Alcohol Consumption During Lockdown
As a result of the Covid-19 global lockdown and the stress and anxiety it causes, let alone the restrictions placed upon you, it is no surprise we have been looking for coping mechanisms. When you also factor in the changes to our social lives, people are drinking differently than they ever have before.
Research by alcoholchange.org.uk have highlighted that in some instances this has led to positive behavioural change – more than one in three of the drinkers they surveyed told them that they had either stopped drinking or reduced how often they drink. Six percent had stopped drinking completely. However this is only part of the story, of the same study they found that one in five drinkers (21%) have been drinking more frequently since the lockdown. They add that this equates to approximately 8.6 million UK adults drinking more presently.
Why does it matter?
You may think a temporary increase in alcohol consumption to help overcome boredom really isn’t a big deal, however habits are quickly formed but simultaneously very hard to break. The UK Chief Medical Officer (CMO) recommends consuming a maximum of 14 units per week (men and women). Any more than this can increase your risk of a number of health concerns including seven different types of cancer (liver, oral cavity, pharyngeal, laryngeal, oesophageal, colorectal, liver and breast), diabetes, liver disease, brain impairment, mental health problems and obesity. To put this into context 14 units equates to; • 6 pints of 4% beer • 6 175ml glasses of 13% wine • 14 25ml glasses of 40% spirits So even if you are no finding yourself having a daily pint of beer or glass of wine you are creeping above the recommending levels.
Signs your drinking might be becoming a problem
1) Not keeping up with your responsibilities
Certain things are bound to change in lockdown and can be forgiven i.e. you might spend the day in your pyjamas. When you are not able to perform essential responsibilities though such as completing your work or making the kids breakfast because of a hangover alcohol is starting to interrupt your daily functioning.
2) Drinking everyday
As highlighted above if you are drinking every day the chances are you are drinking in excess of recommended levels, it is also though starting to move into dependency zones. How often have we heard the expression I just need a drink in the evening to relax/unwind.
3) Building tolerance
If you are finding that the amount of alcohol you are drinking is no longer having the same effect as it did previously or you have to drink more to achieve the same effect, it is a sign you have increase tolerance to alcohol which in turn is an early sign of dependence.
4) Drinking alone You could argue that lockdown changes the regular rules, especially if you live alone, and drinking alone doesn’t necessarily mean a person is drinking too much. But drinking more alone than in the company of others (in the current climate such as a video call) can indicate a problem. 5) Drinking more than intended It has probably happened to all of us at some point; the intention is a drink or two but once you have started it turns into quite a few more. If this happening on a regular basis it is likely to be the start of a problem. Alcohol problems arise from drinking too much, too fast.
How to cut down
Cutting down on alcohol has lots of benefits – mentally, physically, socially and financially. There are also some easy alternatives which can help support you achieve this; 1) Reduced alcohol dinner party (this can still be applicable in lockdown when you are eating dinner with other members of your house)
• Keep the water glasses topped up • Don’t continually top up wine glasses. • Use small wine glasses. • Make spritzers
2) Alcohol free days 3) Dinner only drinking 4) Low alcohol drinks & Mocktails.
How to stay motivated
Although we may be aware that we are possibly drinking too much, that alone does not resolve the situation. Once you have made the proactive decision to actively reduce your alcohol consumption it is important to have some motivation tools to ensure you don’t lose focus. • Set specific goals – cutting back is not specific. An example might be if you currently drink two glasses of wine per evening you are now going to limit that to one. • Focus on what motivates you. This could be anything from being within correct guidelines to feeling more energised. • Make other people aware of your ambitions – you are more likely to maintain it as a result. • Be aware of your drinking triggers and set a plan for them i.e. if stress is a trigger what else supports your stress management. This is personal to you but could be anything from exercise to completing a sudoku puzzle. • Focus on the positives of how you feel when you are drinking less and celebrate this.