The ongoing global pandemic has continued to impact our lives for the past year. As the UK lockdown came into effect, the national priority shifted to saving lives from Covid-19. Not being able to see friends and family, and disruption to accessing our support networks has been a struggle for most.
Those already on the cusp of relying too heavily on substances to self-medicate are more likely to have turned to alcohol as a means of managing their feelings. Covid-19 has taken its toll on our mental health. As we attempt to reshape our day to day lives in line with national lockdown protocols, we also develop coping mechanisms to deal with our lack of freedom.
With the current ‘stay at home’ government advice, people are feeling increasingly tired of not being able to go about their usual lifestyle. Increasing cases of Covid-19 and the rising national death toll has also understandably caused feelings of anxiety and fear. Many have turned to alcohol and other substances to deal with this emotional shift.
A move towards normality?
In recent weeks, the government has announced a roadmap to cautiously easing the lockdown restrictions. Whilst each stage of lifting lockdown will be based on data, we are on the way to returning to some normality. The furlough scheme has been extended to September, however, it is likely that as parts of the economy return, more of us will be returning to work. The rules are also relaxing surrounding social contact. This means that in the coming weeks, we will be able to see our friends and families face to face.
You may be concerned about how your drinking habits have changed over the course of the last year. If you have increased your alcohol consumption, it may be difficult for you to picture returning successfully to your regular routine. You may be concerned about returning to work, or about meeting up with loved ones for the first time in almost a year.
The UK already had some of the highest levels of alcohol-linked harm in Europe prior to the pandemic. Taking this into consideration, the further rise in alcohol consumption is a real cause for concern. Data shows that many adults are drinking more alcohol than usual since the rise of Covid-19. Prior to the pandemic, it was recommended that both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, interspersed with at least two to three alcohol-free days. Those who were already drinking more than this are at risk of being harmed by their alcohol consumption. This is particularly a concern as we are expected to begin a return to normalcy.
Drinking habits have changed, for good and for bad
With the closures of pubs, bars and restaurants, the likelihood is that we are now consuming much of our alcohol intake within our own homes. Cheap supermarket prices and easily accessible alcohol can be a catalyst for destructive drinking habits to take hold. Statistics for alcohol sales from Nielsen prove that not only have alcohol sales risen globally by 291%, but a 31.7% rise in spirit sales shows we are drinking stronger types of alcohol too.
The closure of these establishments can also have a positive impact on social drinkers, who have no desire to consume alcohol at home. The charities Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK have published data that suggests the population is changing their drinking habits. The poll indicates that an equal number of people have increased their drinking, with the same number reducing their intake.
Has the pandemic increased your alcohol consumption?
Periods of self-isolation and minimised social contact can be tough for many people. Turning to alcohol to cope with feelings of loneliness and boredom can sometimes feel like a quick fix and a chance to escape our daily reality. It is simple to fall into consuming alcohol as a response to our day-to-day struggles. Rather than reducing anxiety, alcohol only provides temporary relief and has been proven to contribute to these feelings in the long run. Whilst alcohol can be an easy option to induce sleep, it does in fact decrease your sleep quality, leaving you much more likely to feel groggy when you wake up.
If this sounds familiar to you, you could be wondering if you are relying too heavily on alcohol or other substances as a means of coping.
Identifying when you are drinking too much is the first step towards a healthier you. Knowing when you are drinking to harmful levels and need to seek professional treatment is a key turning point. A harmful level of drinking would be over 14 units per week.
Is your drinking negatively impacting your life?
If you have experienced any of the below situations, it is likely that your drinking is becoming out of hand:
– You have unsuccessfully tried to reduce your alcohol consumption
– You have increased how much you drink due to developing an alcohol tolerance
– You experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink, such as excessive sweating, restlessness, anxiety or fatigue
– You consume alcohol to reduce the above withdrawal symptoms
– You rely on alcohol to induce sleep or to blackout
– You are not honest and open about your alcohol consumption with close friends or family members
– Your alcohol consumption causes a negative change in your behaviour, such as becoming violent or depressed
– Your drinking has had a negative impact on your health, relationship, finances or career, yet you continue to consume alcohol at the same rate
Do I need to seek professional help?
The fact you are asking yourself this question is a great sign that you want to make a positive change to your health and mentality towards alcohol consumption. The first step is identifying the change you would like to make.
There are options out there if you feel that your physical or mental health is being detrimentally impacted by your alcohol consumption. Treatment options and support networks can assist you to reduce your alcohol intake, or even stop consuming alcohol entirely. If you relate to any of these situations, it is worth speaking to a professional to see what help they can provide you with.
How can a professional help me? Surely I am the only one who can stop my drinking?
If your alcohol consumption is at a level that is worrying you, it is unlikely that your willpower alone is going to be enough to deal with the problem. Having a professional by your side will ensure you have the support around you to progress and prevent a relapse.
As we near the end of the UK lockdown, there has never been a better time to take stock of your current alcohol consumption and prepare for a healthier return to normal life.
How can Serenity help you?
Serenity is a specialised addiction treatment provider, with the experience to produce successful detox and rehabilitation treatment programmes. Our team have continued to work throughout the pandemic, creating a supportive and caring environment which is essential for successful detoxing and rehabilitation.
If you are concerned about returning to normal life post lockdown, feel confident that contacting Serenity will be your starting point to a healthier you.