- Posted by Cam Poole
- On May 20, 2020
Many people are now coping with far more than they usually would, from the stress of juggling remote work and homeschooling children, to the loss of a job or fear about a loved one working in an essential business.
Our separation from regular routines, coupled with being stuck at home all day with these added stressors, has caused several habits to resurface or form. Various studies say it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit that inevitably leads to either a negative or positive effect on our well-being.
This pandemic has led us to relax some of our healthy habits. Many of the normal behaviours we use to cope with stress and anxiety aren’t an option right now, and we’re falling back on some bad habits instead.
Traumatic events like the coronavirus pandemic have historically led to a spike in alcohol abuse and dependence. We’re seeing drinking memes and “quarantini” recipes everywhere on social media. But, those who have spent weeks or even months of indulging in alcohol to escape difficulties could be left with a habit that’s hard to shake off once lockdown is over.
Enjoying an occasional drink can be an appropriate social behaviour. Many people have taken to Zoom and Facetime to replace their family birthday celebrations and have enjoyed happy hours at the end of the remote working day to connect with friends from afar. But for vulnerable individuals or those already struggling with addiction, using alcohol to cope with fear or grief can quickly escalate into a serious problem, particularly without much structure to rein it in.
How drinking can impact your mental health
The World Health Organization recently highlighted the need to limit alcohol consumption during the pandemic, not only because heavy drinking compromises immunity, but it can also contribute to mental health problems, violence, and impulsive risk-taking behaviour.
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, to reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than 3 to 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days. And, for men, 15 drinks a week with no more than 3 drinks a day most day. Since no amount of alcohol is considered healthy, they recommend that you plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
However, numbers alone don’t indicate when you should be concerned. If you find yourself becoming more preoccupied with drinking and thinking ahead to when and what you’re going to drink, you might be developing a problem. It’s important to be watchful for signs that drinking is interfering with your emotional stability, including spikes in irritability, anxiety, and depression. If so, take this opportunity to find better coping mechanisms to support your health, and keep yourself mentally balanced.
Great downtime habits to embrace and take beyond the pandemic
One way or another, many of us will emerge from this crisis with new ways of doing things. The pandemic has caused massive disruption to our lives, bringing the opportunities to start afresh with a clean slate. Since many of our regular triggers and patterns are no longer present, we can take this opportunity to eliminate the habits that no longer serve us and adopt healthier choices.
Mark the start of downtime in different ways
Strategies such as going out for a 20-minute walk at the beginning of an evening, calling a friend to check-in, or doing an online yoga session to defuse the stress and anxiety that has built up over the day can be a great way to mark the beginning of your downtime at the end of the working day.
In the name of self-care
Many of us view healthy habits as a duty or task to achieve, but actually, they are the self-care that we need more than ever right now. To help shift your mindset, it can help to view healthy habits as a part of your identity. For example, instead of saying, “I have to run,” you could reframe it to be a part of your identity by saying, “I am a runner,” boosting both your motivation and fuelling a positive mindset.
Virtual connections broaden horizons
We may have been required to physically distance, but the pandemic has led many of us to connect with others via virtual platforms from the comfort of our home.
The slower pace of life has made room in our schedules to reconnect with those in our lives, both near and far. Zoom and Facetime video calls have enabled friends and family to celebrate special occasions. Virtual meetings have enabled remote workers to connect to coworkers and continue collaborating on tasks. While virtual therapy platforms have made it less intimidating for people who think they might have a problem to seek help from a virtual therapist and talk through their concerns, with the added option to talk anonymously with video off.
Habits: The good, the bad, and the mentally healthy
Many people are struggling to navigate a completely new situation with unique stressors. We are all adapting the best way we know-how, which brings an opportunity to uncover any unconscious habits, like that glass of wine that turns into a half bottle every night. Now is the time to take control. The positive new habits formed during this time will reach far beyond the pandemic in 2020 and set us up for success in embracing new coping strategies for the future.
Download Snapclarity to access mental well-being resources and support from the comfort of your home.