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Managing Alcohol Consumption During Lockdown

Woman drinking wine at home

During lockdown, many of us have found we’re consuming more alcohol. Maybe it’s a couple of glasses of wine on a ‘school night’, or a beer or two with lunch. For some, this is down to boredom; we’re not able to visit pubs and restaurants the way we used to, so we try to create that same buzz at home. For others, it’s a coping mechanism in the face of an incredibly stressful situation. Either way, remember that alcohol can affect our mental health in a whole host of ways, often making us feel more anxious than we did before.

 The Link Between Alcohol and Mental Health

“One of the reasons we drink is the effect alcohol has on our mind,” says Marie Quinn, Workplace and Wellness Manager at Drinkaware. “Often, we’re drinking to cheer ourselves up, celebrate or forget about something.” A recent Drinkaware study showed that 50% of us were using alcohol as a coping mechanism. Factor in the coronavirus situation, and that figure is likely much higher right now. “It’s worrying,” Marie notes, “because it’s not a very healthy way of dealing with a negative emotion. Chat to a family member, friend or healthcare professional if you feel your anxiety is particularly bad during lockdown. 

Man pouring bottle of beer into a glass

Ever Had ‘Hangxiety’?  

If you’ve ever experienced ‘The Fear’ (also known as ‘hangxiety’), you’ve had first-hand experience of alcohol’s impact on mental health. “Drinking can lead to depletion of some of the neurotransmitters necessary to help us control anxiety”, says Marie. In other words, it can actually make things worse. When it comes to alcohol and depression, the relationship is also bi-directional. “A person may have signs or symptoms of depression, and drink to make themselves feel better,” says Marie. “But alcohol consumption in excess can also lead to depression.” If you’re finding the work / family juggle stressful, the last thing you need is to wake up groggy and anxious, having gone overboard with alcohol the night before.

Binge Drinking and Your Mental Health 

Are you aware of the HSE low-risk guidelines? For men, it’s up to 17 standard drinks spread out over one week, with at least two alcohol-free days. For women, it’s up to 11, with at least two alcohol-free days. The definition of binge drinking on the other hand, is six standard drinks at any one time. “The binging is more likely to cause depression than the frequency,” Marie explains. Since weekdays and weekends have really blurred together during lockdown, it’s important to set yourself boundaries. Instead of cracking open a bottle on a Tuesday, why not set yourself the challenge of cooking a delicious dinner? Or take the time to bake something nice with the kids. Having alternative treats on offer to take your mind off what’s stressing you will help you resist the urge to turn to booze as a crutch. Here are some more tips if want to try cutting back:

1 Try Alcohol-Free Alternatives

There are plenty of alcohol-free beers out now, and they taste a lot better than they used to!

2 Measure 

Always measure out wine and spirits. It’s easy to be too generous when free pouring.

3 Alternate with Water

Have water with your meal as well as wine. This will stop you from drinking too fast, and keep you hydrated.

4 Get Planning

As lockdown measures continue to ease, start filling your diary with things to do. These could be as simple as a cup of tea with a friend, but it’ll help you start looking forward to the future.

For more tips and resources, check out drinkaware.ie.