How to Cut Back on Alcohol Use During a Pandemic

The uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 likely means that there are decidedly fewer opportunities in your life than before. Before the Times had gyms, restaurants, cinemas, concerts and pretty much all the amenities offered by the outside world that have since been limited by the pandemic. And without nearly everything your life has to offer, you may have started filling up some of that time with booze.

If so, then you are not alone. I can certainly tell; my monthly budget is being depleted more than ever by trips to the liquor store, and during the eerie early days of the pandemic, my wife and I devoted at least one night a week to frozen margaritas.

While drinking alcohol is a coping mechanism for the anxiety, boredom, and existential fear that shape life in 2020, you should probably cut it back a little if activities start to become more of a burden than leisure. Here are some ways to cut back on your alcohol consumption as we hope the new year is brighter and more promising.

Find out why you are drinking

Of course, there are some obvious answers related to the peculiarities of life during a pandemic, but it is still important to ask the question why you drink. Do you drink to relieve the excruciating feeling of boredom? Because you are afraid of the creeping panic that can arise if you don’t dull your senses?

You may be drinking to avoid feelings that really bother you. Ultimately, it will be useful to study this question. As psychologist Kamala Green Jenese told NPR this week , the answers to this question “will allow you to make specific changes based on the information you collect.”

Set limits on alcohol consumption

Writing “wine time” on a calendar seems almost ludicrous, but setting an allotted time during the week for consumption can help you stay on track and reduce overall consumption (if you stick to it).

Harvard Health recommends setting daily limits, although you can certainly go for more than a few days without alcohol if you deem it necessary.

Set a limit on how much you drink. You should drink less than the recommended amount: no more than one standard drink per day for women and men aged 65 and over, and no more than two standard drinks per day for men under 65. These limits may be too high for people with certain medical conditions or for some older people. Your doctor can help you determine which is right for you.

If you drink a lot, take small steps.

If the craving for alcohol seems to be harsh at this point, it can be difficult to completely break the habit in one day or even in a week. However, take small steps. Breaking this habit can be more productive than just cutting cold turkey.

As behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva told the Huff Post last year:

You can get rid of the alcohol habit if you gradually deal with it. Trying to deprive yourself in the beginning will lead to overeating. Set gradual goals to reduce the amount per session, then move up to daily, weekly, and monthly.

Try replacing them with exercise or a new hobby.

We are not living in a golden era of social interaction or group exercise, so there are obviously a few caveats here. But detecting some endorphin release rather than opening a beer can bode well for your personal well-being.

While the link between happiness and exercise is well known from a pop science perspective, research has shown time and time again that there is a strong link between the two. A 2018 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that, according to the New York Times:

People who exercise at least once a week or just 10 minutes a day tend to be more alert than those who never exercise. And any exercise can be helpful.

If the urge is too strong, seek professional help.

Self-intervention techniques can only go this far if your drinking habits are linked to real addiction. Of course, there is nothing wrong with admitting that this is the problem, and there are many resources available.

First, reach out to friends and family. If those close to you think it’s time for you to seek professional help, take their advice seriously and follow it.

To get started, you can call the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or the alcohol addiction hotline at 866-568-6875.

In any case, know that no matter your level of alcohol consumption, it is always a good idea to ask if there is too much alcohol and if you can take a break or skip alcohol altogether.


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