Have we been drinking more?
The effects of Britons drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 lockdown could be felt for a generation, some experts have warned.
Alcohol sales rose by 67% just prior to the lockdown, as many prepared to drink at home. The question remained, however – were people stocking up because they feared shortages? Or were they actually drinking more?
The research suggests that around 8.6 million UK adults have drunk more frequently under lockdown. Worryingly, nearly one in five (18%) daily drinkers have further increased the amount of alcohol they have consumed since lockdown.
Why does it matter?
Habits are formed quickly and can be hard to break. Alcohol intake – and its management – is particularly important for well-being and mental health during this pandemic. And there are also risks beyond the individual. One in 14 (7%) survey respondents felt that alcohol had worsened their household tensions since lockdown began.
Unfortunately, whilst it can help us relax and give us a brief feeling of euphoria, the effects are short-lived and the long-term negative consequences of over-using alcohol can be harmful. If you rely on alcohol to manage your mental health issues, that reliance can itself become a problem. You may well find that your drinking gets in the way of other activities and puts a strain on your relationships and your work. While some will find that cutting down without support is possible, others will need assistance.
How does drinking affect those around us?
With many of us drinking more during the pandemic, for many different reasons, our relationships at home, with friends and at work can become even tougher. But by taking control of our drinking, we can create happier relationships, as well as improved health and wellbeing.
The relationship between alcohol and mental health is complex.
Alcohol and mental health
Alcohol is sometimes used by people to try and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, but excessive drinking is likely to make those symptoms worse. Managing your drinking and getting the right support are crucial to good mental health.
About 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
Alcohol has been described as the nation’s favourite coping mechanism’, and many of us do drink to try and help manage stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems.
This is sometimes called ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol. Unfortunately, although alcohol can help us feel relaxed initially and give us a brief feeling of euphoria, the effects are short-lived and the long-term negative consequences of drinking a lot over a long period of time can be quite harmful.
If you come to rely on alcohol to manage your mental health problems, that reliance can itself become a problem. You may well find that your drinking starts to get in the way of other activities and puts a strain on your relationships – both things that can undermine your mental wellbeing.
Signs you are drinking too much alcohol
It can be so difficult to admit to drinking too much. However, here are some key indicators that it is time to reduce your alcohol intake;
- It interrupts daily living
- You wake with a hangover
- It increases your anxiety
- You can’t keep up with your regular responsibilities
- People are becoming concerned, or relationships are strained
- Sleep is disturbed and disrupted
- You have an increased tolerance for alcohol (you can drink more than what would typically get you drunk)
- You have a drinking pattern or habit that is too difficult to stop.
Tips for cutting down
Become aware of units
It is recommended not drinking more than 14 units a week; that means about six pints of lager or a bottle and a half of wine.
Take your time
Enjoy each drink slowly, and remember that you don’t have to join in every time someone else decides to drink! It can help to only drink the drinks you really enjoy and skip the ones you’re drinking for the sake of it. And it’s worth bearing in mind that the drinks you pour at home are often larger than those served in pubs.
Record what you drink
Keeping a drinking diary for a few weeks will help you understand your drinking pattern, so you can work out what you’re happy with and what you’re not. Download the free Try Dry app to help you keep track.
What If You Need More Help?
My Reduce Alcohol hypnosis program will help. If your drinking has become a habit, it’s worth remembering that drinking is merely a mental “program” – you have “programmed” yourself to drink alcohol in just the same way that you have programmed yourself to ride a bicycle. And these mental programs can be re-set and re-written.
Hypnosis is an effective approach in dealing with the problems that excess alcohol can lead to – issues with relationships, weight and health. It will identify those areas and aspects of your life that may require tweaks and modification.
In particular, it will enable you to adapt, change and to look at alcohol intake in a completely new way. Hypnosis will help you realise that alcohol is not essential to relaxation, and is not necessary as a crutch or coping mechanism.
My Reduce Alcohol program will enable you to take back control, and will lead the way to a fitter, healthier you! And NOW – it can all be done from the comfort of your own home, wherever you are in the world. Online sessions are available.
And let the changes begin