Suddenly, many of us are in a unique situation. We're working, learning and spending our leisure time at home. Many of us have more free time but nowhere to go. Being cooped up, or with the same group of people, it can get challenging.
It's not surprising that we're looking for ways to reduce stress. For some, it might be tempting to turn to alcohol. That relaxes us... right? Spoiler alert; rather than help us cope, alcohol can make us feel more stressed and anxious. It can also affect our sleep, mood and ability to fight disease.
Not drinking alcohol at all is the safest and healthiest option. But reducing your drinking will also benefit you right now AND you'll reduce your risk of cancers and other health problems later. Here are our top tips for staying well and keeping your drinking in check during this challenging time.
1. Commit to alcohol-free days
Alcohol-free days can help break the rhythm and cycle of drinking. There are also physical and mental health benefits such as:
- Sleeping better
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
Try switching up your routine to make sure those alcohol-free days happen. For example, if you tend to head straight for the fridge when you finish work, mix it up by putting the kettle on instead. Sit back, and let the soothing power of a cuppa work its magic on your stress levels.
Getting some fresh air and moving your body is also a great circuit breaker. It gets you outside of your usual environment AND produces feel-good brain chemicals that help relieve tension and relax you.
For more on how creating a habit of having alcohol-free days will help you stay physically and mentally healthy, head to ABC Life.
2. Count your drinks
Keeping a count of how many drinks you have will help you stay at low risk of alcohol-related harm. The NHMRC recommends drinking no more than 2 standard drinks a day to prevent the long-term harms from drinking alcohol. These are things like cancer, stroke and heart disease. To prevent injury, they recommend no more than 4 standard drinks on any one occasion.
Check out Alcohol.Think Again for an online standard drink tool, where you can learn what a standard drink is and how many standard drinks are in the drinks you typically pour. Typically, one standard drink of alcohol is equal to a small (100ml) glass of wine, 30ml of spirits or a small (285ml) glass of beer. A bottle of full strength beer generally has around 1.4 standard drinks and an average serving of a glass of red wine has around 1.6 standard drinks. The number of standard drinks should be written on the container, so check this to help you keep count.
Alcohol.Think Again also has a quick and simple online tool you can use to assess if your current drinking habits are putting you at risk.
3. Limit how much alcohol you keep at home
If it's not there, you can't drink it! The more alcohol you have in the house, the more likely you are to drink it. Instead of keeping a large store of alcohol on-hand, only buy small amounts at a time. Better yet, keep your house alcohol-free and only head to the bottle shop to buy booze for a specific event.
4. Try low-alcohol or alcohol-free alternatives
Keeping your house stocked with tasty non-alcoholic drinks can help. Interesting teas, sparkling water and home-made iced coffee are all great ways to mix it up. Check out our LiveLighter team's delicious non-alcoholic drink recipes. Low- and no-alcohol products are a good alternative for some people looking to reduce their drinking. There are now a range of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirit options available from liquor stores and supermarkets. However be warned, many of these products are loaded with hidden sugar and kilojoules. So while they're not alcohol, they're not necessarily healthy options.
5. Start with water
If your workplace is hosting virtual Friday night drinks or if you're catching up with friends online, remember to drink at low-risk levels. Make your first couple of drinks non-alcoholic. These are usually the ones we drink the quickest (maybe because we're thirsty?) so you can get a real win by making these water.
Drink non-alcoholic drinks like sparkling water, or non-alcoholic beer as spacers between your alcoholic drinks. Drink slowly and take time to enjoy the taste. Your body will thank you for it the next day.
6. Do fun stuff at home
Think Mental Health has lots of great ideas of how you can make the most of your time at home. Puzzles and podcasts are a great way to get you thinking, or you could explore your artistic side by having a go at sketching, painting or an adult colouring-in book.
This blog was originally published on LiveLighter.com.au.
The latest Alcohol. Think Again campaign highlights three ways to reduce your drinking. You can share this message easily with friends and family via social media.
For more tips on how to reduce your drinking at home and other ways to keep entertained, head to the Alcohol.Think Again website.
Cancer Council WA's Alcohol Programs team work alongside the Mental Health Commission to deliver the Alcohol. Think Again campaign.