We can all agree that this past year was tough. As stay-at-home orders were issued and people were coping with remote learning and Zoom meetings, recycling bins overflowed with beer, wine and liquor bottles.
In September 2020, a study published in JAMA Network Open, noted that more people were turning to alcohol during the pandemic to cope with the uncertainty and stress. The study’s researchers found that alcohol consumption among adults increased by 14 percent with a 41 percent increase attributed to women. Tryon Medical Partners’ physicians (a majority of them women) have noted the special difficulties the pandemic has presented for their female patients in particular.
Before COVID-19, coping with stress looked different. People either went to the movies, the gym or had drinks with friends to relax. The pandemic brought social distancing and other safety measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus which has changed the way we practice stress relief and self-care.
Tryon Medical Partners knows it’s important to relieve stress. During the pandemic, providers have heard from increasingly more patients who are concerned about their stress levels, anxiety and overall mental health. While one glass of wine can feel like a great way to wind down, too much alcohol can have negative effects on a person’s health. Whether drinking socially or to relieve stress, follow these tips for a healthy balance.
1. Exercise and Eat Nutritious Foods
Try to take breaks for physical activity such as going for a walk or run. If getting outside isn’t an option, try to establish an in-home workout routine or take a class virtually from nearby fitness studios. Heart.org has wonderful guidelines on exercises and the time duration for each.
Plan balanced and healthy meals. Try to use fresh ingredients when possible, but remember frozen vegetables and fruits retain many of their vitamins, and even canned beans and meats can be incorporated into healthy meals. There are lots of balanced meal recipes available online.
2. Make Sure to Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is critical to physical health and a well-functioning immune system. Be sure to establish a solid sleep routine with a cozy and cool room. Go to bed at a set hour, limit screen time and try to get at least 7-8 hours of rest every night. Alcohol actually worsens our sleep preventing us from easily getting into a more restful, deep REM sleep.
3. Find a Creative Outlet
Find a hobby that can take the mind off responsibilities. Allow time each day to focus on this creative outlet such as gardening, sports or crafting. If tennis is a passion, get out and hit some socially distanced balls.
4. Keep Communication Lines Open
Make time for friends and family. Use Zoom, Google Meet, or FaceTime to connect face-to-face for virtual conversations. One can also use these outlets to stay connected with co-workers when working remotely. It helps to build these breaks into the routine and relaxes the mind.
5. When Drinking, Be Mindful
If relaxing with an alcoholic beverage, slowly sip and savor it. Track how many drinks are consumed and the alcohol content, remembering to have water between beverages. This helps a person slow down and benefit from the relaxation effects of a single cocktail. The recommended daily allowances for alcohol intake for women is one drink and two per day for men. It is easy to go beyond that, so please be mindful.
Following these tips can help people get on the right track towards stress relief. If people want to take a break from drinking there are several ways to get support from a website-based challenge, One Year, No Beer, to countless apps that are available at varying price points to help with accountability.
There are lots of strategies for coping with pandemic stress. Staying physically active, getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy foods are three of the most important. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing techniques can also help. In addition, Tryon physicians often recommend a variety of books and apps like Calm and Headspace that are designed to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Remember everyone relieves stress in their own way, but if you believe that you or a loved one has a problem with excessive alcohol consumption it might be time to ask for help. Tryon doctors are here to discuss patients’ concerns in person, via virtual visit or immediately through virtual urgent care.