It is safe to say that summertime has officially come to an end, with days growing shorter and comfy jumpers emerging from the farthest depths of our cupboards. But with recent surveys noting that 21% of the public will not be turning on their heating until at least November, many of us are beginning to fear what is to come next for the British public.
With a record rise in household bills in 2022, these soaring costs are not just leaving UK residents feeling the pinch financially, but they have also noticed these struggles taking a toll on their mental health. In this four-part series, we will be covering the current financial crisis and its impact on addiction. Here, we outline some potential relapse triggers which could pose a risk to recovery, and provide methods to help combat these difficulties when they arise.
If you are experiencing anxiety about growing household bills and expenses, you are not alone. According to recent findings, around three in four (77%) UK residents reported feeling worried about the rising costs of living, and within this group, half of the adults admitted to facing these worries almost every day. Thoughts of growing interest rates and stagnant incomes can be overwhelming, and some people may be left with no other choice than to take on extra work to compensate for financial pressures. Unfortunately, however, for those with a history of addiction, increased hours can force us to neglect our own mental health in the process, skipping recovery groups and potentially falling back into harmful behaviours to manage stress levels.
If you are starting to buckle under the pressure of growing financial concerns, we urge you to step back and recentre. The best way to keep afloat during this time is to keep your head clear and recovery work must remain a priority. Online fellowship meetings could be a solution to cut down on travelling costs and phone meetings are available for those reducing internet payments. If you do not have enough money to support yourself or your family, you may be entitled to help from your local council or the government to help cover household essentials. If you do not know if you are entitled to financial aid, have a look at the Citizens Advice Benefit Calculator. Failing this, you can give them a call at 0808 223 1133.
With talks of growing bills and financial repercussions dominating the news, you may find that a sense of negativity is permeating your positive space. Attending recovery groups or fellowships, for example, might leave you feeling defeated by bleak and unpleasant thoughts, too negative to share with others how you feel. While your concerns are founded, it is essential you remind yourself that nothing is more important than your mental health and sustained recovery.
If you are feeling overcome by negative thoughts or feelings, a shift in mindset can be a great way to relieve stress and offer a fresh perspective. Some cost-effective tips which can be highly effective in boosting mental wellbeing include:
- Mindfulness. Pursuits like meditation and yoga allow people to seek comfort from within, calming their bodies and minds to achieve an inner sense of peace and relaxation. If you are new to mindfulness but would like to try it out, free apps like YouTube are a great resource, full of introductory videos for beginners.
- Walking. While winter might make you want to spend as much time indoors as possible, stepping outside brings countless benefits to our mental health. Even one short walk has proven to relieve stress, improve overall mood, and allow people to feel more connected to nature.
- Reading a book or magazine. A very useful way to switch off and slow down is to get immersed in a good read. This can be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety levels, taking you a step back from your personal worries and transporting you to an entirely new environment.
Feeling responsible for others
With increased utility bills and a rise in both essential and non-essential items, it might seem especially difficult to look after our families; an initial reaction may be to fear that we will no longer be able to provide for them the same quality of life as we once could before the cost-of-living crisis arose. If you are in recovery, these negative thoughts can be a trigger for relapse, putting your own sobriety on the back burner and dedicating all your attention to the wellbeing of others.
With 45% of UK residents having to cut back on essential spending, fears of an uncertain future can be a trigger that throws us off kilter. With a tighter budget, you might be less eager to attend recovery groups or fellowships with the added travel expense, increasing the chances of isolation and relapse. Whatever your personal circumstances, loneliness can trigger a decline in mental health, with pre-existing mental health problems or addictive tendencies further prompting us to repeat old patterns of behaviour that we have worked tirelessly to break.
If you have noticed that you are becoming isolated and cut off from your recovery network, it is essential that you reach out right away to help ease any negative feelings and protect your mental health. For those that are UKAT Alumni members, this lifelong recovery community is always accessible for help and guidance, whatever your current circumstances. If you are not a member of the Alumni service, we urge that you get yourself to a meeting or call your sponsor right away.
Remember, companionship is vital to sustained recovery and mental wellness; even small acts like giving a friend a call or paying them a visit in person can greatly help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. It can be difficult to arrange social events when you are short of money; however, arranging free activities like spending a day at the park or even inviting a friend over for a coffee can be great alternatives to help get around the cost-of-living expenses.
With the world undergoing such sudden adjustments, it is important to remind ourselves that, while we cannot change these circumstances as they unfold, what we can change is how we respond to them. Realising that many things in life are simply out of our control can help to shift our focus, moving our attention to our own personal growth and healing.
It is perfectly natural to face days where you struggle more in your recovery, and this is nothing to feel shameful or embarrassed about. By taking things one day at a time, recognising what can be changed and reaching out to the appropriate support networks in managing these pressures, this can greatly help to alleviate your concerns. However, if the cost-of-living crisis is taking a major toll on your mental health, it is essential that you reach out for help now to get yourself back on track and remain on the recovery path.