Coronavirus: top tips on alcohol and mental health

Maddy Lawson | March 2020 | 7 minutes

This is a stressful time for lots of us in the UK and around the world, and in times of stress we can find ourselves drinking more often or more heavily.

On top of that, many of our routines will have changed, which might make it hard to keep on top of how much we’re drinking.

Here are some ways to help you look after your mental health while keeping a happy, healthy relationship with alcohol.

1. Look after your general mental health

Top tips for general mental wellbeing during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak include:

  • Limit your time reading the news and on social media
  • Stay connected with your loved ones
  • Do things that help your mind and body, like exercise and eating healthily

There are more tips in this article from the BBC. You can also find many more resources on everything from sleep to low mood on the NHS Every Mind Matters website.

2. Work out other ways to relax and treat yourself

It might be that alcohol is your go-to treat when you need to relax. When things are tougher than normal, you might find yourself reaching for alcohol more often, so it’s worth finding some alcohol-free treats too. You could try chocolate, a hot bath, playing video games, or anything else that helps you unwind. You deserve it! Here are some more ideas.

And if you’re looking for an alcohol-free drink to hit the spot when you want a treat, we have reviews of the best low and no alcohol wines, beers, ciders and spirits.

3. Find alcohol-free ways to have fun

If you’re working from home or self-isolating you might have more time than usual to fill, and sometimes we use alcohol to do that. But there are lots of things you can do at home without alcohol! Check out just a few in this blog.

4. Keep track of your drinking

With normal routines out of whack and stress levels heightened, you might find yourself drinking more than usual without noticing. If you’re worried about your drinking getting out of hand, there are tools available to help you keep track so you can make the decision to cut down if you notice your intake increasing.

You could keep track using an app. Ours is called Try Dry, and you can use it to track your intake with charts and graphs, plus see your units, calories and money saved when you cut down. You can also earn badges for days off or reducing your units. Download it for free.

Alternatively, you could check your drinking risk score to get a better idea of whether it would be a good idea to cut back.

5. Get support remotely

If you’re recently in recovery or sober and receiving support, you might need support now more than ever - but you may be concerned about how you will receive it under ‘social distancing’ conditions. Or maybe you're just realising that you need to cut down and would like some support, but aren't sure where to turn. You might also be looking for support for your general mental health.

Good news - there there are lots of great options for receiving support online or over the phone.

If you are or have been affected by someone else’s drinking there’s support available for you too.

If you are looking for urgent support please contact the Samaritans, who are available 24/7 on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org.

We have put together a list of support that is available online or over the phone during the coronavirus outbreak.

Find support

If you are currently attending AA or SMART Recovery meetings, they are giving updates on their plans in light of coronavirus:

6. Remember that alcohol doesn’t help in the long term

Many of us will have used alcohol to manage or cope with difficult emotions at some point. However, when this becomes a pattern it can be harmful, both to our mental and physical health.

Overuse of alcohol can worsen the symptoms of many mental health problems. In particular, it can lead to low mood and anxiety. Depression and heavy drinking have a mutually reinforcing relationship – meaning that either condition increases a person’s chances of experiencing the other. For that reason, managing your alcohol intake is one way of reducing your risk of developing depression. If you do experience depression, reducing the amount you drink may help to manage symptoms.

If you’re interested in finding out more about alcohol and mental health you can read our factsheet.

Your mental health is important just like your physical health, so taking steps to look after both is vital. Stay well.