Crisis may tempt you to get to drinking, but there are healthier ways to keep your drinking in check and manage stress.
A little alcohol for stress reduction in these difficult times is not surprising. But there are healthier ways of coping in this crisis situation. People often tend to drink more when they are stressed. Although alcohol does help initially, however after drinking you may feel even more anxious. Alcohol is known to block anxiety causing chemicals in the brain, and our brain likes to maintain balance. Hence after drinking, it reduces the amount of anxiety causing chemicals to get back into pre-drinking balance, increasing anxiety levels.
People may also be drinking more alcohol to relieve the boredom that may come with staying at home without much to do.
Here are the side-effects of too much alcohol consumption
Ability to fight disease – Alcohol impacts the immune system, increasing the risk of illness and infections, making us more susceptible to virus infection. So, to prevent risk of contracting infection one should limit alcohol intake to give your immune system the best chance of fighting it off.
Can cause depression and anxiety – Alcohol affects your mood, making you prone to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Alcohol has a depressant effect on your central nervous system but when you stop drinking, the level of alcohol in your blood returns to zero and your nervous system becomes overactive. This leaves you feeling agitated.
Disturbed sleep – Alcohol disrupts sleep. You may fall asleep easily, however, as your body processes alcohol the sedating effect wears off. You might wake up many times to make trips to the bathroom and find it hard to fall back asleep. And as you wake up the next morning you may feel increasingly anxious and turn to drinking again.
Affects thoughts and feelings – After one or two drinks it becomes hard to tell if you are relaxed enough and this leads to thinking “another won’t hurt”, this increases alcohol intake. Alcohol reduces our capacity to monitor and regulate our thoughts and feelings. The thought of “another won’t hurt” increases alcohol consumption over time, resulting in consumption of more alcohol to reach the same point of relaxation. Developing this kind of tolerance to alcohol can lead to dependence.
Accidents and domestic violence – People have more accidents when they are drinking and drinking can increase the risk of domestic and family violence. Alcohol related problems also take up a lot of health resources, including ambulances and emergency departments. In times of crisis taking up a lot of health resources is best avoided.
Managing your alcohol consumption
– Limit stocking up on alcohol – The more you have in the house, the more likely you are to drink. Easy access to alcohol will risk other people in the house to turn to drinking as well.
– Monitor your intake – If you are on board with the new virtual happy hour trend – drinking with your friends virtually. Be mindful about how much you are drinking, it is best not to go all out.
– Don’t let alcohol do the thinking – When you are relaxed after a few drinks, it’s easy to think “another won’t hurt”, take that as a sign to call it off. Any changes to your drinking habits now will help moderate alcohol consumption ahead.
How to manage stress without alcohol?
1. You are not alone – Accept the situation, crisis has fallen upon everybody around you, you are not alone. If you are feeling anxious and stressed, take few deep breaths and find something to do at home – it could be watching funny videos, your favourite movie, play some music and dance to it. The idea is to soothe yourself.
2. This is temporary – Crisis will eventually pass but what you do now will stay. Catch up with your friends online, practices some new yoga techniques, or cook your favourite dish, write a poem; distract yourself with something enjoyable.
3. Sweat some – You do not have to do your routine exercise. Do what makes you feel good, you can go for a walk in your compound, get some fresh air. Get as much physical activity as you can. Exercise releases brain chemicals that will make you feel good. Also, when you sweat you tend to sleep well.
4. Good diet – Nutrition is important to maintain over all wellbeing. Make sure you are eating well. A handful of nuts, some fruits, carbs, enough protein and good fats. Eating well is important to maintain good mental health.
5. Try something new – Trying something new out of your comfort zone may feel tedious. But if you get pass the first few steps you will begin to enjoy. Build in pleasant activities to your day. Think about some new things you might enjoy and make sure you do one of those things every day.
6. Tidy up your home – This is a good opportunity to make your home clutter free. Decluttering is a therapeutic process; it helps you let go of things creating more breathing space. Tidy living creates a cheerful disposition.
7. Go for a leisure walk – Wear your mask and step out. Going for a leisure walk will help you calm down. It will improve your mood and boost your productivity.
Change doesn’t have to be negative. Trying something new activates the dopamine system – our pleasure centre, so it’s a great time to try something new.