Drowning your sorrows in alcohol may seem like the perfect survival tactic, but is drinking through the coronavirus pandemic really the best way to deal with the crisis?
But first, why are Aussies stockpiling alcohol?
When the Australian federal government announced on 22 March it would be closing down all non-essential services including bars, pubs and clubs, bottle shops experienced a roaring number of sales as people stacked their trolleys high with booze. It gave us all terrible flashbacks to the toilet paper frenzy.
New restrictions announced across Australian states and territories have changed daily routines for millions around the country. While some measures are clear, a number of us still aren't sure exactly what we can and can't do in the times of coronavirus.
Now, several Australian liquor stores have joined forces to temporarily restrict how much alcohol can be purchased per transaction – two slabs of beer or cider and 12 bottles of wine. Although this has a lot to do with having more free time on hand, there’s also a deeper issue at play.
Are you experiencing home isolation blues?
Caterina Giorgi, CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education explains in a press release emailed to Lifehacker Australia why people are turning more than ever to alcohol.
"COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. We are understandably anxious and scared at the possibility of getting sick, we are worried because of our changed financial circumstances, and we are socially isolated which means we’re away from our normal routines," Giorgi said.
As reported by the Australian government in its Productivity Commission Draft Report, one in five Australians experience mental health problems every year. And this is prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before things spiral fully out of control, it’s important to look after your well-being and avoid being part of the statistic. Here’s how you can kick the habit and remove the ‘I need a drink’ auto-reply from your head.
Set yourself a drinking goal
As with most things in life, it’s good to have a plan in place to limit your consumption of alcohol. An easy strategy is to count how many drinks you have each day or week and then cut back. We know working from home has its perks but do you really need to go for a second or even third glass of wine post dinner on a weekday?
"If you do consume alcohol, it is important that you limit it to four standard drinks in one sitting or ten standard drinks across the week," Giorgi said.
For further information, read through the national guidelines for alcohol consumption.
Feeling anxious? Workout instead
According to Harvard Health, working out is a great stress reliever. It helps to reduce the stress hormones in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol and instead increases the production of endorphins that can help elevate your mood. Exercising may not be your cup of tea but start small until it becomes a part of your routine. Try yoga, aerobics or a fun dance video from YouTube and see what gets you to start moving and stop worrying.
If you're just now getting back into a workout routine after a few weeks off for the holidays, or after injuries or laziness kept you grounded for a long time, don't feel guilty, and don't worry. You will get that strength and fitness back. Compared to somebody who's never trained, your experience gives you a huge advantage that will make it easier to get back to form.
Make alcohol-free day a thing
We know how tempting it is to have a cold beer or a gin and tonic after a full day of work, especially when you're stuck at home for all of 24 hours due to coronavirus containment measures. But find an alternative for your downtime and maybe even rediscover your passions. Perhaps you haven’t used your PS4 or Nintendo in a while? Remember: alcohol-free months are all the rage and there are people who do Dry January and Sober October with great success.
Trick your mind with non-alcoholic drinks
We've heard people do this with coffee - tricking your brain into believing a decaffienated cuppa is going to help you focus. Oftentimes, it's the smell and taste that many people are after, and it can be a similar case with booze. Try having beer with 0% alcohol - you're still keeping up with your ritual of winding down but with a major tweak.
Keep a journal and write down your trigger points
It's important to know when the stress attacks are hitting you the hardest and write down what you believe is causing them. You can use your understanding of the trigger points to tackle the issue instead of drinking away the pain. Maybe you and your partner are arguing too much under self-isolation and a date night can help reignite the romance? Do something you normally wouldn't do like bake different types of bread or work on a complex jigsaw puzzle together.
Fun DIY projects to keep you busy
Does your home need a makeover? Or a personalised touch? Take on different DIY projects that will help lift your spirits. If you’re an art enthusiast, it might be time to take out the paints and canvas from the back of the closet and have a couple of pieces of great art up on your walls. Maybe you have stacks of novels looking for a lovely home on a bookshelf. Get the tool kit out and build a new piece of furniture for your lounge.
Stuck at home? You still need a routine
Being at home every day doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine. Get out of bed and get ready in the morning; have a to-do list; plan your evenings with different activities such as working out; listening to audiobooks; or finishing up a writing project you’ve had sitting around for ages. Disrupting monotony while social distancing can make a world of difference.
Make a daily call to someone you are comfortable talking with. “Reach out and speak with friends and family about your concerns and worries, and seek external help from health professionals,” Giorgi said.
I’ve been using daily routines with my smart speaker ever since Amazon rolled them out for its Echo devices. And I don’t trigger chained actions by yelling out some random phrase. Rather, I have my routines fire off at different times during the day — really, just wake-up time and bed time — so I can get a quick snapshot of important information, like the weather and upcoming calendar events.