The start of a new year is usually a time when people think about improving their health and well-being, and this year the pandemic is making those concerns more important than ever. We are living in very stressful and anxious times and many people are using alcohol to help cope with their feelings. You might have started drinking more during this pandemic for various reasons such as boredom, hopelessness, stress, or to calm your anxious feelings. Alcohol use during the pandemic has been made light of with memes about people making “quarantinis” and jokes about drinking before 5 p.m. now that so many work from home. Virtual happy hours are popular and many states now allow restaurants to sell cocktails along with their takeout and delivery food. It’s no surprise that according to studies, alcohol use and sales are higher compared with a year ago.
According to the website, drinkaware.co.uk, alcohol can help some people feel more at ease in certain situations, but these feelings are short-lived. The relaxed feeling you experience when you drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol causes in your brain, as the alcohol starts to suppress activity in part of the brain that is associated with inhibition. However, these effects wear off fast. If you rely on alcohol to mask anxiety, you may find you become reliant on it to relax. A likely side effect is that the more you drink, the greater your tolerance for alcohol will be. This means that over time you would need to drink more alcohol to get the same feeling, which could eventually lead to alcohol dependence.
Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the brain and processes in the central nervous system. Alcohol can interfere with what our brains need to do for good mental health, so in the long-term, it can contribute to negative feelings and make anxiety harder to deal with. Alcohol is known to increase the symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders, depression and other mental disorders, and the risk of family and domestic violence. A new study has revealed that people struggling with anxiety and depression are more likely to increase their alcohol consumption amidst the global pandemic. The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine and carried out by the researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health, stated that while drinking grew the most among younger people, older adults with anxiety and depression saw a sharper increase in their risk for harmful alcohol use.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol use, look for warning signs such as having trouble caring for your children and being present for them; feeling tired, irritable and unmotivated; experiencing headaches and noise sensitivity; being depressed and anxious, having increased conflict in relationships; hiding alcohol use from loved ones; having others express concern about your drinking; and feeling defensive about your drinking. If you’re having periods of time you can’t remember after drinking (blackouts); find yourself being hungover; if you are drinking a few drinks every day or early in the day; increasing the quantity you’re drinking, or find yourself thinking about drinking a lot, it’s likely you have a problem with alcohol.
Try to reduce your drinking by weaning yourself off alcohol and then see if you can go for a longer period of time without drinking. If you can’t stop, it is likely time to seek professional help. If you’re consuming alcohol to pass the time, or because of COVID related stress, take part in other coping activities, such as connecting and interacting safely with family and friends, exercising, getting enough sleep, eating well, and finding new hobbies or learning a new skill.
Talk with your physician, a mental health counselor or your Employee Assistance Program if you are having trouble coping with the ongoing pandemic or feel that your drinking is getting out of control.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended, at least for now, life as we’ve known it. Last year saw the loss of our old routines and the freedoms that came with it, and various emotions have hit most of us hard. Chief among those have been the feelings of grief and loss. Grief is usually associated with death, but it can come with any type of loss – such as financial loss, the loss of family celebrations, social gatherings with friends, and doing such mundane things as going to the hair salon and eating at restaurants. We’ve had to cancel much anticipated trips, postpone weddings and deal with the overwhelming stress of online learning for our kids and their loss of such milestones as graduations.
On top of these losses, and the grief we feel about it, many of us have also lost beloved family and friends, whether to the coronavirus or other causes. Addressing and dealing with the death of a loved one can be especially hard during the pandemic. We are used to grieving with others and leaning on them both physically and mentally for support – something which is difficult or even impossible to do right now with social distancing. Not having these usual traditions to help us cope makes it that much harder to accept and grieve a death.
Here are ways to help you during the grieving process:
Recognizing and acknowledging grief is the first step in dealing with it. Take time to grieve because it is the process by which you heal. There is no deadline for grief, and people heal at different rates. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that accompany your grief which can include shock, numbness, denial, anger, fear, anxiety, panic and guilt. Don’t judge yourself for feeling any of these emotions. Also, allow yourself to feel positive emotions. Don’t think you can never feel joy, or happiness, or that you shouldn’t be laughing.
Find a way to say goodbye. If you’re mourning a death, rituals are very important in the grieving process, especially when you can’t say goodbye in person. You can write a letter to the person you lost, light a candle in their memory, make a special meal they loved or create a photo book of you and your loved one.
Connect with family and friends. People with strong social support tend to cope better after a significant loss. Even if the situation doesn’t allow physical contact, you can call or video chat with your family and friends. Reach out to your religious organization if you have one, or neighbors, co-workers and online support groups.
Take care of yourself. An important part of coping with grief is self-care. Be sure to get enough rest, eat healthy, exercise, and take the time each day to do an activity that you love. Don’t drink or use drugs to numb the pain, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
No matter what type of loss you experience, it is important to remember that your feelings are valid. Some people feel guilty about being so upset over the loss of their normal way of life when they know others are suffering more. But smaller losses are real and valid, as well, and grieving them is important. Give yourself permission to mourn and treat yourself and others with kindness during this difficult time. While the coronavirus has brought uncertainty, disruptive changes, and loss, look for the good it may have brought into our lives, such as closer bonds with family and friends, and the realization of what is truly important in our lives.
Fully Effective Employees’ HR partner, Fully Integrated Team HR, has put together a “Getting Back to Business” guide to help employers during the pandemic. This helpful guide is full of advice and resources to help small businesses with their go-forward strategy during this ever evolving time. You can find the guide here: fullyhr.com/covid-19-resources
By admin|2021-01-28T12:10:53-08:00September 16th, 2020|COVID-19|Comments Off on Getting Back to Business During COVID-19
Social isolation, social distancing and self-quarantine have become the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With little to no face-to-face contact with co-workers, friends and family, you may be feeling lonely, depressed and anxious. It’s normal to feel stress when faced with staying indoors and interacting less with people, especially when that is added to the underlying stress of worrying whether you will catch the virus. Here are some tips to help maintain your well-being and good mental health.
Take care of yourself – Get enough sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water and try to avoid using alcohol or drugs to alleviate your stress. Exercise in your home or outside by taking a walk if possible. Even with stay at home mandates, you can go outside – just be sure to keep a healthy distance from others. Fresh air and exercise help with loneliness and stress, and releases feel-good chemicals in your brain to boost your mood.
Getting light is also important. According to Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep Disorders Center, “It’s essential to have plenty of exposure to outdoor light, particularly in the morning, for a strong immune system and positive mood.”
Maintain some kind of routine. Wake up and go to sleep at a consistent, reasonable time. It’s good for your mood and helps you feel less aimless. To keep a sense of structure, try to create a daily routine that consists of work or house projects, mealtimes, workout time, and even downtime.
Limit your news consumption – It’s important to obtain accurate and timely public health information regarding COVID-19, but too much exposure to media coverage of the virus can lead to increased feelings of fear and anxiety. Balance time spent on news and social media with other activities unrelated to quarantine or isolation, and make sure the news you do get is from reputable sources.
Connect with friends and family – Reach out to your circle of support through texts, phone calls and video chatting. Although virtual communication may not feel as satisfying as in-person contact, it’s much better than no contact at all. Video chatting in particular has the advantage of allowing us to see others’ facial expressions. Connecting with others who are in a similar situation can also help you feel that you’re not alone.
If you’re working from home, stay connected to coworkers. Schedule video meetings with co-workers or take intentional breaks from work to interact with others, including those who may be home with you.
Getting “me” time while living with others – Give yourself time “away” from others to relax. Find a quiet place to read a book, watch a favorite TV show, or listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to get to. Not every minute of every day you spend at home has to be planned. Give yourself some time to relax. Consider trying guided meditation and yoga videos or apps.
Change your mindset – Try to avoid thinking too much about the future or worst-case scenarios which can trigger anxiety. Instead of saying, “I’ll never recover,” tell yourself, “I’ll make it through this.” Remind yourself that at some point we will return to more normal routines.
Get help – If you are suffering from extreme anxiety or depression reach out to your medical provider for a referral to a mental health specialist. Many professional therapists offer online or phone sessions to help you navigate and deal with this unique and unsettling time. You can also contact The Disaster Distress Helpline, which is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Sources: webmd.com, healthline.com, apa.org
By admin|2020-05-05T16:15:08-07:00May 5th, 2020|COVID-19|Comments Off on Coping with Social Isolation