When daily life is uprooted and long-term plans are in disarray, it’s natural to feel stressed and anxious. That’s why it’s important to develop new routines and stay healthy.
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold, the stress is piling up.
Social disconnection, financial strain, less paid work, more care giving duties and a bazillion ongoing uncertainties have created new challenges in everyday life.
It’s quite natural to feel anxious, lonely or bored in this new environment. So, if you’ve been leaning on coping strategies, like drinking a little too much, don’t be too hard on yourself. There are healthier options to consider looking ahead.
To manage your alcohol intake, one of the simplest things you can do is count your drinks, remembering 10 standard drinks per week is the recommended maximum. Also, be mindful of changed drinking habits – like drinking earlier in the day or drinking to risky levels.
Here are some ways to manage stress without alcohol.
Set up a new routine
Structuring your day around a routine can help to create a sense of calm and normalcy amid COVID-19 chaos and keep your attention focused on set tasks.
It’s time to break out that deluxe aftershave or pack of gift soaps Grandma gave you for Christmas. A hot frothy shower in the morning, then into fresh clothes that you might have been saving for your next big day out.
Keep mealtimes regular but increase their variety – maybe start with a breakfast that you wouldn’t normally have. Make time for self-care such as mindfulness or yoga. Think about some new things you might enjoy and make sure you do one of those things every day.
If you are having trouble sleeping, the best thing you can do is lay off alcohol. It actually makes that good eight hours even harder to find. And make sure you stash away those shiny electronic devices we tend to gaze into late at night. Setting up a healthy sleep routine is central to a positive day ahead.
Maintain a good diet
Healthier food leads to healthier thinking – good nutrition is important to maintain good mental health. Tempting as it might be, you know a diet of beer, bacon-burgers and biscuits is not going to help your mood. It is amazing how many serves of fruit and veg you can slip into a smoothie or bowl of home-made soup. All the celebrity chefs have great recipes, so go in search for easy gourmet inspiration.
Keep yourself busy
When you have time to yourself, spend it doing the things you enjoy – watching movies, cooking, reading, tinkering in the tool shed or playing online games. You might also like to set aside a whole day just to do those things that are always getting pushed into the tomorrow basket. It might be sorting out that small mountain of paperwork or decluttering a room in your home.
Connect with others
Social support helps us to manage stress better. Connecting with our families, friends and colleagues can help us maintain good mental health, especially through tough times. Phone someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You will be surprised how happy they are to hear from you. Compare notes, have a chat, organise an activity for the future – like a fishing trip with a mate or a picnic in the park.
Get outside as much as possible
If you enjoy exercise, spend time each day in the great outdoors (even if it is just an hour). Exercise releases brain chemicals that make you feel good. Even if you can’t get into your normal exercise routine, go for a walk with a friend or walk to your local shops instead of driving. Or find an activity to do in your backyard – pretty up the garden with some fresh herbs and flowers. Choose a vegetable you like to eat – maybe potatoes or tomatoes – and have a go at growing your own. Any form of outside activity and sun can help with your sleep and mood.
Support from health professionals
Having extra support is always a good idea, so think about talking to your GP if you want to cut back or stop drinking alcohol. They can help you to make a plan and manage any withdrawal symptoms you may have.
If you catch yourself worrying, try to remind yourself this is a temporary situation. And remember, any changes to your drinking habits now can become a pattern in the future. It’s much better to act sooner rather than later, even starting with small steps.
For more information on how you can reduce stress, visit the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.