There has been a significant increase in alcohol sales amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, but cutting down on your alcohol consumption is one of the best things you can do for your health.
The number of alcohol sales increased by 22% in the UK and a whopping 55% in the USA during March as the public prepared for social isolation and lockdown. It has been widely discussed how alcohol is often used to manage increased feelings of stress and anxiety during uncertain times such as these. However, the World Health Organisation recently announced that drinking alcohol is an unhelpful coping strategy, and that using substances is likely to make things worse.
Tips for cutting down your alcohol consumption during lockdown:
- Don’t buy it – if you don’t have it at home to drink, you can’t drink it
- Switch to low alcohol or alcohol-free alternatives
- Stay busy
- Replace your usual drinking time with another activity
- Focus on what your gaining, not what you might think you are losing
Why are people drinking more?
Recent research suggests alcohol consumption has increased as people use alcohol to soothe anxiety and nerves, which may alleviate symptoms in the short term, but is likely to exacerbate them in the longer term. Those using alcohol to deal with stress may find that anxious feelings worsen as times goes on, and they require more alcohol to relax again, which can result in a negative cycle of alcohol dependency.
Alongside the closures of many social gathering spots such as bars and restaurants where alcohol would be at the forefront, there has been a rise in the number of people using virtual socialisation platforms and apps such as Zoom or House Party as a replacement to catch up with friends, often with what has been termed ‘quarantinies’ in hand. Increased drinking when home alone – even when on video calls with friends or family – could lead to bad habits being formed.
There also appears to be a rising trend in glamourising those who drink at home alone across social media with increasing numbers of posts on the subject. While mostly harmless jokes and fun, studies have shown that exposure to alcohol related content is associated with increased alcohol cravings and consumption. With the average person spending two hours on social media daily, it is possible for these messages to influence a person’s drinking habits.
Why is alcohol an unhelpful coping strategy?
As well as alcohol having a negative impact on the health of a person’s body and mind, it can lead to a negative burden on national health care systems and contribute to the pressures faced in society. Harmful use of alcohol makes up for 5.1% of the global disease burden but is often overlooked due to how ingrained it has become in socialisation and societal norms. Cutting down on your alcohol consumption can help to improve your overall health and relieve some of the potential future pressures on healthcare systems.
Tips for dealing with triggers
Tips for cutting back on drinking during lockdown:
Don’t buy it
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And that is because it is. Just like if you are on a diet and trying to cut down on sugar, filling your home with sweet treats is likely to be too tempting to avoid for long. It is the same with alcohol – next time you’re in the supermarket, skip out the alcohol aisle – if you don’t buy it, you can’t drink it! It isn’t essential so instead focus on the items that are essential to keeping yourself healthy.
Switch it up
If avoiding alcohol or the ritual of having a drink completely is not an option you’re willing to take, then choose the low alcohol or alcohol-free versions of your favourites instead. There are many great alternatives on the market that you can order online or get at your local supermarket. This means you can still have a glass in your hand for those video chats with friends, but you are cutting down on the part that does you harm.
Distractions and a change of scene can do wonders for keeping your mind away from any cravings. Write a list of things you would like to get done around the house, or new hobbies you’d like to try and work your way through them.
Adult colouring books have become increasingly popular over the years due to their associations with reducing anxiety and stress and can serve as a fun activity to keep your mind away from drinking. After all, staying within the lines is much easier if you aren’t seeing double!
Create new healthy habits
Building new habits to replace negative ones is similar to the paths in a wood. The old habit is likely to be a wide open path, cleared by the many years of you walking down it, while the new habit you want to form is hidden, harder to find and might be overgrown. But over time, as you walk down this new path and neglect the old negative habit, these pathways switch over so your new healthy habit is a beautiful clear walkway, and the old path becomes overgrown and disused.
One way to break down your old habits to form new ones is to replace the time you’d usually associate with drinking with something else. For example, if you’d usually sit down to a glass of wine in front of the TV in the evening, use your daily allotted outdoor exercise time during this period so that you begin to associate this time with exercise, rather than drinking. By changing up your routine, you are less likely to spark any thoughts of alcohol associated with your usual routine.
Think about what you’re gaining
What many people forget when considering reducing their alcohol intake is what you are likely to GAIN from the experience. This is arguably one of the best times to start reducing your alcohol intake as the social, peer pressures to drink are almost completely eliminated. You are able put the time and energy into achieving your goals and reap the rewards that come along with it.
By cutting down on how much you drink, you are likely to limit or remove the number of hangovers you experience. Having less alcohol in your system means that your body can go into REM sleep so you wake up each day feeling more refreshed. Because you are waking up with more energy each day, you can start to channel this into your exercise, career or personal goals. Each goal that you achieve helps you to build in confidence and allows you to grow as a person until you feel more happy and whole. There really is no limit to what you can achieve when you stop putting roadblocks in your way.
Want to be a part of a supportive community?
We understand that taking steps to reduce your alcohol intake isn’t easy in a society that revolves around the topic, which is why we created the OYNB community. This is a place for OYNB Challenges to come and be supported and encouraged over every hurdle, celebrated for successes and lifted up when things are challenging. If you haven’t already done so, and you’d like to, come join us on an alcohol-free challenge and experience the powerhouse tribe.