With Americans stuck in their homes during this pandemic, more adults are turning to alcohol. In late March, alcohol sales increased 55 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the research firm Nielsen.
It’s not surprising. Many adults drink to decrease the anxiety and boredom from these stay-at-home orders. Plus, our daily routines have been disrupted, leading many to break their drinking routines as well.
But this isn’t the time to drink more. Excessive drinking weakens your immune system, suppressing your body’s ability to fight respiratory infections.
And while you might think that these extra drinks are something you’ll only do until this crisis ends, think twice. Past tragedies, like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the SARS outbreak, led to increased rates of excessive drinking among people living in affected areas years later. During this coronavirus lockdown, you might develop a pattern of heavier drinking that could lead to alcohol abuse down the road.
Here are some tips to cut down on alcohol consumption as we navigate these stressful and uncertain times.
It’s ok for most people to have a beer or glass of wine every now and then. We generally recommend limiting alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. But that refers to the amount you drink on any single day. It’s not meant to be an average of drinks consumed over several days – or weeks.
Set boundaries. Limit alcohol to one drink for two, maybe three nights, each week. Put it on the calendar and stick to it. And make rules about when you are going to drink. If you never drank before 5 PM, don’t start now.
Decrease how much you drink at one time. Adults underestimate how much they actually drink, both in how many drinks they have and how much they drink per serving.
If you use a large wine glass, you are drinking far more than the recommended amount of wine. Use smaller wine or liquor glasses to pour less alcohol.
Better yet, avoid it altogether. Pick a non-alcoholic drink, like sparkling water. And to avoid temptation, get it out of sight. Put your beer, wine or liquor in the garage so it’s less visible and accessible.
Finally, instead of drinking, focus on other ways to decrease stress. Go for a walk. Exercise. Have Skype or Zoom calls with friends – minus the alcohol.
If you feel like you’re slipping into bad habits, talk to your partner, or a friend. Likewise, if you have a partner, another family member or a friend who is drinking a lot, talk to them.
People are struggling right now, and it’s ok to seek ways to cope. But it’s important to not make alcohol your only coping mechanism.