While we won’t be attending many cocktail parties this December, some Canadians will still feel inclined to overindulge in cocktails at home. In fact, 25% of Canadians aged 35-54 are drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic than before it, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). Unsurprisingly, the CCSA found that the main factors responsible for our uptick in alcohol consumption are lack of a regular schedule (51%), stress (44%), loneliness (19%) and boredom (49%).
Since the holiday season typically sees Canadians imbibing a little bit more than usual in “regular” years, let’s be especially mindful of managing our drinking this holiday season. Here are some important factors to consider.
Alcohol and COVID-19
Alcohol has short and long-term effects on almost every single organ in the body. “Overall, evidence suggests that there is no “safe limit” when it comes to drinking; the risk of damage to our health increases with each drink we consume,” says Medisys physician Dr. Vanessa Beliveau. Even in small quantities, alcohol use is known to increase cancer risk and weaken the immune system — a factor we should all consider during the “double wave” of COVID-19 and the annual flu season, she notes.
Remember that alcohol impairs our judgement and our decision-making processes too, so it can become more difficult to make smart decisions about physical distancing, self-isolation, hand hygiene and social boundaries when we drink. On the other hand, staying sober will help us remain vigilant about safety and likely lead to smarter decisions for ourselves, our family, and our communities. Teenagers and young adults can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to drinking and COVID-19, since this age group is often more social and experimental by nature. It’s important to have a discussion about the heightened risks associated with drinking during this time in our lives with anyone in your bubble who may be at risk.
It’s OK to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two now and then, but keep these tips in mind to help minimize your consumption this holiday season and year-round:
1. Don’t stockpile alcohol
A the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a tendency to buy more of everything we thought we might “need” in case we couldn’t find it later. Doing this with alcohol may increase the amount you drink, simply by having it easily accessible.
2. Plan ahead
If you anticipate that you will want to enjoy a drink with a certain meal or gathering with your bubble, planning what that drink will be and when you will have it ahead of time may lead to less consumption overall.
3. Prioritize nutrition and exercise
Eating well and exercising regularly not only reduces stress, promotes good-feeling emotions and strengthens the immune system, but it can also help us feel more connected to our health and well-being. As a result we may feel more committed to avoiding alcohol and choosing healthier ways to unwind and relax.
4. Make a list of other stress-busters
Many of us turn to alcohol to reduce stress. By making a short list of other stress-busting activities and keeping it handy in your wallet or saved on your phone, you can turn to it when you feel the urge to reach for a drink. Some stress-reducing activities may include a yoga practice or meditation, cooking or baking, calling a friend or doing a workout.
5. Seek help when you need it
As a nation we are still in the midst of a stressful season of life, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or using unhealthy habits to cope, know that you’re not alone. Professional, confidential support is at your fingertips with Akira by TELUS Health. Activate your account now and connect with a clinician right away.