it an essential part of your self-care routine.

Helpful Tools

There are some interesting tools online that you can use to find a new hobby. DiscoveraHobby.com is especially helpful, and has activities broken up into categories.

Feeling daring? Take an online quiz to help guide you to the hobby that you should try next. I got Computer Programming though, so maybe take this quiz with a grain of salt!



7 Steps for Combating Seasonal Depression

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I have always looked forward to the colder months. For me, shorter days and chilly temperatures mean cozy sweaters, snuggling under blankets, and fuzzy socks. It had never truly occurred to me that seasonal depression was a real thing until I met my husband. He—unlike myself—is genuinely impacted by the winter months, and struggles each year when the weather starts to turn.

And he is not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, affects about five percent of adults in the United States. It is more common among women than men, and has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter. Though rare, SAD can also affect children, sometimes causing fussiness, clinginess, and emotional reactivity, or disinterest, sleepiness, and poor memory.

Common symptoms of SAD include fatigue, even with too much sleep, and weight gain associated with overeating and carbohydrate cravings. SAD symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include many symptoms similar to major depression, such as:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Some experts have warned that individuals will be particularly hard-hit this year due to the culminating effects of seasonal depression and COVID-related mental, emotional, physical, and economic challenges.

While it is important to acknowledge that this winter may be tougher than usual, it doesn’t mean that things are hopeless. There are many preventative steps that we can take to combat seasonal depression—and you can start right now!

1. Make a Plan

If you know that you are affected by seasonal depression, now is the time to start planning. And for those who might not typically be impacted but may be struggling this year, some planning might also be in your best interest.

Make a list of warning signs and symptoms—indicators of when your mental health may be declining. Then, make a note of all of your coping strategies—the things that have helped you feel better in the past. This exercise will help you create a game plan for if/when things begin to feel too hard.

2. Think Positively

There are many known health benefits to thinking positively, though it is unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.

Thinking positively begins with positive self-talk: the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These thoughts can be either positive or negative. Each day, you can make the conscious decision to speak to yourself with kindness, or not. Practice showing yourself a little grace each day.

3. Make Health a Priority

Set and maintain a daily routine, eat healthy foods, and get regular exercise.

Recent studies have shown that people who eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean red meats, and other healthy foods, showed a significant improvement in depressive symptoms.

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Getting more sunlight may help too, so try to get outside to exercise when the sun is shining. Being active during the daytime, especially early in the day, may help you have more energy and feel less depressed.

4. Keep Things Light

Light therapy has been a mainstay for the treatment of SAD for decades. It aims to expose people with SAD to a bright light every day to make up for the diminished natural sunshine in the darker months.

If this isn’t an option, just getting outdoors can be the first step toward a healthier mindset, even in the PNW. When walking outside, try keeping an upward gaze instead of looking at the ground, and practice deep breathing. If you’re able, try to get your heart rate up several times a week.

5. Stay Social

Despite the logistical challenges this year, it’s important to maintain connections with family and friends. While you may have to get a bit creative, there are many ways to connect with people this winter, even if it isn’t necessarily face-to-face.

It can be tempting to close yourself off, especially when struggling with depression. In planning for the winter, ask a friend or family member to be your winter-blues buddy, and keep each other accountable.

6. Keep Growing in Yourself

I know, I know … many of us have tried new things since the beginning of COVID-19. But now isn’t the time to get complacent! Try a new hobby, get involved, and throw yourself into something new. Find the thing that will carry you through the darker days, and do it wholeheartedly. And if possible, find something that you can do with a family member or friend.

7. Find Help

If you’ve tried multiple ways to make yourself feel better and aren’t noticing any improvements in your mood—or are noticing that it’s getting worse—it might be time to seek professional help. Getting help is not a sign of weakness; it is proof that you take your mental health seriously.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

The Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.


Red Ribbon Week & Youth Substance Use

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Red Ribbon Week is dedicated to spreading awareness about youth substance use prevention and the mission of keeping all kids drug-free. It takes place every year from October 23 through October 31st, and this year is no exception. Your student’s health teacher or prevention specialist may be touching on some prevention messaging right now, so it could be a prime opportunity to continue this conversation with your child (if you aren’t doing so already). So let’s talk prevention!

Why is it important?

Ninety percent of people with addictions started using substances in their teen years. Beginning at age 10 through the mid- to late-20s, massive changes are underway in the brain. This includes the development of capabilities related to impulse control, managing emotions, problem-solving and anticipating consequences. Substance use during this time period can cause the brain to be more susceptible to addiction and other mental health disorders, especially for kids who are vulnerable.

Substance use and COVID-19

Some early research is coming out that shows that youth substance use rates are being negatively impacted by COVID-19 and social distancing measures. An article written in the Journal for Adolescent Health noted that, of those adolescents surveyed, “the percentage of users decreased [since the beginning of COVID-19]; however, the frequency of both alcohol and cannabis use increased.” Perhaps of more concern is that, while the majority of those using substances were engaging in solitary substance use (49.3%), “many were still using substances with peers via technology (31.6%) and, shockingly, even face to face (23.6%).” For parents who are actively working to keep their kids COVID-free, this added information may be worrisome.

Risks of use and COVID-19

We do not know yet if the occurrence of COVID-19 is higher for people who use drugs or have substance use disorder than for those who don’t use drugs, however some underlying medical conditions seem to increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19. For example, vaping may harm lung health, and emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection. For this reason, it is possible that drug use could make COVID-19 illness more severe, but more evidence is needed.

Can parents really make a difference?

Absolutely! Parents are the biggest influence in a teen’s life. Even though it may not appear to be true at times, deep down they still want you involved. A strong parent/child bond, especially during the teen years, helps reduce the chances of them engaging in unhealthy behavior and helps set the stage for preventing nicotine, alcohol, and drug use.

When and how to talk about substance use?

These conversations should happen frequently, and typically work best when a parent and child are already engaging in some type of activity together. It is important to listen, show empathy, and be understanding. Connecting often, communicating about your expectations and setting boundaries, and even encouraging healthy risk taking are all things that parents can do to set their children up for success.

Parents can begin talking with their children about drug prevention at a surprisingly young age! These early conversations may not sound exactly like “drug prevention;” instead, the focus should be on laying a strong foundation of trust and openness, while also teaching (and demonstrating) healthy habits. For tips on how to talk to your child at any age, visit: https://drugfree.org/article/prevention-tips-for-every-age/.

What should parents be looking out for?

Figuring out if your child is using substances can be challenging; many of the signs and symptoms are typical teen or young adult behavior. However, sometimes they can be attributed to underlying issues.  Mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, as well as traumatic events or periods of transition, can create a greater risk for the development of problematic substance use. Children and teens are dealing with a lot of changes right now, making it all the more important that parents be looking out for concerning behavior.

If you have reason to suspect use, don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution. Prepare to take action and have a conversation during which you can ask direct questions like “Have you been drinking, vaping or using drugs?” No parent wants to hear “yes,” but being prepared for how you would respond can be the starting point for a more positive outcome.

Where do I go for help?

There is help available if you are concerned that your child may be using substances—or even if you’re struggling with how to begin a conversation! Drugfree.org has one-on-one help available for parents: visit https://drugfree.org/article/get-one-on-one-help/ for ways to connect.

Want to get involved in your community?

Between now and December 15th, our three prevention community coalitions are collecting information from Skagit County adults (18+) about their perceptions regarding local youth substance use. Do you live or work in one of these communities? Consider filing out the survey! Your feedback has direct influence on prevention programming available for youth and families.

Mount Vernon
English- https://www.research.net/r/SKMTVEEN2020
Spanish- https://es.research.net/r/SKMTVESP2020

Sedro-Woolley
English- https://www.research.net/r/SKSEWOEN2020
Spanish- https://es.research.net/r/SKSEWOSP2020

Concrete
English- https://www.research.net/r/SKCOEN2020

For more information about prevention in Skagit County, visit: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Health/preventionmain.htm


Take Time to Invest in You

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Guest post by Kari Pendray at Brigid Collins Family Support Center

As we find ourselves well into our sixth month of living with Covid-19, many parents have one thing in common – we are all juggling multiple demands in a time that leaves us feeling more uncertain. The idea of being at home for some is isolating and for others it feels more like a safe haven. No matter which side of the aisle you are on, the role of a parent has suddenly become more demanding. That’s because stressful events, like being in the midst of a global pandemic, adds a layer of unpredictability in our lives.

Whether you are feeling stressed out, burned out, or just plain tired, you are not alone. Stress is sometimes defined as when the need to respond exceeds our capacity to respond. How can you recognize stress and burnout? Stress comes in three forms. Acute stress is healthy stress, like when you have a deadline for work or school. Episodic stress is short episodes of high stress, such as taking on too much work, then, being unable to get the stress out of your system. Finally, chronic stress is one that has been linked to chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Chronic stress is very serious and needs to be managed with care and helping professionals. Burnout is a complete feeling of exhaustion and can make you withdraw from other people. Burnout can lead to cynicism and can cause you to delay tasks.

During our Coping with Stress virtual seminars at the Parenting Academy, we talk to parents and caregivers about managing stress and building our capacity, as parents, for emotional well-being, which centers around three main strategies:

  • Awareness of unhealthy thinking
  • Shifting negative self-talk and automatic thoughts
  • Challenging unhelpful thoughts
Focus on the things that you can control, and let the other things go.

First, ask yourself, “What evidence do I have for this thought or idea?” Then, ask, “What could be another explanation?” Finally, ask yourself, “What can I do to change or shift my thinking that would lead to a positive outcome?

To prevent stress and burnout, it’s important to plan daily activities that alleviate stress, just like you would plan to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks or watch your favorite show on Netflix. It’s important to invest in yourself in ways that add years to your life.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Invest in your heart – Eating heart healthy foods such as leafy green vegetables, lean fish and meat, and minimizing sugar, can contribute to having a good nutritional balance. (See My Plate.gov or Harvard Healthy Eating Plate). You can use cooking as a way to learn math, science, experiment with food and enjoy eating new foods.
  2. Invest in your body – Pumping oxygen into your blood is not only good for your heart it is also good for your mind. Studies show that exercising can release positive “happy” hormones into your body and relieve stress. Children love to exercise with their parents. Families are taking more walks, riding bikes, playing soccer and making the most of their own backyards.
  3. Invest in your brain – Has anyone ever given you a prescription to laugh? Well, if not, consider this your first one. Laughing soothes tension, stimulates organs, re-wires new neural pathways in your brain and alleviates stress. When parents take time to play with their children, this can involve 5-10 minutes of mutual enjoyment, laughter and a break from your day. Children learn from play and play can be a great way to co-regulate.

When you invest in yourself, you will not only improve your own health, you will also be modeling health and wellness for your children; you will be more present for your child, and you will be having fun in the process. That’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

If you would like more information on the Parenting Academy or wish to register for parenting coaching or virtual seminars, please go to www.parenting-academy.org.

Resources:
www.choosemyplate.gov
www.hsph.harvard.edu
www.hhs.gov/fitness/beactive/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
www.parenting-academy.org


Know Your Family Health Hazards

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Guest post by Skagit County Emergency Management

Emergency Management is mostly about risk management. The theory is that if you know what your risks are, you can plan for a better response when an emergency hits and be able to recover more easily. Risk management works alongside prevention, protection and mitigation, which reduce risks before an emergency; all are vital to emergency management. We have a variety of major hazards in Skagit County — flood, volcano, fire, storms, tsunami, and hazardous materials to name a few. Do you know what your personal and family hazards are? Including any health hazards you know of in your family plan is an important component of risk management.

Current events have shown how important it is to be prepared for health hazards. Along with the facemasks and hand sanitizer, what can you do to protect your family’s health during an emergency?

First, know what your family’s health hazards are are. They could include allergies, diabetes, respiratory illness or necessary medications. Any medical condition that requires specific medication or medical equipment or that gets worse from stress can be a health hazard.

Second, include your family’s health hazards in your emergency planning. Know what can trigger the condition or make it worse, what the reactions look like, and what’s needed to make it better. If possible, have back-up medicine or equipment in your evacuation kit. I know it’s not always possible, especially for equipment. At a minimum, include the following in your kit:

  • A list of all medications with dosage requirements and prescription information
  • A list of equipment, including where it came from and any required settings
  • Non-medical emergency provisions
  • A copy of your medical insurance information and doctor contact information with your important documents
  • Some medical conditions can decrease your immune response, so you may want to increase your supplies of facemasks and hand sanitizer

What does that look like in practice? If you have allergies that have an anaphylactic response, keep an epinephrine injection (commonly called an EpiPen) in your kit and be extra cautious of triggers. If it’s a reaction that can be triggered by skin absorption, have gloves in your kit. If you have diabetes, have a list of medications, what kind of insulin and needles you use, the location of your glucose meter, and some appropriate emergency food for when your blood sugar gets low. Let your family know what it feels like when your sugar is low and what they can watch out for.

Preparing for health hazards doesn’t end once the emergency is over — it includes being aware of potential triggers afterwards. Medical equipment may need to be replaced; having a list of where the equipment came from and any special settings needed can speed up replacing it. Cleaning products, mold, and other contaminants can trigger medical conditions, so be alert for medical reactions. Long-term stress can also aggravate some conditions.

Health hazards come in all shapes and sizes. Planning for an emergency should include health hazards to help you respond and recover from the emergency. Knowing what the triggers are, what reactions to look out for, and what’s needed to combat that reaction can help save a family member. It’s always a good idea to take First Aid and CPR training, too!


Back to School: Create a Schedule that Works

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Along with Skagit school districts’ back-to-school reopening plans, each school has provided students with a schedule. While it is very important to become familiar with this academic schedule, it is also important to develop a schedule at home that will work for your student, as well as the rest of the household. Here are some ideas that may help bring a sense of clarity to your weekly routine. 

1. Compartmentalize your day

For anyone who’s been working from home the past several months, you have probably weighed the costs and benefits of compartmentalizing your day. When the work day bleeds into the work evening, then into the work weekend, it becomes really important to define your time—for your mental health, if nothing else.

The same holds true for your child! Create a routine in which your student gets up, gets dressed and has breakfast, then progresses into their school day. While it can be tempting, it is important to change out of pajamas (at least from time to time!) and put on some day-time clothing. Compartmentalize the day into natural chunks of time: morning classes, lunch, afternoon classes, and end-of-day. The late afternoon should include a period of free time to allow your child to decompress from the day and to wrap up their school work.

2. Take breaks and eat well

Along these same lines, be sure that your student takes breaks and sets aside a time to have lunch. It can be easy for kids to snack while they work, and to eat lunch at their study space. However, it is good for the mind and body to take a breather and spend some time in a different part of the house or outside.

For breaks, it may be helpful to take 15-20 minutes every few hours (or more often, for younger children). Be sure that your child knows that taking a moment to breathe, stretch, and come back to their work is extremely important (even adults need to do this!). If your child is really struggling with a project or assignment, encourage taking a quick break.

3. Get organized

It may be helpful to work with your child on reviewing their weekly academic calendar and any due dates that they may have for assignments. A planner (either paper or digital) could be a great tool for some students, while others may need something that is easily accessible and clearly visible. Just like in a school classroom, your child may find it helpful to have a whiteboard by their desk with a list of assignments, or even a large calendar with due dates clearly marked. This may also be a good thing for you, as the parent, since you can keep track of your child’s schedule from afar.

4. Get active…daily!

This is critical for your child’s physical and mental health. When the weather still permits, encourage your child to go outside to take a walk or bike ride. For younger kids, their local playground may be re-opening! Be sure to talk about keeping distance from others, even when outside, and wear a mask if in a more crowded area.

When the weather starts to turn chilly and/or rainy (or smoky), find some things to do indoors that get their blood flowing! Exercise and dance videos can be fun, and even stretching can be done in small spaces. Doing the same activities every day can get tiresome, so encourage your student to try different ways to get moving. And if you can, do it with them!

5. Encourage socialization

Your child might be excited to get back to school, even if it is remote and online. It may be the first time in a while that they have seen some of their friends and peers after a long COVID summer, and this re-engagement might be a seriously needed mood-booster. But don’t be surprised if by October your student is feeling burned out on online schooling. This kind of socialization might not be enough for many children, and it is okay to admit that!

When your child is feeling antsy or moody, encourage some socialization with friends. While it isn’t advised to schedule in-person meetups with large groups of friends, an occasional get-together between “besties” can be really good for your child’s mental health. Arrange a playdate outdoors for young children (being mindful of the 5-person per week limit), and for older students, maybe a study session outdoors? Take care to maintain social distancing and have your child wear a face covering. While it isn’t “school like usual” with the variety of opportunities to interact, a few social activities a month can go a long way to promote health and wellbeing.

6. Be flexible!

Expect the need to shake things up. A routine is awesome and a schedule is great, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned, and it is okay to modify it if necessary. There will be days that your student is rocking it and crossing off one assignment after another. However, there will also be days when PJs and a bubble bath are the most important thing. Both are okay. 

What we are asking of our youth right now is unprecedented, and we must always keep our children’s health at the forefront. If you ever feel like your child is struggling, connect with their teacher (or other school staff) and ask for some advice. You don’t need to take on these challenging times alone.


Reach Out: We Can All Do Our Part

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Social distancing has impacted us all differently. For some people, it has meant spending day-in and day-out with antsy children, while others have had way too much time on their hands. Others may be experiencing unexpected financial hardship due to COVID-19, causing an increase in stress and anxiety.

For some older adults in our community, social distancing has put a lot of new restrictions on their ability to access care and resources, as well as their ability to connect with the outside world. Thankfully, there is a lot each individual can do to support the emotional well-being of our senior population. We can all do our part!

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a list of ideas for reaching out to our senior population during this time:

  1. Check in regularly on your older adult friends, neighbors and family members.
  2. Call or video chat with them, since texting and social media may not be the best method of connecting. (Note: You may need to help friends and loved ones with new technology!)
  3. Seek advice from them based on their experience and wisdom. People realizing they are needed can make all the difference!
  4. Ask how they are doing during this period of time, how their routines might have had to change, and what kinds of things they are doing to cope with the stress. Encourage your loved ones to stay connected with community by reaching out to your local senior center for ideas.  
  5. Encourage them to keep doing activities that are safe during COVID for their local area, and that they identify as being most helpful for them, such as daily exercise or a walk, stretching, listening to or playing music, reading, enjoying favorite or humorous shows, puzzles, games, social activities, and meditation or prayer. Here are some activity ideas from AARP, and the National Institute on Aging. (Note: While it is still required that we keep a 6-foot distance and wear masks, there are many safe activities that can be done outdoors with loved ones that follow these requirements and minimize chances of transmission.)
  6. Help them seek medical advice or care if they are experiencing symptoms of physical or mental health decline.
  7. Offer to bring them a meal, run an errand, or walk their dog. Call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500 to get information about senior nutrition assistance.
  8. Express gratitude and appreciation for any support you get from your relationship with them. Let them know what you admire about the way they conduct their life.

All of the above ideas can be accomplished without much direct physical interaction, which is great during a time when we must adhere to social distancing requirements. It is important to remember that there is a big difference between “social distancing” versus “physical distancing.” Just because we are keeping our physical distance does not mean that we cannot still socialize. We just need to be more mindful about the ways we do it!

When connecting with loved ones, make sure to look out for possible signs of social isolation, anxiety, or depression. It is important to reach out early and often, because mental health issues—just like physical health issues—can become very serious if left unchecked.

Signs that a person might be isolated:

  • Deep boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal
  • Losing interest in personal hygiene
  • Poor eating and nutrition
  • Significant disrepair, clutter and hoarding in the home

Where can you find support if you recognize any of the signs above?

If someone is experiencing excess stress due to COVID-19, call Washington Listens at 833-681-0211 for support and resources.

What to do if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis?

Where can you direct local seniors if they are experiencing hardship due to quarantine or isolation?

At-risk individuals who are in quarantine or isolation and find themselves in need of assistance with getting/picking up supplies or food can call the Skagit County Resource Assistance Line at (360) 416-1892 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.


Recovery: Paths to Wellness During COVID-19

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the best of times, recovery from a substance use disorder is a monumental challenge. COVID-19 is adding extra hurdles on the path to recovery. Drug court has been suspended. In-person 12-step meetings have been replaced by Zoom meetings. Also, many treatment centers have closed or are limiting their physical contact. Daily necessities, like internet access from libraries, are no longer available or severely cut back.  Lastly, members of support networks may be in quarantine or isolation.

“Resources were taken away overnight with no time to make a plan to replace them,” said Mike Hudson, Director of the Skagit Valley REACH Center in Mount Vernon. REACH is a support center providing an array of recovery supports and services.

People with substance use disorders benefit from a support network of family, friends, sponsors, counselors, and others who help them on their journey to wellness. In order to continue providing services to those in recovery, the REACH Center has remained open but is now closed on Saturdays to allow for an extra deep cleaning, and the number of people allowed in the building at a time is limited to 10. Staff and peers who use the center must follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks, and they are encouraged to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces frequently.

“We felt the most important thing we could do for our participants is to remain open with our regular menu of support services and some form of face-to-face interaction for as long as we could,” Mike said.

Jon Oickle, Regional Clinical Manager at Catholic Community Services Northwest Recovery Centers, says that his organization has moved all group and individual treatment activities to telehealth-based services, though offices have remained open to serve those individuals without online or phone access.

“The social distancing and stay-at-home orders have become a source of significant stress and social isolation for individuals in recovery,” Jon said. “People in recovery may be particularly susceptible to the potential negative effects of stress and isolation, which may increase the risk of relapse.” That’s why he encourages people in recovery to participate in online and phone-based meetings, to reach out to support networks, and to “avoid long stretches of idle time, as this can also be a trigger to relapse.”

The attendance numbers for treatment groups is comparable to pre-COVID-19 figures, Jon said, adding that no-shows for individual sessions have actually decreased “as clients are eager to engage and talk about their current struggles.”

Alan Muia, Executive Director of New Earth Recovery, which operates four recovery homes in Mount Vernon, says his organization is restricting visitors and limiting nights that residents can spend away from their recovery house in order to reduce the risk of bringing COVID-19 into the houses. New Earth Recovery is encouraging the use of personal protective equipment and has adopted stricter disinfecting protocols, as well as set up a quarantine room should the need arise.

Support from family and friends is absolutely vital to recovery, Alan said, especially during times of social distancing. “People need connections, and we, the broader community, family, and friends, can be a lifeline. While patterns may have had to change, we can help people find meaning and purpose in their lives,” he said, adding that the best thing we can do right now for our loved ones in recovery is to stay in contact with them, hold them accountable, and don’t allow them to isolate themselves.

“Isolation, stress and boredom are the perfect storm for substance use recurrence, so this is a difficult time for many,” Alan said. “I think the biggest challenge for most is the physical distancing, which can lead to relational isolation. A vital component of healthy recovery is engaging in community/relationships.”

New Earth Recovery is offering additional opportunities to participate in house gatherings and activities, and is encouraging safe exercise and other ways that residents can work on their recovery and ward off depression.

“Addiction is a disease of isolation, and the present situation makes it difficult for people in recovery to maintain healthy rhythms of connection with each other,” Alan said. “It will help to keep as many healthy rhythms as possible and to create new ones if the others have become impossible.” He recommends attending online support meetings or counseling sessions, starting an exercise routine, or looking into online classes. While there are challenges with pursuing all these suggestions, he says, “moving forward in some area of life is crucial. … None of us can afford to take a long break from life or recovery at this time.”

Mike from the REACH Center added that “recovery is not an event or a finite destination. It is a life-long process that requires major lifestyle changes that must be acknowledged, monitored and maintained. It must also be understood, encouraged and supported by the individual’s personal network and society at large.”

If you or someone you love is in recovery and is struggling right now, you don’t have to go it alone. There are organizations and people who can support you. You can find a list of available resources here and at the site linked below:

https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HumanServices/mh.htm