Many Americans are feeling stresses pile up due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. How do you know if you’re drinking to excess?
As the coronavirus tightens its grip on the States, alcohol sales have increased dramatically. Part of the sales spike is due to stockpiling to avoid trips to the store, but a lot of people are drinking more to cope with anxiety, loneliness, and boredom.
A few drinks over your usual might seem like an okay remedy for coping with the boredom and loneliness, but it’s one that can quickly spiral out of control.
How Much Drinking is Normal?
Dietary guidelines for Americans suggest moderate alcohol consumption of one drink per day for women and up to two for men.
It’s important to remember that the guidelines are referring to standard drinks every day. You can’t save them up for a binge at the end of the week. The guidelines are also subjective because you can’t account for everyone’s body size and drinking behaviors.
For many people, a glass of wine during dinner may be a regular part of the evening. However, for others, additional alcohol may be a trigger that leads to abuse or dependency.
If the changes and uncertainty created by the pandemic have made it difficult for you to cope and you find yourself drinking more than usual, here are a few things to keep your eye on:
- You Have Withdrawal Symptoms
If your body has become dependent on alcohol, then suddenly stopping may bring on withdrawal symptoms. Some symptoms can be quite severe, but in general, you might experience shaky hands, racing heartbeat, sweating, seizures, and even hallucinations. If you notice any of these symptoms developing, then seek help immediately.
- You Feel Physically Unwell
A hangover is your body’s way of telling you that you have gone too far. If you are regularly waking up with headaches, are dehydrated, and sensitive to light, then these are sure signs you need to reduce your consumption of alcohol.
Feeling run down because of disrupted sleep, irregular eating, or lack of motivation to exercise, should also set off alarm bells.
- You’ve Made Poor Decisions While Intoxicated
Many of us have said things we’d rather keep private, or have gone crazy with online shopping while drunk.
The occasional misstep isn’t such a big deal, but if they have become a regular occurrence because of drinking, it’s time to take stock of your alcohol consumption and consider it as more of an issue than you thought.
- You’re Not Following Through with Your Responsibilities
Your work, relationships, children’s education, job, are already enough of a balancing act, but the pandemic has upset the apple cart even further. It’s understandable if one or two apples get forgotten or stepped on in the chaos. When the alcohol starts to take preference over your other obligations, like work, self-care, and social connections, it has become a problem.
- You Become Concerned that You Don’t Have Enough Alcohol at Home
If you are continually checking your alcohol supplies and the worry that you don’t have enough prompts yet another trip to the store, then it’s a good sign you may be drinking too much during isolation.
- You’re Drinking on the Job
A lot of us have had to transition to a working-from-home environment, which is a huge adjustment. You’ve had to learn new ways of doing things, work with unfamiliar software, and use different tools to communicate.
With everything that’s been piled on, maintaining your previous levels of productivity has become a challenge. The lack of supervisors and bosses looming over your shoulder means that you may be tempted to sneak a glass of wine in at lunchtime to help you cope with the stress, but it could be a sign that a problem is developing.
- You’re Bored, so You Drink
When you’re used to socializing on a Saturday night, the idea of yet another marathon session in front of the TV on your own may be intolerable. But you think a cold beer or ten may be just the thing.
If you’re feeling cooped up and bored, take a walk and get some fresh air. Get on a video conference call with your friends or family. If these don’t feel like they will do anything to help, but a drink will, then it’s time to seek professional advice.
- Stress Drinking
The stress of a new situation can put you off balance and give rise to an overwhelming flood of emotions. A drink or two may seem like an appropriate response to help get your feelings back into balance.
Many coping mechanisms are healthy adaptations to stressful situations, but drinking is not one of them, and excessive use will be more disruptive and harmful in the long run.
- You Know You Should Stop Drinking but You Can’t
You are aware of the adverse effects drinking is having on your life, but you still can’t stop. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you, and now is the time to seek them out.
Everyone has their coping mechanisms for getting through difficult times. Some are healthy, but others can be more damaging than helpful. If alcohol abuse has become an issue for you, then know that there is help available. Learn more here: Habits and Addictions