April 23, 2020

Signs isolation could be impacting your drinking

Woman lying on couch with Scottish Terrier

As we continue to live in isolation, we need to be more mindful than ever of how much alcohol we are drinking and its impact on us and our loved ones.

Retailers report that Australians are buying much more alcohol than usual, and a recent poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found that many people have increased their alcohol consumption.1

If new patterns of alcohol consumption that started during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) lockdown continue over time, you may be at increased risk of experiencing a dependence on alcohol.

Keeping track of if your alcohol consumption has changed, and being mindful of other impacts alcohol may be having on your life, can help you to stay healthy.

Here are six things to be mindful of in isolation.

1) Drinking more, or more often

Has your alcohol consumption changed? Try to keep track of if you’re drinking more alcohol, or more often.

Most people drink within the Australian alcohol guidelines, which aim to reduce the risk of health problems related to alcohol.

The new draft guidelines say healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks in any one day.

Staying within these guidelines reduces the risk of harm from alcohol.

If you think you might be drinking more than before, or are finding it challenging to include a day or two without drinking alcohol, you can get free and anonymous feedback on if you might be drinking at risky levels.

Assess your alcohol consumption with this Drinking Calculator

2) Interfering with your day-to-day

Consider the impact that alcohol consumption might be having on your daily life, such as interfering with your work, your pursuit of (at-home) hobbies you used to enjoy or projects you’d planned, and spending time (virtually) socialising or enjoying quality time with family in the home.

If drinking alcohol starts to feel more important than other priorities in your life, you might want to assess if you’re drinking alcohol at a risky level.

3) Four walls are closing in

One reason people may be reaching for a glass of alcohol is stress or unhappiness. Staying at home and feeling isolated can mean we’re feeling bored, lonely, depressed, anxious or restless.

Being surrounded by noise and activity in the house all day, trying to juggling kids while working from home, and worrying about the health and safety of your loved ones can all be affecting stress levels as well.

However, alcohol can contribute to making these feelings worse. Consider other alternatives to managing these feelings, such as connecting with friends and family online, exercising, doing something creative, or meditating.

4) Bedtime blues and beyond

Alcohol impacts our mental health and wellbeing.

Although drinking initially creates a feeling of relaxation, it can lead to greater anxiety and disrupted sleep. This, in turn, lowers your ability to cope with stress.

Drinking alcohol tends to intensify the mood you are in at the time of consumption. Which means it may initially make you feel happier, but can also make you sadder or more irritable depending on the circumstances. Drinking at risky levels can also eventually lead to depression, poor memory and even brain damage.

5) Relationship troubles

Are you arguing more with your partner or family? Too much alcohol can lead to bad behaviour. Evidence shows that it can be a trigger for incidents of domestic violence and abuse. If people close to you are starting to comment on how much you’re drinking or expressing concern, take notice before it takes a toll on your relationship or causes harm.

6) Alcohol tolerance creeping up

If you’re finding that you need to drink more each time to get the same feeling, it’s a sign that you have increased your tolerance to alcohol. Your body is adjusting to the frequent presence of alcohol in your system - an early sign of dependence.

Withdrawal symptoms you may experience after heavy drinking can include headaches, anxiety, shakiness, sweating, nausea and vomiting.

Reach out for support

If you are experiencing harmful or negative consequences from your drinking, or want to talk about concerns around your or a loved one’s alcohol consumption, there are support services there for you.

For free and confidential alcohol and drug information or support, call the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s DrugInfo line on 1300 85 85 84 or email druginfo@adf.org.au

  1. YouGovGalaxy. Alcohol sales & use during COVID-19: Polling snapshot key findings. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education; 2020.

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