Managing your alcohol intake during the coronavirus pandemic

If the uncertainty and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused your relationship with alcohol to feel out of balance, be assured there is help available and you’re not alone.

It’s natural in times of stress and uncertainty to look for coping methods that can help restore a sense of calm.

A glass of wine after a tough day might feel like a reward.

But the rebound effects after drinking can amplify feelings of anxiety and depression.

As the restrictions brought about by COVID-19 bring major disruption to our lives – and force us to spend more time at home – it’s easy to slip into a habit of drinking more than we planned.

If you’re drinking more than you were previously comfortable with during the COVID-19 pandemic and you’d like to cut back, it’s important to know that help is available.

You’re not alone

Hello Sunday Morning is a website and online community that supports people to reduce their drinking or cut out alcohol entirely.

In recent weeks, traffic to the site has increased significantly and registrations to the associated app have doubled as people grapple with the emotional and financial impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hello Sunday Morning founder, Chris Raine, said this was an anxiety-inducing time and it’s not surprising some people are finding it difficult to manage their alcohol intake.

"There’s the holiday phenomenon of this pandemic, where you take away some of your responsibilities or your routines and boundaries – and instead you fill your days with things that you think will make you feel good, and alcohol is one of those things", he said.

"Then there’s also dealing with the nitty gritty of family dynamics or relationships that you can’t escape from, or loneliness – all of these uncomfortable things leads to people turning to the bottle to escape from it."

Practical steps to curb your drinking

There are some practical steps you can take if you want to cut back on drinking.

Start with increasing your number of alcohol-free days each week and try to swap drinking for other activities like exercise, meditation or a hobby.

If having alcohol readily available is too much of a temptation, then consider not having it in the house or keeping it out of sight.

"Often we use alcohol to escape difficult experiences or feelings so try to be very mindful of when you’re drinking and why", Mr Raine said.

"Before you reach for that beer, think about what does a healthy relationship with alcohol look like – when, how much and for what reason?"

You might also consider checking out the Daybreak app , which links you with an online community, provides suggested habit-changing experiments and also connects you with health coaches and counsellors.

How alcohol affects your mood

It’s important to understand the way alcohol affects your mood.

It can interfere with your sleep, make tricky emotions harder to manage and reduce your ability to stay calm and grounded.

Hangover anxiety is a real phenomenon, and that unsettling morning-after feeling is likely to feel even more acute in times of high stress.

In a previous Beyond Blue article for our Am I Normal series , addiction medicine specialist Professor Jon Currie explained that hangovers can produce as many emotional symptoms as physical ones.

"After a big night of drinking, essentially your body is in withdrawal from alcohol and that brings that dreadful feeling of doom and anxiousness and restlessness and the sense that you can’t settle", he said.

For further explanation as to why this occurs, read the full article on Hangover Anxiety here .

For some people, alcohol can intensify feelings of depression, hopelessness and loneliness. You may find yourself having a few drinks to try and escape your problems but end up dwelling on them more.

It’s also important to understand that alcohol interferes with your brain’s ability to solve problems. For more information, check out the Drugs, alcohol and mental health page on the Beyond Blue website.

In these challenging times, cutting back alcohol, or cutting it out altogether, can play a major role in helping you look after your mental health.

But you don’t have to go it alone.

To learn more about Hello Sunday Morning and their Daybreak program you can head here .

Visit our forum thread on managing alcohol during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has put together a range of helpful resources and links around the use of alcohol and other drugs in relation to COVID-19.

And if you do feel you need more support to stop drinking, make a telehealth appointment with your GP.

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