Alcohol Awareness: Have You Been Drinking More During Lockdown?
For many of us, drinking alcohol is an enjoyable downtime activity. It’s something we do with our friends and our families at the weekend and is associated with happy times and celebrations! But then there’s the – “today’s been a long day or a tough week and I’m looking forward to a drink tonight”? The truth is, we have all probably said this to ourselves from time to time; especially over the last few weeks and months! We have all been stressed, annoyed or agitated and had a couple of drinks to supposedly “unwind”.
Drinking alcohol in moderation shouldn’t be frowned upon or make us feel guilty; that is absolutely not what this article is about. In fact some experts refer to the various health benefits of the occasional glass of “vino tinto!” However, recognising your drinking habits and understanding why we turn to alcohol (if it is on a regular basis) should be something to keep an eye on…
Alcohol awareness should be heightened right now, as confined to our homes, (for some with little else to do, for others too much to do), it is tempting to turn to the bottle for entertainment, but rather than making us feel better, it may be doing us harm.
Alcohol & LockDown
According to alcoholchange.org:
Some people are drinking more often. Around one in five drinkers (21%) told us that they have been drinking more frequently since the lockdown. This suggests that around 8.6 million UK adults are drinking more frequently under lockdown.
For the last three months, the hospitality sector has been shut! No pubs, no restaurants, no hotels or other leisure facilities have been open. Therefore, if we wanted to have a drink, we have had to in our homes.
For most of the lockdown, the weather has also been amazing; meaning we have been spending much more time in our garden, again perhaps with a couple of drinks? BUT, surely there is nothing wrong with this? Many of us are still working or remote working, home-schooling our children, decorating our homes, etc. Therefore a few drinks after a busy day juggling home, work and school life is not going to hurt anyone…
In general, we have all brilliantly adapted to the ‘new norm’ and way of living and working. However, has drinking more alcohol at home also become the ‘new norm?’ Are you drinking most evenings? Are you drinking more at a weekend or starting earlier in the day? Are you drinking more than you would usually? If you are, then it’s important to determine whether this is just a ‘bad habit’ or if you are using alcohol as a ‘coping mechanism’ for stress and worry!
Whilst the health dangers of excessive drinking are fairly well publicised, the truth is instead of reducing anxiety over the medium term, alcohol actually makes the anxiety worse. And, super relevant right now, in the midst of this crisis, we need to know that alcohol consumption lowers our immune systems’ ability to fight off infection too!
And there’s more….
Alcohol Awareness & Your Health
Did you know that alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions. It is linked to MANY ailments and illnesses – physcially and emotionally.
The recommended alcohol intake guidelines state that men and women should not drink more that 14 units of alcohol each week and we should all have several alcohol free days.
Statistics from Alcohol Change show that –
In England there are an estimated 586,780 dependent drinkers. Only 18% are receiving treatment.
24% of adults in England and Scotland regularly drink over the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk guidelines.
2018 in the UK there were 7,551 alcohol-specific deaths (around 11.9 per 100,000 people).
Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK.
While the price of alcohol has increased by 28% over the last 10 years, it remains 74% more affordable than in 1980’s
Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression!
England 2018/19, there were 1.26 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption
Why not use DRINK AWARE’s Unit and Calories Calculator to check your alcohol unit intake: CLICK HERE
Positive Mechanisms for Coping With Stress
We have established that alcohol and excessive drinking is a poor coping mechanism for stress. However, we are all prone to spells of stress, therefore what other, more positive ways can we deal with it? If you need a helping hand with “better” ways to cope with the crisis and changes in your life then think of this as an opporuntity and maybe try these…
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while you are at home. And, now that more places are re-opening and we are able to social distance meet with other households, choose somewhere different to enjoy social drinks, rather than at home!
It is common to feel worried, scared or anxious about things (especially during the coronavirus pandemic) but remember it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust. Choosing to share your concerns rather than drinking more, will help you feel relieved, more positive and calm.
EXERCISE & SPEND TIME OUTDOORS
We all know by now that exercise is great for both our physical and mental health. Studies also suggest that spending more time outdoors helps us to feel more positive and less stressed. Despite Gyms and Leisure Centres not reopening just yet, there are plenty of other things you could do, including going for a walk, a jog, a run or even deciding to visit an outdoor attraction.
KEEP YOUR MIND ACTIVE
Try to think about what other hobbies and pastimes you used to enjoy (even if they were years ago). Read more, write, play games, do crosswords, complete sudoku puzzles, finish jigsaws, or try drawing and painting. Whatever it is, find something that works for you. It will also keep your mind distracted from being stressed or deciding to have a drink.
The New Normal…
As things (slowly) start to feel like they are getting back to some sort of normal, it’s also important to remember that everyone’s situation is different. Whilst some people might be going back to work, other’s will still be furloughed or working from home. Some parents will also still have their children at home until September and vulnerable people are still shielding.
If however you can identify that you are drinking more than usual and more frequently, then it is vital you address it. Alcohol can turn into a serious addiction so it’s important you address your habits sooner rather than later.
This year, Alcohol Awareness Week takes place between 16-22 November 2020 and the theme is ‘Alcohol and Mental Health,’ so we will be back to talk and listen some more then. However, in the mean time, if your employer subscribes to our well@work Tonic and Me app, there is regular helpful and insightful information, plus a pathway for those who need expert advice and help.
Remember, stay safe, stay positive and take care of yourself!