You’re stuck at home, you’re stressed, and you’ve got a cupboard full of booze. It’s tempting to drink more than usual during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown – there’s a communal sense that we “deserve it” for getting through this tough time, plus it’s harder for your boss to detect a hangover on Skype.
But the World Health Organization has labeled drinking alcohol an “unhelpful” coping strategy for dealing with the stress of isolation and social distancing ― a sentiment echoed by the charity Drinkaware.
“Alcohol is best avoided when you’re anxious,” Drinkaware’s CEO, Elaine Hindal, tells HuffPost UK. ”It’s actually a depressant, and it can interfere with processes in the brain that are important for good mental health, as well as contribute to symptoms of severe depression.”
Alcohol also impairs judgment, so drinking more than you usually would may lead to accidents and therefore place an extra burden on health services during this stretched time.
“For example, with drinking one too many while cooking, it’s common to need hospital treatment after burning your arm badly on the oven,” says Hindal. “Every year, thousands of avoidable accidents and injuries are attributable to alcohol.”
Drinking heavily may also contribute towards you becoming particularly vulnerable to infections such as coronavirus, Hindal adds. “That’s because alcohol can suppress a range of immune responses, and this is particularly the case for people who drink very heavily and regularly,” she says.
“Your body’s natural defenses against infections may be compromised by excessive alcohol use and this could make you more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.”
So, we know why we should cut down – but how do you actually do it if you’ve slipped into the evening wine habit? Laura Willoughby, co-founder of the mindful drinking movement Club Soda, gave us five tips.
1. Play it forward.
“You may not have control over the lockdown, but you’re in control of how you react to it,” says Willoughby. “Look ahead to who you want to be when this is all over, and focus on the bigger picture. Where do you want your life to be in 12 months? What role does alcohol play in this vision of the future you?”
2. Add some alcohol-free drinks to your rotation.
You don’t have to ditch booze altogether, but save it for occasions such as the weekend to help maintain a routine and keep your consumption in check, says Willoughby. Getting some delicious alcohol-free drinks for the weekday evenings will help.
3. Set some boundaries.
If you’ve got alcohol in the house, find a new home for it, such as the garage or on top of the wardrobe, so it’s less visible and accessible in your daily routine.
“Have some clear rules about when you’re allowed to drink ― like no drinking when stressed or sad, or only drink with evening meals ― and lengthen your drinks, keeping to single serves with lots of tonic or spritzers to dial down the strength,” adds Willoughby. “It’s easy to slip into new bad habits so having firm boundaries will keep alcohol in its place.”
4. Talk about it.
If you feel like you’re slipping into bad habits, speak to your partner, friend or family member about it. They might be able to offer advice, or share how they’re managing to cope.
Similarly, if you’ve got a partner or other family member who is drinking a lot, talk to them about what you’re doing to keep your consumption in check, says Willoughby.
You could offer to help a partner or roommate with their health goals, she adds. Make a project of finding new things to do together that don’t involve drinking.
5. Get a helping hand.
It’s important to recognize when our booze habits are teetering on dependancy. Signs it’s getting out of hand include finding it hard to stop at two drinks, wanting to drink early in the morning, and physical symptoms of withdrawal such as sweating, shaking and nausea.
Or, if you did a huge booze run because you were frightened of it running out and you’re struggling to avoid it, now might be a good time to address that feeling, says Willoughby. There are resources to help you do this, including the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost UK.
Need help with substance use disorder or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
- Stay up to date with our live blog as we cover the COVID-19 pandemic
- How long are asymptomatic carriers contagious?
- Heads up: Not all your tax deadlines have been postponed
- I just got out of a COVID-19 ICU. Here’s how I made it through.
- How to make a no-sew coronavirus face mask
- Why some people might have trouble getting their coronavirus rebates payments
- What to do if you live with someone with COVID-19
- There’s a simple game that can stop a tantrum cold
- The HuffPost guide to working from home
- What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers.
- Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism – and keep it free for everyone – by becoming a HuffPost member today.