Drinking Your Way Through the Pandemic?

Getting proactive about how and why you drink.

People are drinking more because of the pandemic. A lot more.

What does this dramatic increase in consumption mean for people’s health? For an already taxed-to-the-max social structure?

Research tells us that only 15% of people who use alcohol become addicted. And in most industrialized countries 70% of people above the age of 18 drink alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous has tools for abstinence but not for moderation.

Is it realistic for health promotion to preach abstinence during the pandemic.? Do you have to be “that guy” who doesn’t drink? You know, the guy who you think is silently judging you and your mojito.

What does the safe consumption of alcohol look like?

YOUR BODY

Photo by Dimitri Houtteman on Unsplash

COVID 19 is an infectious disease that enters through your respiratory system. It attacks and compromises your immune system.

Alcohol activates the immune system and causes inflammation. This weakens the body’s capacity to fight viral and bacterial infections. Excessive drinking then damages epithelial cells that line the lung’s surface. This can lead to conditions like acute respiratory distress syndrome.

By drinking, you now have an impaired immune system and you’re more susceptible to respiratory illness. Alcohol damages the exact defence mechanisms your body needs to battle the virus.

But what about the health benefits of alcohol?

This meta-analysis consists of 700 existing studies on global drinking prevalence and close to 600 studies on alcohol and health. They concluded that:

· Alcohol was the seventh leading cause of premature death

· That health risks increase the more your drink

· The modest cardiovascular benefits were far outweighed by the negative health hazards

There are too many other factors that aren’t considered in these epidemiological studies.

Moderate drinkers may also be moderate in other areas of their life-like nutrition and exercise.

There are huge physiological benefits to having a supportive social network. Family and friends that may have a moderate amount of alcohol as PART of their socializing. Alcohol isn’t the MAIN REASON for that socializing.

Individuals in these studies are blessed or cursed with different physiological attributes. We’ve all heard about the woman who lived to be 100 who drank and smoked every day of her life. These people are the outliers, not the norm.

YOUR MIND

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Living in the middle of a disaster like a pandemic causes stress and anxiety. This can increase people’s misuse of alcohol. Social isolation due to physical distancing can further compromise mental health. And, the vicious cycle is, this anxiety and depression can encourage more drinking. Many people are no longer working so they drink to numb the panic over their financial future. Or they drink out of sheer boredom.

Drinking doesn’t solve your anxiety and depression. It makes them worse.

THE SOLUTION

One thing the pandemic has given us is time. Time to be a little more introspective about why we do what we do. It’s a great opportunity to examine how and why we drink.

1-BE YOUR OWN THERAPIST

Observe your habits around drinking. Keep track of all your alcohol use for one or two weeks. Then review and analyze the results. Are you mindless or mindful when you drink? Do you savour the aroma and the taste or do you slam the drinks back? Do you plan on having one drink and then end up having four? How did drinking affect your sleep quality? Are you refreshed or depleted the next morning? How about productivity? Does drinking get in the way of your goals and responsibilities?

This one had a lot of value for me. I made the decision a few years ago that feeling energized and productive the next morning was more important than having a few drinks tonight before.

2- WHAT’S THIS STUFF DOING TO MY BODY?

Is it compromising any fitness, performance or fat loss goals you may have? How about medical tests? What’s your blood pressure like? Do you have a genetic predisposition to heart disease or fatty liver disease?

Again, this one was revealing for me. As I started edging into my 40s I found my body just couldn’t metabolize alcohol like it used to. I’d wake up the next morning after two drinks and feel like I had five or six.

3-Does drinking change who you are?.

If you’re normally a quiet person are you more extroverted? Do you end up doing or saying things you later regret?

University. Enough said.

4-RUN SOME SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS ON YOURSELF?

If you tell yourself that you’re going to stop drinking for a month how does that make you feel? Can you follow through on that? Can you participate in an activity that always included alcohol without alcohol? Like supper with a friend or watching a game on TV. If you always have a drink as soon as you get home from work can you delay it for 10 or 15 minutes? How does that make you feel?

Once I made the decision that most of the time I’m not going to drink I found it surprising how little I missed it and how little other people cared.

If you make the decision to drink do it because it adds value to your life. Not because it's your default coping mechanism. Once you’ve analyzed your habits and explored the reasons you drink then make a conscious decision about what alcohol consumption looks like for you.

Dad, husband, first responder, personal trainer, nutrition coach, resilience coach, animal lover. Will tolerate select humans individually or in small groups.

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