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Inoculate yourself against boredom

Let’s face it: Shelter-in-place can be a drag. And that can induce boredom.

Many people believe that the biggest trigger to relapse is boredom. Think about it: You’re tired of being confined and even though you may get outside to walk around the block, ride a bike or drive around the neighborhood, it’s just not the same as the freedom of movement we enjoyed just a few weeks ago. And then it hits, just as you’re scrolling through the cable listings for the 14th time today alone: I know how to resolve my boredom, getting high or drunk.

Today. Right now is the time to inoculate yourself against boredom.

  1. Boredom sometimes is born from sleepiness. Today’s the day to establish good sleep hygiene for yourself. Here are a few tips:
    • Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each day – seven days a week. Especially in early recovery, sleep is one of the most difficult things for the body to regulate. And the only way to do that is to develop a consistent sleep pattern.
    • Do not, under any circumstances, go to sleep with the television on. TVs – even in a darkened room – emit a blue light that simulates sunshine. That resets our circadian rhythms, tricking our brains into thinking it’s daytime.
    • Avoid adrenalin-producing shows at least one hour before bedtime. Simply, we can’t sleep when adrenalin is pumping.
    • Try to get even modest exercise during the day, even a walk around the block. But discontinue all exercise at least one hour prior to bedtime.
    • Avoid napping.
  2. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals at the same time each day. If you are worried about gaining weight, try consuming most of your calories earlier in the day when our metabolisms are most active.
  3. Get some exercise each day. Most studies have concluded: Moderate exercise can reduce urges to drink or get high. Part of the reason is that moderate exercise stimulates the production of key neurotransmitters, notably endorphins, which make us feel more energized and optimistic.
  4. A walk around the block is helpful. You don’t even have to break a sweat. If you choose to take a walk around the block each day, wave to neighbors. Remember, everyone is feeling the pinch.
  5. Look at the current situation as an opportunity, rather than a sentence.
  6. Learn something new. The internet is full of how-to projects. Have you always wanted to learn how to create a container vegetable garden? Have you always wanted to learn to make pasta? Do you want to better understand the game of football? You get the point. If you do decide to learn something new, remember two things:
    • New skills are difficult at first because we must train the brain’s neural pathways.
    • Despite frustration, the more we try a new skill, the more neurotransmitters will be created. Translation: New skills get easier over time.
  7. Most importantly, try a gratitude list. Make a commitment to identify – preferably in writing – at least 10 things you appreciate about your life, the people in your life and the world around you. According to the most recent research into Positive Psychology, gratitude opens our happiness neural pathways. And while you’re at it, remember to be grateful that you’re doing your part to stem the tide of COVID-19.

Written by RCA’s VP of Clinical Services Scott Weisenberg

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