How to not overdo the drinking during the Coronavirus and stay as healthy as possible

In these times of uncertainty, disruption and anxiety, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Many people are worried about their job, their family and finances. Many of us are now also having to work from home, or self-isolate, or look after children at home or a combination of all three. Key workers are working long hours while many healthcare workers are dealing with very sad and stressful situations.

Drinking levels may well increase due to enforced isolation, particularly as people are anxious about careers, finances and even finding the right food. It is stressful to be forced to be at home and the dynamics may well change with those you live with. Others may be living alone, and unable to connect with others in the same way. Healthcare workers and other key workers may be coming home from long and stressful shifts. The temptation to have a drink to destress and unwind may feel natural, but in times of greater stress than usual, it's easy to drink more than you realise.

This is not a good time to overdo the drinking so here are some helpful tips:

Tips to drink safely

  • Try not to drink during the day - wait until “after work” or the evening
  • Try to drink with food - have one or two drinks with your meal, so the food absorbs the alcohol
  • Stick to just 1 or 2 standard drinks per day and try and have at least 3 days off - plan ahead which days will be your days off 
  • Don't save your drinks for a binge drinking session at the weekend - binge drinking is bad for the heart
  • If you're chatting with friends online in the evenings, try alcohol alternatives some nights

Concerned about your own or someone else's drinking

If you're concerned about your own or someone else's drinking, use the NHS Alcohol Service Finder to find a local counselling service. You can also take the Drink Checker test to see how much you're drinking. There are also plenty of alcohol-free drinks that really do taste good.

Keeping our immune system working, and anxiety levels low

We also need to watch how much we are drinking during this time to ensure our immune system is working as effectively as possible, just in case we contract the coronavirus. We know that excessive alcohol can damage your immune system. Here are some other ways to keep your immune system strong, so that if you do catch the virus, your immune system will be at its most efficient to fight it.

1. Sleep

Good sleep is one of the most important ways to make sure your immune system is at its best. Lack of sleep will reduce immunity. This might mean making sure you keep some sense of daily routine even if you're now working from home, you have children at home and nothing seems to be very routine - building good habits in this new reality will serve your immune system well. Try to keep to a similar bedtime as usual and get your 7-8 hrs.

2. Nutrition

Eat healthily, as much as you can - fresh fruit and vegetables which are filled with flavonoids, which are known to reduce inflammation. Get enough protein and of course, drink lots of water. A vitamin D supplement is also recommended to people in the Northern hemisphere at this time of year. We know that Vitamin D deficiency Is associated with lowered immunity.

3. Reduce psychological stress

Psychological stress can reduce immunity. This is going to be a challenge in these times, but to counter this, there are lots of free online resources such as yoga classes and meditation apps - now Is a good time to try them if you haven't already done so. Try not to check the news too often, and instead read a book or tidy that cupboard you've been meaning to tackle. Keep socialising and sharing online with your friends and family - we know that staying connected with other people is good for our mental health.

4. Exercise

Go for walks, go running or cycling and get lots of fresh air. When you're at home make sure to open the windows and ensure good ventilation. There are plenty of home workouts online too - try the 7-minute workout or Joe Wicks' free PE for the nation at 9am each day for a start. There will likely be many more popping up.

5. Optimise your health generally

Be as healthy as you can - if you smoke, try and stop, if you're overweight, try and lose weight (cut down on refined carbohydrates, eat good food, fruit and veg not junk food), and if you know you're drinking above NHS guidelines, try to cut back. Try alcohol free alternatives or simple tonic water in a nice glass with ice and lemon. The immune system will work better in a healthy human.

6. Manage long term conditions

If you have an underlying medical condition, make sure you have all your medications in stock at home and you're taking them as you are supposed to.

Working from home?

Many of us are now working from home, and indeed not leaving the house very often at all except to buy food or to exercise. This comes with extra temptation to pour a drink. Its stressful working from home and perhaps also having children to keep busy. Try to stick to NHS guidelines nonetheless - your immunity and your mental health will both benefit.

Take the Drink Checker test to check how much you're drinking and what this means for your health.

We will get through this - by staying healthy and staying well.

© Alcohol Health Network 2020