Minding our Mental Health During the COVID19 Pandemic
Remote working, physical distancing and self-isolation due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic are changing the way we live our lives from day to day. As a nation, we are adapting well but now more than ever, we must look after our mental health and be especially mindful of how much alcohol - and why - we are drinking.
It’s normal to experience stress or anxiety about our ongoing public health emergency and this can have an impact on how we are feeling, thinking and behaving. Half of Irish adults report drinking alcohol as a way to cope with problems, stress, and anxiety and younger adults are even more likely to use alcohol in this way. Alcohol is an unhelpful coping strategy; it will not help to make you feel better and can worsen problems.
If you, like so many others who have shared with us on Instagram and Facebook, are drinking more alcohol than usual and more often, to manage boredom, anxiety or stress, we have some tips and advice to help. While we are all rightly preoccupied with protecting our families and homes from Covid-19, let’s also make sure that we are looking after our physical health and wellbeing long after this is behind us. We’re all in this together.
- Limit or cut out alcohol completely: If you catch yourself reaching for a glass of wine of bottle of beer to reduce stress or fill free time at home, make a change. Have plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives in the house, and put them within easy reach. Store alcohol out of sight, or remove it from your shopping list for now. Create a list of activities to do instead: listen to a podcast, read a book or start a DIY project you’ve been putting off. Read tips for mindful drinking at home
- Check in with family and friends: Even if we can't see them in person right now, we can stay connected through phone calls, video chats, email, text or WhatsApp. Why not reconnect with an old friend you haven't spoken to in a while? Or you could schedule a movie night with your family and watch it while you are all on a video call. Self-isolation can be a boring or frustrating experience, which can increase feelings of stress or anxiety. Keeping in touch can have a positive impact on our mood and ability to deal with problems.
- Keep an active routine: The Spring sunshine and bright evenings are making it easier to keep motivated to get out and about. Starting a new daily routine of walking, cycling or running in your local area can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. In Ireland, we are lucky to have stunning landscapes and green spaces on our doorstep and although we must all practice physical distancing when we are outside, we still need fresh air and exercise. If you can't get out every day, join an online yoga or workout session.
- Spend less time watching the news: With Covid-19 updates reported from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, this constantly evolving situation can feel overwhelming. Try to avoid listening to the radio or using your phone to find out the latest developments throughout the day. Instead, check in once a day to keep informed of the latest Government updates.
- Take up a new hobby: Take the extra time you have at home to try out a new healthy recipe. Turning this into a family activity will keep everyone busy and little minds active while you share your tips and tricks for cooking and baking. A balanced nutritious diet is just as important for mental health as it is for physical health. Have you always wanted to learn a musical instrument? YouTube has plenty of free tutorials to keep you busy. How is your garden looking? Spring is the ideal time to plant new bulbs and seeds and gardening can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.
- Sleep and rest well: Aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep every night, even longer for children. Alcohol, even just a few drinks, can affect how well you sleep which can lead to a bad night’s rest. Any anxiety you are experiencing may already be affecting your sleep, and alcohol will impact this further. Read about alcohol and sleep
- Remember you're not alone: We're in this together. If you need to talk to someone about how you are feeling, you can call the freephone YourMentalHealth Information Line on 1800 111 888 (any time, day or night).
Alcohol and mental health
The impact of alcohol on your mental health is more significant than you might think. Alcohol can contribute to the development of mental health problems including depression and anxiety, as well as making existing problems worse.
Alcohol is a depressant, which disrupts how the brain functions and affect our thoughts, feelings and actions. Alcohol affects the levels chemicals or neurotransmitters in our brain, for example, serotonin, which regulates happiness. This change to the brain processes causes the relaxed feeling you may get after your first drink but this change is also responsible for feelings of anxiety or depression you may experience the next day. Regularly drinking above the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines interferes with these chemicals in our brains that are needed for strong, balanced mental health.
FOLLOW HSE GUIDANCE TO SLOW THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
- Wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough and sneeze. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose and mouth.
- Maintain physical distancing. Keep at least 2metres (6.5ft) between you and other people.
- If you feel unwell, stay at home and follow HSE advice.