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During times of financial strain, gambling activity increases within society. This happens during financial recessions and is likely to be happening during the current coronavirus pandemic. In times of uncertainty, many people with gambling issues increase their gambling or revert back to gambling if they are currently abstinent. Others who haven’t had a gambling problem in the past may also be tempted to try gambling as a ‘quick fix’ to money problems.
The unique circumstances of an extended government-enforced lockdown has created a series of challenges which make it more likely that some people will use gambling as a way of attempting to cope with stressful periods. Financial pressures may include reduced income, loss of job or bankruptcy, problems with navigating the benefits system and uncertainty about when lockdown will be over. Other pressures include under stimulation or boredom, a lack of social interaction, a lack of structure, the stress of being with family without an easy way to get away from it all, being without family that usually offer support and difficulties with home schooling.
Gambling is often escapism – when people with gambling problems are gambling, they can be so focused on it that it temporarily alleviates the stress and strain of their current situation. However, this is a temporary solution, so a useful task is to find a healthy way of escaping (which we all need from time to time). Binge-watching your favourite box set, reading a book or going out for a run, feeding the birds, doing crossword are just a few of the countless ways this can be done. Finding something that suits you as an individual is important.
For many people with gambling problems, it is important that they feel like they are in control, and that they feel as if they are ‘winning’. This need to be in control and to be successful will be hugely challenged by the current public health emergency. However, there are a lot of options and ways to manage this uncertain period which people with gambling problems can put their imagination and ingenuity towards. The requirement or need to be in control and to win can be met by dedicating themselves to handling the current situation with determination, wisdom and skill.
If you are struggling during the lockdown with gambling problems, here are some tips which we hope will help you get through this period.
- Create a financial plan and budget wisely. Make sure your budget includes some money set aside to have some fun/exciting experiences.
- Make a list of and engage in healthy activities which you enjoy doing – this could include exercise, reading, watching TV, taking part in a quiz with family or friends online or many other options.
- Create a structure to your day – set a time to get up, have meals at set times and plan activities to fill your day. A plan for your day reduces the likelihood of too much free time when gambling could be a temptation. Make sure you account for your need for stimulation when planning how to structure your time.
- Share concerns about money and other problems with others – you are not alone in feeling the financial, emotional and mental strain in these uncertain times.
- Stay connected as much as you can with friends and family by utilizing video and phone calls if possible.
- Alone time is also important – try and structure in some time on your own, particularly if you are in a busy household.
- Utilize support networks that are available – the national charity GamCare is the foremost provider of support for anyone afflicted by a gambling problem in the UK. They also offer support for family members impacted by people with a gambling problem. They provide a huge range of support including a helpline, a live-chat, a group chat, a forum, self help resources and individual counselling, all free of charge. Information about these resources can be found on their website gamcare.org.uk or you can ring their helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 8020133.