While we face the challenges of controlling a fast moving and dangerous virus, by following
physical distancing, self-isolation and quarantine practices, it is important to look after your physical and mental wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urges us to avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, as increased alcohol intake can worsen mental and physical wellbeing.
Drinking a lot of alcohol regularly over time, or even in a short time, can become addictive and is likely to cause problems for your physical, emotional and social health. This pattern of drinking is particularly concerning in the context of social isolation and lockdown situations, where people are under greater stress than usual.
Alcohol can temporarily make you feel relaxed, however using alcohol to cope with stress can compromise your health because it impacts:
- Your body's ability to regulate sleep, directly impacting your immune function
- It can cause frequent infections
- Impact your ability to concentrate
- Have a detrimental effect on your relationships
- Affects judgement, sight and co-ordination, which often causes accidents – especially falls
"During this difficult time, it's important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight #COVID19 if you get it" – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO
Looking after yourself
They are a few simple pieces of advice you can follow to look after your mental and physical health during this time. Here are a few tips from
Stay connected – Keep in touch by phone, social media or video calls
Keep moving – Exercise to relieve stress (check to see if your regular gym, yoga studio or exercise outlet is holding online classes or check out YouTube or Vimeo for classes)
Stick to a routine – Keep regular sleeping and eating patterns (consider using sleep apps to keep track of your sleep routine)
Switch off – Take a break from the news if it feels overwhelming
Reach out – Activate your support network or reach out for professional help such as Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511.
Know your limits
To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provides the following advice in their 'Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol':
Healthy men and women – should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day
Pregnant women, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy – should not drink alcohol
Children and young people under 18 years of age - should not drink alcohol
The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people not drinking at all is the safest option.
Important note: For some people with alcohol
dependence, suddenly stopping alcohol intake can make them feel physically and emotionally unwell. If you feel you cannot stop, or experience sweatiness, nausea or shaking within days of not drinking – you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and should see your doctor / GP or contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015 for free and confidential advice 24/7.
Managing your alcohol intake
Unsure if you're drinking too much? Try our online confidential
risk assessment tool to determine if your drinking is putting your physical and mental health at risk.
To track and reduce your alcohol use, download the NSW Health
Drinks Meter app. Drinks Meter is a free app that provides confidential and personalised feedback based on advice from doctors and the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. The app allows you to track your alcohol intake, the amount of calories you are drinking, how much you're spending and set weekly goals to reduce and stay healthy.
The relationship between alcohol and drug use and mental health is a complex one. Just like physical health, your mental health and wellbeing can have a huge impact on all aspects of life. If you notice that your alcohol or drug use is negatively effecting your mood and impacting on your life, it may be time to reach out for help.
For free and confidential advice 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a
Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm. ADIS can also provide up-to-date information about service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic.