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Maintaining Calm in the Middle of Global Crisis When you are in Recovery

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

By Elizabeth DuPont Spencer, LCSW-C

My client, Mary, sent me an urgent email on Monday, and we had a quick phone call that same day to touch base.  Mary has been in recovery for three years, and has built a wonderful life for herself in that time. The upheaval in her schedule caused by the COVID-19 crisis has caused her to have worrying signs about her mental health and she was absolutely right to ask for a check in phone call.  We quickly identified that she has gotten off-track with her self-care because someone in her office was diagnosed with COVID-19 and because of that she was required to work from home. While working remotely can be wonderful for some people, for Mary this has meant that has lost the routines and daily social contact that have been so important to her recovery.  We came up with a list of how to handle this difficult time:

Tips for preventing and managing anxiety about COVID-19 while in recovery:

Follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines and do not try to improve upon what they recommend. 

  1. Continue to attend AA/NA meetings in person if possible, or online if you are required to self-isolate.

  2. Check in with your sponsor, and use the phone tree to keep in touch with others in your recovery community.

  3. Use the “keep calm and carry on” approach to living, working and attending school. Show your resilience by treating the situation like a reasonable thing to have to learn to manage.

  4. Make sure that you do not watch too much of the news or pandemic/apocalyptic TV shows and movies.

  5. Find some calming things to do before bed – do yoga, read a book, journal or inventory, or try a weighted blanket if you find yourself having difficulty sleeping.

  6. Seek the help of a therapist if you find yourself unable to do normal activities because of your fear of COVID-19.

  7. Be brave together!  This disruption is temporary.  Your recovery is the bedrock of your successful life, so find ways to draw strength from what you have been through already in your life to manage this time of uncertainty.


Elizabeth DuPont Spencer, LCSW-C is a Board-approved supervisor, clinical consultant, and a cognitive behavioral expert in anxiety, mood and substance use disorders. She has been in private practice for twenty-five years, working with children, adolescents, and adults. She is skilled at using exposure and response prevention for anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Elizabeth is a member of the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (IOCDF), The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). She is a Clinical Fellow of the ADAA, and also received the 2012 Clinician Outreach Award and the 2017 Clinician of Distinction Award. Elizabeth is co-owner of with a mission to use e-learning to train clinician's nation-wide in evidence-based treatments. A graduate of Columbia University in New York City, and the University of Maryland at Baltimore's School of social work, she completed her clinical training at the National Institutes of Health and the Catholic University of America. She is the co-author of three books, CBT for AnxietyThe Anxiety Cure and The Anxiety Cure for Kids. Elizabeth works in North Bethesda, Maryland.

Link to a recent podcast about helping kids who worry about COVID-19:


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