April: Stress & Alcohol Awareness Month

alcohol and stress

This month, we are going to combine two very important awareness topics:

April is National Stress Awareness Month, but it is also Alcohol Awareness Month.  Both seem more appropriate and applicable than they normally are. Our lives have been upended. Many people are trying to figure out how to handle a multitude of issues all at one time. 

Not all of us are handling these things as well as we would like. Some of us stew, holding everything in, while some of us lash out to relieve tension and stress.  BOTH ARE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

Of course, many of us had high stress levels prior to the pandemic, and were not addressing stress levels. Consequently, some of the methods used to handle high stress have escalated.  Increased alcohol consumption is one method that may be increasing due to our constant stress and worry over our handling of this unprecedented event.

How are you handling the uptick in our stress levels?

One of my frequent resources that I visit often is The Conversation.  We are providing the link to their article: “Coronavirus: how to stop the anxiety spiralling out of control”, written by Jo Daniels, Senior Lecturer of Psychology, University of Bath.  This article provides very specific information about the “fight or flight” response, as well as quality content providing tips for managing stress.  You can view their article in its entirety by clicking here.

Before we can give you our suggestions for managing your stress, it is important to know how to self-evaluate and take steps to mitigate your stress if you determine that your levels are out of normal parameters.

But how do you know if you are out of the normal realm of response? If you feel that your reaction is extreme to known stress triggers in your life, it may be time to take the necessary step to fully evaluate what you are experiencing and why these reactions are affecting you so strongly.

We reached out to Mind Garden for guidance.  They graciously permitted us to reprint the most widely used psychological test for measuring stress created by Sheldon Cohen. To download the test, click here. 

Be sure to look at all of the other evaluation tools/resources available at Mind Garden.  They are extremely professional and a very reliable resource.

The Perceived Stress Scale is a series of questions designed to ask about feelings and thoughts during the last month.

This test is user friendly, and used to measure the degree that certain situations are appraised as stressful. This is a classic stress assessment instrument, and highly effective. 

So, if my stress levels are off the charts, what can I do?

Identifying what your triggers are and acknowledging them is a great start!

Stress is known to affect your overall health. I can personally attest to that fact.  Having lived with psoriasis for so long, I learned that stress flares me up more than anything. It is a vicious cycle. The more my skin would flare, the worse and more amped up my stress levels would be.

If you are feeling particularly stressed and feel as if you are bordering on panic, take a step back, breathe and regroup in a positive way with a plan.

Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

  1. Meditation and Reflection
  2. Exercise
  3. Sexual Intimacy
  4. Proper diet and nutrition
  5. Communication and interaction with family, friends, physicians for support and assistance even if remotely.

If your symptoms persist or are worsening, contact your personal physician for discussion and possible referral to a different type of specialist.

As an added note: When evaluating your personal situation, be sure to include in your consideration any new medications for possible psychological side effects.  Further, be aware of mixing alcohol with any medications you may be taking.

Taking the best personal care of yourself right now will assist you in maintaining a healthier lifestyle, a better sex life and hopefully, a stronger immune system. 

Check up on your friends and family members that are having difficulty handling the added stress of Covid-19. This is particularly important if there was a pre-existing mental health condition.  These psychological difficulties can be amplified during this health crisis.

The Centers for Disease control and Prevention recommends SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) as a resource should normal prevention not work with your issues. 

Total self-evaluation will help curb self-medication with alcohol use before it escalates into alcohol abuse.

Recreational use of alcohol is moderation can quickly change and sneak up on you during heightened levels of stress.

Covid-19 has caused a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption.  Pay attention to changes in your behavior that are occurring, many simultaneously.  Being aware can benefit you by preventing an escalation of dependency.

Other resources:

Health.Gov's Alcohol Awareness Toolkit

Alcoholics Anonymous