Being stuck indoors during COVID-19 onset has been a testing time for many of us. Whether you’ve been working from home, studying, home schooling your kids (or all of the above), lack of access to social networks and services for the last few months has left us with a fair bit of cabin fever!
Following more recently stricter social measures on the Surfcoast, during the 2nd wave of the Corona virus, the need to stay home as much as possible to minimise spread has never been more important. (Particularly here in Victoria.).
So after a day’s work, what do you do to unwind? Take an online yoga class? Go for a run or beach walk, or something else?
Given that we’re not commuting to work, wine o’clock might start to come around a bit earlier than previously. You may be having your first glass at 5 pm instead of the usual 6.30-7 pm, which potentially lengthens the amount of drinking time available each day. You might notice that the bottle of wine you share with your partner each night slowly turns into two bottles.
Ok, you could have all the reasons in the world to justify drinking more, such as having a shitty day at work, you’re feeling anxious, or you just want to dull down some agitation or restlessness. And hey, the bottle shops have stayed open, so it’s obviously regarded as an essential service, right?!
Whilst it might seem like a good idea at the time, deep down, most of us are aware that regular alcohol consumption will affect our long term health. (What seems like a bit of relief is actually a negative coping strategy.)
How alcohol affects our health:
Besides the ethanol content, alcohol contains loads of empty calories, which means that there is absolutely no nutritional benefit to be had. Even if you are drinking vodka with orange juice, the diuretic effect of the alcohol will prevent any uptake of the Vitamin C from the juice. (Which means you’ll lose it in your urine.) In fact, many water soluble nutrients such as B Vitamins, Vitamin C and valuable minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium are all lost from alcohol consumption.
Long term consequences of alcohol consumption:
- Poor sleep: alcohol disturbs detoxification processes, so if you’re drinking too much, you may find that you are waking up between 1-3 am. That’s when the liver is working at its hardest.
- Depression: nervous system function is dulled, creating relaxation initially, but the hangover effect (even if you weren’t intoxicated) causes a feeling of flatness and a negative outlook. This worsens over the long term.
- Elevated blood sugar: Alcohol is a simple sugar, so is rapidly absorbed and weakens glucose tolerance with excessive use. Cholesterol levels can become elevated, increasing risk of cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure). If you have a family history of diabetes, alcohol is going to push the likelihood of this happening even higher.
- Multiple nutritional deficiencies: as stated previously, many precious nutrients are lost when daily alcohol intake occurs. So you could have the best diet in the world, but once you throw regular alcohol into the mix, (pardon the pun!) all those benefits are in vain.
- Weight gain: Adipose (fat) tissue is inflammatory, which creates many problems such as joint aches and pains (arthritis means inflamed joints), mood changes, foggy brain and memory loss (inflammation in the brain), pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas) and liver disease.·
- Digestive problems: Regular alcohol use stresses the lining of the stomach, causing it to weaken. The normally tight junctions between cells start to slowly separate, creating a condition known as “leaky gut”. This sets off the immune system, which detects foreign particles passing the through the gut lining and attempts to dampen them. If this goes on unchecked for long enough, auto-immune conditions such as thyroid function, rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis and Lupus can develop. These conditions are life long and are difficult to treat. All good health starts in the gut!
- Domestic Violence: This is a subject no-one wants to talk about, but here it is anyway. Excessive alcohol can bring out the worst in some people; loosening self-control and making bad choices to the detriment of others. Frustrations can boil over and many family members are traumatised by bearing the brunt of these frustrations.
Standard drinks guide:
If you suspect you might be over indulging, read on. Despite the fact you aren’t jumping behind the wheel, you might like to monitor your alcohol consumption. The guide below can help you to calculate how much one standard drink actually looks like.
*Sparkling/ white/red wine= 100 mls
*Regular Beer=285 mls (schooners and stubbies contain 1.5 standard drinks.)
*Light Beer= 425 mls
*Fortified wine= 60 mls
*Spirits= 30 mls
So How Much is too Much?
For females, binge drinking is measured by drinking 4 or more glasses on one occasion, for males it’s five. At a weekly level, drinking more than 2 standard drinks every day is considered excessive and adversely affects long term health. (Which totals 14 drinks a week!) Sobering information right there…
What can I do instead?
If you’ve noticed that your alcohol intake is getting a little too high, what else could you do instead? What is driving your need to drink?
If you are feeling anxious, try a deep breathing guided meditation app, take some time in nature, take a bath, drink a mug of chamomile tea (great for calming the nerves).
If you’re feeling restless, use that energy to exercise. Go for a brisk walk or jog, get out on your bike, or grab a skipping rope and jump for 10 minutes. I guarantee you will feel better really quickly!
Maybe you’ve had a rough day and you need a few minutes to collect yourself. Let your family know you need some time out and take some time to sit somewhere quiet. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and let go of your day if you can. If that’s not available, take the time to reach out for support, be it a phone call with a friend; or for professional advice for something you are dealing with, be it physical or emotional.
Even having 2 alcohol-free days each week can have a huge benefit to your well- being.
Need assistance with managing alcohol? I’m here to help. If you’d like to work with me privately, I use mindset work and other strategies to help you bring balance back to your life.