With COVID-19 disrupting our daily routines and bringing significant change to our lives, it might be tempting to reach for a glass of wine or a beer to cope with feelings of anxiety, stress, social isolation or even boredom. In Australia, we’re buying and consuming more alcohol now than we were before the pandemic began1 but it’s more important than ever to be mindful of our intake.
We’re facing challenging times and many of us might be struggling to cope. Having a drink might seem like a good way to cope with how we might be feeling. However, the physical and mental effects of increased alcohol consumption could actually make us feel worse, rather than better.
Drinking more can impact our immune system, reduce our quality of sleep and affect our ability to be able to fight off any infections and viruses. It can also have a negative effect on our mental health, causing increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and helplessness. It can even affect our ability to stay calm and grounded; something which is key during these challenging times.
So how can we moderate our alcohol intake during lockdown?
Evaluate your relationship with drinking: It might not be something you’ve given much thought to before, but now is a great time to really think about how much you’re drinking, why you’re drinking and how often is a great place to start when it comes to managing your relationship with alcohol.
Know your limits: Familiarising yourself with the recommended drinking limits is a good way to compare what you should be drinking to what you’re actually drinking. Current guidelines suggest that you drink no more than four standard drinks in a day and a maximum of ten standard drinks per week2. You should also aim for a minimum of two alcohol free days per week. If you find that you’re drinking more than than this, try swapping every second drink for a non-alcoholic option, try to slow the pace of your drinking, or only consume alcohol with dinner.
Empty your cupboards: Keeping large quantities of alcohol in the house can mean that you end up drinking more, just because it’s there. Try buying less alcohol and also stock up on non-alcoholic alternatives such as kombucha, tea and sparkling water.
Talk it out: It’s easy to reach for a drink as a way of coping with stress, loneliness or anxiety, especially during this time when you might be feeling more isolated than usual. Reaching out to a loved one in person or over the phone is a really good way to manage your mental health. Why not organise to do an online workout or a virtual games or movie night with friends as a substitute for drinking. It’ll boost your mood much more!
People are currently going through unprecedented levels of stress and traumatic times can lead to an increase in alcohol consumption that can be managed by taking the steps outlined above. However, if you suspect that you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol it’s important to reach out and get help.
Signs that you or a loved one might have a problem with alcohol could include:
- Drinking to relax or feel normal
- Drinking alone
- Lying or getting into arguments with friends and family about alcohol use
- Losing interest in activities that usually bring joy
- Missing commitments or deadlines because of alcohol
- Changes to sleeping or eating habits
- Caring less about appearance or hygiene
- If you spot any of those signs in a loved one or notice it within yourself, it’s important to make sure you get help and support.
Reach out for support
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from a mental health professional if you’re feeling distressed, anxious, down or lonely. This is a challenging time and they’re there to help, like our Mental Health Phone Support if you’re a member – see below. For more about how to stay mentally well, check out this resource from Beyond Blue.
24/7 Medibank Mental Health Phone Support If you’re a Medibank member with hospital cover* you can call 1800 644 325 to speak to a mental health professional for confidential support, advice or information. We are increasing the number of health experts to keep up with higher demand, but please be patient if wait times are a little longer than expected.
*OSHC members should call the Student Health & Support Line on 1800 887 283.
You can also reach out to your doctor who can advise you on how to manage your dependence on alcohol. Remember, in an emergency you should always call 000.