Some do's and don'ts for drinking during a crisis
Does it seem you’ve developed different habits now that you are at home?
For some, changes to daily life related to the COVID-19 outbreak may result in increased use of alcohol or other substances. In times of extreme stress or boredom, it’s not unusual to look for ways to relax, and alcohol, in moderation, can generally be used safely. But it’s important to know how alcohol consumption can impact physical and mental health, and to develop positive strategies if you choose to drink.
Hokie Wellness takes a nonjudgmental and harm-reduction approach to alcohol use and regularly shares helpful life skills with the Virginia Tech community.
When it comes to alcohol use, there are a few considerations unique to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Alcohol and other substances can affect our immune system.
- This can make it harder for our bodies to fight off sickness or to heal once we have become ill. Additionally, there are preliminary findings that suggest the consumption of certain substances can actually interfere directly with treatments for coronavirus.
- Alcohol can affect decision-making.
- Good decisions are currently at a premium, as the cancellation of events and social gatherings can feel isolating over time and create an urge to still gather. We urge the Hokie community to help stop the spread of the virus by making the decision to stay home and avoid coming together in large groups.
- Alcohol can make us feel even more isolated
- Feeling isolated can contribute to our stress, negatively affecting our mental health. Consuming alcohol may compound such stresses and may even make certain medications, such as antidepressants, less effective. Consider your existing health and read about the side effects of any medications you take regularly to help you evaluate whether consuming alcohol in moderation at home is something that is safe and positive for you at this time.
If you choose to drink, follow these self-care practices to ensure you do so in a positive manner.
- Set a limit on “standard drinks” per day.
- A standard drink of beer is 12 oz. at 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV,) wine is 5 oz. at 12 percent ABV, and liquor is 1.5 oz. at 40 percent ABV (sometimes known as 80 proof).
- Limit the days you drink alcohol
- Keep track of the days during the week you drink. Trying skipping or alternating the days when you drink or limiting alcohol use to specific days.
- Avoid drinking alcohol within four hours of bedtime
- While alcohol can help us fall asleep, it often leads to less restful sleep and affects memory retention, which is crucial to learning.
- Drink alcohol only for positive reasons
- Sometimes when we want to use alcohol or other substances, there are other feelings we are trying to ignore. It’s important to listen to those feelings, rather than masking them with a substance, and it is also good to share those feelings with a person with whom you feel safe.
- Be purposeful about non-alcohol related activities
- Make more time for the activities in life that ground you. This could be cooking, meditation, riding a bike, walking, hiking, playing with pets, music, art, or reading.
- Talk to someone you trust
- Speaking with a trusted friend — using Zoom, FaceTime, or another video tool — can be a great reality check. You may also find it helpful to reach out to Hokie Wellness for a substance-use consultation.
If you are concerned about your use of substances, connect with Hokie Wellness, Cook Counseling Center, or the Virginia Tech Recovery Community. Even during this time of social distancing, teletherapy and online meetings are available. For more information about the many resources at Virginia Tech visit Hokie Wellness at Home.