Protecting your mental health during Covid-19

Remote working, physical distancing and self-isolation due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic changed the way we lived our lives from day to day. As a nation, we adapted well but as restrictions lift and life gets back to some sense of normal, we must look after our mental health and be especially mindful of how much alcohol – and why – we are drinking.

With many people returning to their office/work and society reopening, daily stresses and anxieties that were common before Covid-19 might resurface. During this period of change, it’s important to protect your mental health. Remember it is normal to feel anxious about returning to work or the office, any change to your usual routine can increase worry and stress. Half of Irish adults report drinking alcohol as a way to cope with problems, stress, and anxiety and younger adults are even more likely to use alcohol in this way. Alcohol is an unhelpful coping strategy; it won’t help to make you feel better and can worsen problems.

If you, like so many others have shared with us on Instagram and Facebook, were drinking more alcohol than usual and more often, to manage boredom, anxiety or stress, we have some tips and advice to get you back on track. While we were all rightly preoccupied with protecting our families and homes from Covid-19, let’s now take some time to check in on our own physical health and wellbeing as we move out of restrictions and reopen society.

  • Limit or cut out alcohol completely: If you catch yourself reaching for a glass of wine of bottle of beer to reduce stress or fill free time at home, make a change. Have plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives in the house, and put them within easy reach. Store alcohol out of sight, or remove it from your shopping list for now. Create a list of activities to do instead: listen to a podcast, read a book or start a DIY project you’ve been putting off. Read tips for mindful drinking at home
  • Check-in with family and friends: Haven’t seen that friend in a while? During lockdown, you might have lost touch with people you would normally meet in person. Why not reconnect with an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while? Or plan a celebration to make up for lost time with family. Keeping in touch and having a support network you can rely on can have a positive impact on our mood and ability to deal with problems.
  • Keep an active routine: As the nights get shorter it can be tempting to stay inside. In Ireland, we are lucky to have stunning landscapes and green spaces on our doorstep – why not start a new daily routine of walking, cycling or running in your local area. Keeping active can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Take up a new hobby:  The shorter days and colder evenings can be a good excuse to take up a new hobby. Why not try some new winter recipes. Turning this into a family activity will keep everyone busy and little minds active while you share your tips and tricks for cooking and baking. A balanced nutritious diet is just as important for mental health as it is for physical health. Have you always wanted to learn a musical instrument? YouTube has plenty of free tutorials to keep you busy.
  • Sleep and rest well: Aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep every night, even longer for children. Alcohol, even just a few drinks, can affect how well you sleep which can lead to a bad night’s rest. Any anxiety you are experiencing may already be affecting your sleep, and alcohol will impact this further. Read about alcohol and sleep
  • Remember you’re not alone: If you need to talk to someone about how you are feeling, you can call the freephone YourMentalHealth Information Line on 1800 111 888 (any time, day or night).

ALCOHOL AND MENTAL HEALTH

The impact of alcohol on your mental health is more significant than you might think. Alcohol can contribute to the development of mental health problems including depression and anxiety, as well as making existing problems worse.

Alcohol is a depressant, which disrupts how the brain functions and affect our thoughts, feelings and actions. Alcohol affects the levels chemicals or neurotransmitters in our brain, for example, serotonin, which regulates happiness. This change to the brain processes causes the relaxed feeling you may get after your first drink but this change is also responsible for feelings of anxiety or depression you may experience the next day. Regularly drinking above the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines interferes with these chemicals in our brains that are needed for strong, balanced mental health. Read more about mental health

FOLLOW HSE GUIDANCE TO SLOW THE SPREAD OF COVID-19

  • Wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough and sneeze. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Maintain physical distancing. Keep at least 2 metres (6.5ft) between you and other people.
  • Wear a face covering on public transport, in shops and other indoor settings – this is the law, you may be fined or refused entry if you don’t wear one. Read the full list of locations where face coverings are required
  • If you feel unwell, stay at home and follow HSE advice
  • Download the COVID-19 Tracker App now