Even as states begin making plans to reopen parts of the economy, most Americans are still sheltering at home in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. To cope with the stress and uncertainty of this time, people are cleaning and baking and mastering new skills — but they’re also drinking, and while having a glass of wine isn’t unhealthy in and of itself, it’s important to understand why you’re reaching for that bottle.
Spending so much time at home — and in some cases, alone — can cause depression, and it can be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol. There’s also the tendency to think of this as “free time,” even if you’re working from home or distance learning, which can be a slippery slope, Norma E. Ramos-Solla, PhD, a clinical psychologist, told POPSUGAR.
Experts the world over have recommended limiting alcohol consumption during the coronavirus outbreak because of the consequences that can result from overdoing it. “Because alcohol works as a depressant for our central nervous system, what represents a form of ‘fun or to manage leisure’ could increase, precipitate, or develop anxiety, sadness, or health difficulties that affect the immune system,” Dr. Ramos-Solla said.
Drinking more often can also negatively affect the habits and routines that keep you healthy. You might skimp on meals because of the calories you’re drinking, which robs your body of essential nutrients, or find that you’re not able to work out as effectively when you’re hungover. “People also tend to not take their medications when they drink alcohol, and even if they do that, the interaction with alcohol can make those medications less effective for those particular illnesses,” explained José Agosto, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist.
Beyond the health implications, there are concerns about how drinking could impact your productivity and your relationships with your roommates or family. With so many already living in close quarters, “alcohol can make it more difficult to tolerate that situation,” Dr. Agosto said. (Dr. Ramos-Solla noted that alcohol and substance abuse can trigger conflict and violence.)
How Can You Tell If You’re Drinking Too Much?
The federal dietary guidelines define moderate consumption as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. That said, if your drinking is hampering your ability to work, causing you to lash out or withdraw from those closest to you, or keeping you from taking care of yourself, you may need to reevaluate. Additionally, “if you start feeling that you’re a failure or that you want to drink and do nothing else, that’s when we start to worry,” Dr. Agosto told POPSUGAR.
In the most severe cases, you can develop a physical dependency, in which your body will start to crave alcohol. Many people who battle addiction experience “alcohol shakes” or tremors. “That’s one of the ways you’ll know your body is dependent. The problem will go away as soon as you have your first beer,” Dr. Agosto said.
If you need to find healthier ways to cope, the experts recommend getting some exercise, practicing meditation, or tapping into your creative side by playing music or crafting. There’s also that long list of tasks you’ve been meaning to check off. “We always have things to do at home that we’re postponing because we’re busy. This is the time to finish the projects you have at home,” Dr. Agosto said. Don’t forget to check in with friends and family, too.
If you or someone you love are experiencing signs of substance abuse and want to seek help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has resources and a helpline (1-800-662-4357).