Just about everyone I know agrees that they wish 2020 could be magically erased from their memories. While we, as a species, do tend to move on quickly to the next “it” thing, the negative effects of this year are going to be visible in the world for years to come. Much like the light we see in the night sky from stars that have burned out years ago, the mental health issues ignited in 2020 will be taking their toll long after this year is over.
Humans Aren’t Designed To Handle Long-term Stress
Economic instability, social isolation and constant fear of the unknown are fuel for the “diseases of despair” that include drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide. Our biological adaptive responses are designed to handle stressful situations for short periods of time. But they are not intended to be useful on a long-term basis which is why so many people take to engaging in behaviors that falsely compensate while immersed in long-term stressful situations.
Dopamine is a hormone reward system that gives us the ability to plan and feel accomplished when we complete tasks. It also activates pleasure pathways that guide us to enjoyable things that cultivate life like eating and sex to ensure the survival of our species. During long-term stressful times our ability to produce dopamine is diminished with devastating effects.
Serotonin is a hormone that balances mood, well-being and feelings of relevance. When serotonin levels are low, people become anxious, depressed, and experience sleeplessness. When stress becomes chronic and long-term, we produce less serotonin. stressors cause serotonin levels to become depleted. So it’s no wonder that people are feeling less relevant during these challenging times. these difficult times we feel less relevant and therefore produce less serotonin.
Falsely Produced Feel-Good Hormones
When we falsely produce the feel-good hormones of dopamine and serotonin with the introduction of drugs, alcohol, or gambling it creates an unconditional feeling of wellbeing. This feeling is short-lived but the causes of feeling bad that drive people to addictive behaviors are not, so we tend to reach for these things to feel ok and as an escape from a crappy reality.
Take Care Of Yourself And Your Loved Ones This Holiday Season
We have been enduring economic instability, social isolation and fear of the unknown since the beginning of 2020. This holiday season is unlike any we have known before. So, I beg of you, please pay attention to yourself, to how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Pay attention to the behavior of your loved ones. Initiate or continue to practice stress-relieving techniques like meditation and exercise. Reach out to isolated and lonely friends and family members. And most importantly, if you are in physical pain, find a non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical way to treat it such as chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture and mindfulness.
This year will be over soon, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it will not soon be forgotten. But I, for one, am going to continue focusing my attention on making a positive impact on those lives that have devastated by addiction and helping change the way these people deal with their pain.
Wishing you and yours a healthy holiday season.