September 03, 2021 Healthy Living

Wine, Pasta, and Donuts: Pushing Past Our COVID Coping Impulses

Most of us will never forget the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. But, even as the store
shelves were restocked and life slowly returned to normal, many of the bad habits developed
during the pandemic linger for some. Bizwomen reported that sales of alcohol, CBD products,
comfort food, and sweets all saw a boost starting in March 2020.

Practice Moderation

Coping behaviors are impulses that provide temporary relief. As a response to a stressful
experience—a tough day at work, for example—they let us feel comforted. With pandemic
isolation, the occasional “self-care” choice may have evolved into bad habits for many people.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The first step is to recognize that you might be
overdoing the comfort care. Maybe wine with dinner on Fridays has turned into every dinner
plus some breakfasts and lunches. A small dish of ice cream that used to be an occasional treat
has grown to a pint-a-day dessert. Or perhaps you used to enjoy all types of salads, and now
you find yourself eating boxed mac and cheese a few times a week.

A Healthy Rebound

When healthy moderation gives way to negative habits, the first step is to regain control of the
situation. It’s natural to think of the pandemic as something that happened to us, but we control
how we react to the situation.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins suggest that building these skills and practices can help you cope
with the stress from the pandemic in a healthier way—and end your dependence on your
comfort behaviors:

Go outside. Sunshine—even in cooler temperatures—can help improve your mood as
can time observing the natural world, whether it’s snowy, sandy, or green.

Pray or meditate, both alone or safely connected to your faith community.
Practice yoga or mindfulness to help both your mind and body relax.

Connect with friends in whatever manner is available, even if it’s phone or video.

Stay physically active, whether with videos at home or your regular routine on the roads
or trails—and think of food as fuel for those efforts. A diet high in vegetables and protein
can help stabilize mood, while one heavy in sugars has the opposite effect.

Manage your time better by separating work and personal time and limiting how much
TV, news, and social media you’re consuming.

Practice art, whether you’re learning something new, creating a masterpiece, or
practicing an instrument.

Read a book or magazine that has nothing to do with the news. Choose something new
in fiction or a nonfiction topic that’s new to you.

Think positive… and while you’re at it, focus your thoughts and actions on helping

Always remember that self-care and the occasional indulgence can be an important part of how
you deal with the effects of the pandemic. Just do your best to keep them from becoming a

Need a hand building a healthier pattern? CDPHP is here to help and offers a wide range of
programs and services to treat mental health and substance use disorders. Among them, a new
partnership with aptihealth provides members* with quick, convenient access to personalized
therapy, all from the comfort of your home.

*some employers who self-insure may not have this benefit. If you are unsure if your plan includes this benefit, please contact CDPHP member services.

Alex Marsal Ph.D.
About the Author

Alex Marsal, Ph.D., is a co-founder and the Chief Clinical and Science Officer of aptihealth, inc., a behavioral health engagement company that uses technology to seamlessly deliver integrated physical and behavioral healthcare. In clinical practice, he specializes in providing psychotherapy services to people with dual-diagnosis, depressive and anxiety disorders, marital difficulties, and PTSD/abusive experiences.

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