Drinking (or Not) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 15, 2020

For many of us, COVID-19 has put our lives on hold or dramatically reshaped them. We’re being told to relax and embrace a new normal. Should that include more drinking, less drinking, or quitting altogether?

That all depends on who you are, your health, and your family history. 

 

The Health Benefits of Alcohol

Not surprisingly, many people are drinking, and drinking more, right now. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Alcohol can provide a temporary escape from worry and stress. Occasional or moderate drinking (according to the CDC, two drinks or fewer a day for men; one drink or fewer a day for women) has been proven to produce feelings of euphoria and happiness while helping to reduce tension – in fact, those who drink in moderation are less likely to suffer from depression, compared to both non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Alcohol can also provide other health-boosting benefits. You’ve probably heard that an occasional glass of wine is good for you – and there’s some science to back this up. Red wine, in particular:

  • Provides antioxidants that may help your cells fight off disease to help you live longer
  • Promotes an anti-inflammatory response that can help decrease pain
  • Contains a compound called resveratrol that may reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots

But before make a shopping trip just to pick up a case of wine or beer, you should figure out if the benefits are worth the potential risks.

 

Why Drinking Might Not Be for You

Woman drinking and holding a babyFor some, an occasional drink is harmless. However, alcohol can pose serious health risks for others. People who should not drink include:

  • Anyone under the age of 21
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Those with diseases of the liver or pancreas
  • Those who have had problems with alcohol or drug addiction in the past, or come from a family with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction 
  • Anyone with certain medical conditions or on medications that may have a negative reaction to alcohol. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are on medication for:

        o    Diabetes
        o    Heart failure
        o    High blood pressure
        o    Irregular heart rhythm
        o    A history of strokes


Consider Mindful Drinking

Recently, there’s been a trend known as “mindful drinking.” Unlike sobriety programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that focus on not drinking at all, mindful drinking is about making sure you’re drinking the right amount for the right reason -- because it gives you some kind of pleasure and not out of habit or because you can’t otherwise cope. Before you drink, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I choosing to have this drink?
  • Do I need to have it right now?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • How do I feel?

Another part of mindful drinking is setting limits: for example, you might limit yourself to no more than two drinks, or you might only drink two nights per week. This can help you drink in moderation and keep your drinking from becoming a habit. 

 

The Benefits of Quitting Drinking

Girl sleepingEven though drinking in moderation has been tied to health benefits, your health and well-being will improve, across the board, if you decide to stop drinking. 

Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to live longer, since more than half of all serious trauma injuries and deaths from burns, drownings, and homicides involve alcohol. In addition, you will see positive changes, including:

  • A better night’s sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • A healthier liver
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved memory 
  • More money in the bank


The Benefits of Not Drinking at All

If you don’t drink, the best thing you can do is to continue not to drink. Even with the benefits of an occasional glass of wine, studies show that non-drinkers live longer, have decreased risks for diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Nondrinkers also never have to worry about DUIs or hangovers!

There are many different alternatives that let you experience the benefits of drinking. If you’re looking for something tasty to sip during your next online happy hour, you can try a fruity mocktail – drinks that use fruit juices and mixers without the alcohol.

If you’re looking for a way to blow off some stress, try meditation or vigorous exercise. Both can help you lower your blood pressure, too.

If you’re looking to fight depression and loneliness, make time to connect with your friends and family, even if you have to do it virtually.

And you can get the same anti-inflammatory benefits found in red wine from eating some delicious grapes, which also provide dietary fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins A and C.
 

Salud!

Happy womanYour good health is our main concern. No matter what, we’re here for both your mental and physical health needs. If you need care, call us at (888) 499-9303.

 

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COVID-19: Taking Care of Your Mental Health Matters More Than Ever

April 27, 2020

Human beings are creatures of habit: we crave routine, dependability, and stability in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped a lot of that out, with many of us having to adjust to being with our families or completely isolated, 24/7. The fear of the health and economic effects, and not knowing when things will get back to normal, can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

At AltaMed, we want to encourage you to think about your mental health and provide the support you may need. We understand that many people do not feel comfortable admitting they’re having problems, but the more we talk about what we’re going through, the more obvious it becomes that these issues are a normal part of life. There’s no shame in asking for help! 


We’re All Grieving for the Lives We Used to Have

Section 1

 Unfortunately, none of us know what the future holds. With the fear that we’ll never get back to “normal,” there can be a sense of loss. 

Many of us are also struggling with our schedules being disrupted, which can lead to a feeling of loss of control. Those feelings can spiral into anxiety and depression. If this sounds like you, it may help to create and stick to a routine. 

Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get a minimum of 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep (kids need even more) so you can start each day right.  In addition to work and home responsibilities, build in time for exercise, socializing with friends online or over the phone, and self-care

And don’t forget the little things – especially brushing your teeth three times a day. It may be more difficult to get dental appointments, so give yourself and your family one less thing to worry about.


You Don’t Have to Be Strong All the Time

Section 2

Many of us are trying to set a good example and be strong for our children, our partners, and those who depend on us. It’s OK to admit that you’re scared, too. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, don’t bury these feelings. Reach out to those you’re closest to and tell them how you feel. 

Do whatever you can to maintain your close connections and then lean in – the risks of loneliness and isolation during times like this are great, and so are the consequences.


Find a Way to Deal with Stress

Section 3

Living through long periods of stress can trigger bad behaviors – for example, drinking too much or using drugs. Too much stress for too long can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. It’s more important than ever to find a healthy way to deal with stress

Adults aren’t the only ones experiencing stress during the pandemic: your kids, being out of school and away from their friends and relatives, are going through stress, too. Talk to them honestly about it and listen to what they have to say. Then look for activities you can do together to help take the pressure off. Maybe it’s having a virtual dance party or going for a walk or bike-ride – just don’t forget to maintain your physical distance from others and wear a mask.


Give Yourself a Break 

Section 4

Most of us have never been through anything as intense as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s taking a lot out of us, physically and emotionally. It may be harder to keep up – with house cleaning, working out, achieving personal goals you might have made like losing weight or exercising more. And that’s OK – you don’t have to be perfect, and you’re not a failure. It’s still important to set goals and expectations, but think about revising them or think about breaking them down into small steps.

For example, if you’re frustrated because your house has gotten messy, instead of aiming for perfection, figure out a way to enlist your family in a chore every day. If you had the goal of losing 15 pounds, put the scale in the closet but continue to focus on eating healthy foods and moving as much as you can during the day. Concentrate on what you achieve every day and celebrate your success.

However, there’s one goal that’s more important than ever: quitting smoking, vaping, or any tobacco use.


If You Smoke, Now is a Great Time to Quit

Section 5

Even if you think having a cigarette or two can help you get through the day, here’s why there’s never been a better time to quit. Smoking or vaping makes you even more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections, and there’s evidence that secondhand smoke puts your family members at risk, too. 

We know it can be difficult, but you can do it, and we can put you in touch with resources that can help.


We’re Here for You

It’s natural to feel worried, sad, and lonely right now, but if these feelings start interfering with your ability to get through your daily life or start making you feel bad physically, it may be time to ask for help. To learn more about our Behavioral Health Services, call us at (855) 425-1777

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255

 

Busting Myths Around Screen Time: Balance is Key During Quarantine

May 06, 2020

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, many of us are now working, playing, socializing, and going to school online. That’s a lot of screen time. And you may be wondering if all of that time spent looking down at a laptop, cellphone, or tablet is good for you.

The answers aren’t always easy. In a nutshell, spending 6, 8, or 10 hours online every day isn’t great for you, but you may be able to undo some of the harmful effects. Read on to learn more about common screen-related problems and how you can fix them.

 

The Myth: Increased Screen Time Can Lead to Weight Gain, Diabetes, and Other Health Problems

man playing video games

The Truth: There’s scientific evidence that too much sitting – whether it’s in front of a screen, on a couch, or behind the wheel of a car – can lead to heart disease, a shorter life, weight gain, increased risk of dementia, and many other health problems.

With increased screen time, you’re probably seeing more online ads and commercials for fast food, snacks, and other unhealthy products. These ads can stick in your brain and influence what you buy later.

Finally, there is a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. If your device use affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep, then you may be eating more, moving less, and gaining weight.

The Solution: Include more movement in your day. Even if you’re having a difficult time with vigorous exercise, just start moving as much as you can. At least once an hour, get up from your computer and walk a lap around your house. And read on for tips to keep your devices from keeping you up at night.

 

The Myth: Too Much Screen Time Interferes with Your Sleep

woman writing a document

The Truth: This is true, for a number of reasons:
1.   First, your devices give off a light that may keep you up or make it harder for you to shut your brain off.

2.   If you spend too much time reading the news and worrying about the day’s events, that can also cause you anxiety and make it harder to sleep.  

3.   Finally, if you find yourself consistently binging content or texting in bed when you should be asleep, you could be throwing your schedule off, making it more difficult to get restful sleep.

The Solution: Put your devices down at least an hour before bedtime, but if you absolutely, positively need to be on your phone, switch your apps over to dark mode, which is easier on your eyes, your brain, and your phone’s battery life. Also, set limits on the amount of news you see.

 

The Myth: Staring at a Computer All Day is Bad for the Eyes

boy using an smartphone with his father

The Truth: Finally, some good news! Increased screen time won’t permanently ruin your eyes, and no one has ever gone blind just by staring at their phone all day. But you can get temporary eye strain, discomfort, and even headaches. 

The Solution: You can take steps to correct the strain and protect your eye health. One easy thing you can do is simply to blink more often! This will help refresh and moisten your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, try switching to glasses (if you have them) or working without your contacts. A few simple changes to how you work at your computer can prevent eye strain as well as headaches and backaches, too. Believe it or not, sore, dry eyes can lead to an achy back, so try these stretches and exercises to keep your spine mobile

 

The Myth: Too Much Screen Time Hurts Kids’ Brains

back of a kid watching tv and wearing headphones

The Truth: An excess amount of screen time can harm young, developing brains. Studies have found too many hours in front of a device can lead to developmental delays, poor social skills, behavioral problems, and a general feeling of unhappiness or a lack of well-being. 

The Solution: For younger children, limit their screen time to the absolute minimum. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed these guidelines:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, no more than one hour per day.
  • For children over the age of 6, set limits on the time as well as which devices and content, and make sure this time doesn’t interfere with getting enough sleep and physical activity. 

Work with your children so they’re doing as much schoolwork offline as they can. Encourage physical play and exercise – get outdoors as much as possible, while still being safe. Make screen-free family time a priority, and do as much IRL (“in real life”) socializing as you can safely, paying attention to the latest recommendations from our mayor and governor.

 

Set a Good Example for Your Family

mother and daughter speaking at the table

We understand how essential phones, tablets, and computers are right now, but as so many of us are battling isolation and loneliness, do what you can to connect with those in your household.  Create device-free times throughout the day – and even no-phone-zones throughout your house (for example, at the dinner table).

We’ll get through this – and until we do, AltaMed is here for all of your family’s health needs. We’re even offering appointments by phone to help you grow healthy, no matter what.