The prospect of working from home with no escape from family members may already be driving some to drink. Picture: AP
The prospect of working from home with no escape from family members may already be driving some to drink. Picture: AP

Avoid booze to beat lockdown blues, advises WHO expert

By Victoria Allen Time of article published Mar 27, 2020

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London - The prospect of working from home with no escape from family members may already be driving some to drink.

But using alcohol to get through the stress of the coronavirus outbreak is an "unhelpful coping strategy", a World Health Organisation expert declared.

Dr Aiysha Malik said that drinking may simply make being in isolation worse and urged people to try hobbies and other relaxation techniques instead.

In an online briefing, she said: "When we’re staying at home routines are very important for creating a sense of structure. Minimising the unhelpful coping strategies of using tobacco or alcohol can also be important for your wellbeing."

The technical officer at WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse said: "For people without addictions, using substances will not help to manage the stress of self- isolation. They can make things worse."

UK behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings said people should not drink more than usual as it could "amplify" their feelings of panic or sadness. 

A survey of 2 000 Britons before the full lockdown found that almost two-thirds felt anxious or worried because of the outbreak, with 22 percent feeling panic and 30 percent saying they had been afraid. 

The poll was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and Cambridge Institute of Public Health.

Some tips to stop you feeling overwhelmed:

Stick to routines

One way to exert control over this situation is to establish a routine for your day: set a time to get up, shower, get dressed, have meals, and a time when you go to bed each night. "This helps you create some certainty in your day," says Dr Goodhart, author of 'The Cancer Survivor’s Companion' and 'How To Feel Better'.

Filter news intake

"Anxiety will be maintained by constant information-checking, and with news available 24-hours a day, this couldn’t be easier," says Harley Street psychologist, Dr Meg Arroll.

"You might not be able to control the progression of a virus, but you can control how much you check the news. So be aware of the number of times you do this."

Dr Arroll suggests giving yourself a "worry window" to think through your concerns and write them down to get them out of your head.

Follow the rules

Closely following guidelines on hand-washing and social distancing is not just good practice, it can ease stress, too.

In that 2016 study on uncertainty, the researchers found participants who prepared for uncertainty performed best. So obeying the new rules can help you feel some sense of control and mitigate stress.

Have fun

Anxiety is worse when the brain has space to be scared, so fill your time and focus on tasks that bring you joy. For example, you could learn how to play the piano or to speak a foreign language. "Creative pursuits all boost emotional health and can help you cope with self-isolation," says Dr Arroll.

Socialise

Regular communication with friends, family and neighbours via phone or video chats is very important to help maintain perspective, provide distraction and lift mood.

"Humans are social creatures," says Dr Goodhart, "so staying connected is important, otherwise being unable to socialise can become an additional stressor."

Although face-to-face contact might be limited, help could take the form of giving to food banks, helping neighbours or engaging in online community support.

Daily Mail

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