The Health Effects of Pandemic Drinking

The Health Effects of Pandemic Drinking

If you’ve been drinking more than usual lately, here’s how it can affect your body.

Cooped up at home with no workplace to go to and no school for the kids, many people turned to jigsaw puzzles to combat boredom during the pandemic. Unfortunately, they also turned to alcohol (along with marijuana, cigarettes and illegal drugs) to combat the stress of isolation and loneliness, job loss, financial concerns and fear of getting COVID-19.

Cleaning supplies and toilet paper weren’t the only things people stocked up on during the pandemic. Sales at liquor stores – deemed “essential businesses” along with grocery stores and pharmacies – skyrocketed more than 50% in just the first month of lockdown alone.

Alcohol consumption was already rising among adults before the pandemic. An estimated 15 million Americans have a mild, moderate or severe alcohol-use disorder. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., after lack of exercise and poor diet. Nearly 100,000 people die each year from causes directly or indirectly linked to alcohol, such as car accidents.

Experts predict that the pandemic will result in these numbers climbing even higher, especially for women. One recent survey reported that nearly 2 out of 3 women increased their alcohol use during the past 18 months.

But alcohol isn’t good for the body. Even moderate consumption can lead to these serious issues:

  • Alcohol activates the immune system. This results in inflammation, which disrupts the body’s response to bacterial and viral infections.
  • Alcohol use can cause or exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and digestive issues.
  • Cases of alcoholic liver disease, including cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, were up 30% between March 2020 and March 2021.
  • Too much alcohol can damage the cells that line the surface of the lungs. This leads to an increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
  • Alcohol use can cause learning and memory problems, including dementia.
  • Alcohol increases risk-taking behaviors, such as unsafe sex, driving while intoxicated and suicidal thoughts.
  • Alcohol use, especially when paired with being isolated in close quarters during a collective social trauma, can lead to violence in the home. Numerous studies around the world have shown increases in the number and severity of domestic violence incidents since the pandemic began.
  • Restrictions during the pandemic compromised access to treatment services for those with substance abuse disorders, who often turn to in-person support groups to help maintain their sobriety. An estimated 40 to 60% of people in recovery are already at risk of relapse, and the stress of a pandemic coupled with few treatment options can make those numbers climb even higher.

If you find you’ve been drinking too much during the pandemic, it’s not too late to start reversing the effects. Studies have shown that after just two weeks of abstinence, the liver starts to repair itself, you’re sleeping better (which leads to increased energy during the day), your skin is more hydrated, your acid reflux has subsided, and you’re saving both calories and money.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

7 Tips to Soothe Re-Entry Anxiety

7 Tips to Soothe Re-Entry Anxiety

Feeling uneasy about getting back to everyday life? If so, these tips can help.

During the height of the pandemic, staying home 24/7 felt strange and uncomfortable for most of us. But as restrictions began easing and things started to reopen, many people suddenly felt something they didn’t expect to feel. Although we may have initially been excited to get “back to normal”, it now seems that venturing away from the safety of our homes is what feels strange and makes us feel uncomfortable.

Until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, feelings of fear and uncertainty about resuming our normal lives and everyday activities are going to be common. They’re so common, in fact, that mental health experts have already given those feelings a name – “re-entry anxiety” or “re-entry panic syndrome.”

The good news is that a healthy amount of re-entry anxiety helps us adjust gradually and makes us more likely to take recommended precautions. But if you’re feeling very anxious about getting back into the world or your anxiety is interfering with other aspects of your life, here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Don’t wait. You’ll need to go out eventually, so the longer you put it off, the more anxious you will feel. If you put off going out for too long, your anxiety will keep building and may become harder to manage.
  1. Start small. Your first time out in public shouldn’t be a high-risk activity like congregating in a large group of people where social distancing is impossible. Begin with short, less stressful outings to places you’ll feel the safest, like picking up a takeout order or walking in the park.
  1. Focus on what you can control. Even if you follow recommended guidelines like wearing a mask and staying 6 feet away from others, it doesn’t mean everyone around you will be doing the same. So it’s up to you to do what you can to feel safe. If you encounter people not taking precautions, stay even more than 6 feet away or leave the area and go someplace else.
  1. Try the buddy system. You likely have friends and family members who are feeling the same anxiety that you are about going out in public. You might feel less anxious if you venture out together (while still following your area’s recommended guidelines).
  1. Choose the right time. No matter where you’re headed, try to avoid the busiest times. If you want to pick up an order from a restaurant or grocery store, ask when the slowest times are so you won’t encounter too many people when you arrive. Numerous businesses have instituted special shopping hours for people over 60, so if you’re in that age group, take advantage of the smaller crowds.
  1. Get help if you need it. If you feel that your anxiety is out of hand, or you’re experiencing other symptoms of anxiety like lack of concentration, difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations or nausea, consider speaking with a professional. The pandemic has led to a surge in telemedicine, so you can consult with a mental health professional right from the comfort of your home if you wish.
  1. Keep practicing good self-care. Try to get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet and continue connecting with friends and family daily, even if you do it remotely. Consider managing anxiety symptoms with regular exercise, deep breathing and meditation. Remember that alcohol, caffeine and drugs can make anxiety symptoms worse.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: July 16, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

Tips for Parents to Help Pandemic-Stressed Kids

Tips for Parents to Help Pandemic-Stressed Kids

Adults aren’t the only ones feeling sad and anxious these days. Here’s how to help kids cope.

Just as it did for adults, life changed in unimaginable ways for children and teens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote learning, canceled activities and lockdowns were necessary to slow the spread of the virus. But these restrictions, as well as a heightened sense of fear and uncertainty, have been causing children to feel anxious, depressed and even suicidal over the last year.

Mental health related emergency room visits have risen significantly for people under age 18 during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the same time periods in 2020 and 2019 were compared, visits increased by 24% for kids ages 5-11 and 31% for those ages 12-17. These numbers are an indication of mental health emergencies, but many children’s mental health has suffered to some extent over the past year, even if a trip to the ER wasn’t needed.

There are a number of reasons this pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mental health of kids, teens and young adults (as well as older adults). These include:

  • Lack of routine. As much as we may complain about routines, they give people of all ages – and especially kids – a sense of stability and security. Before the pandemic, kids knew what to expect each day, between school, after-school commitments and family activities. Now with so many things canceled and guidelines changing from day to day, it’s hard to follow a regular routine.
  • Social isolation. Kids and teens are social creatures. Many schools have relied on remote or hybrid instruction. Even if kids are in school, they’re not able to interact with others as they used to. Add to that the fact that kids and teens haven’t been able to hang out with their friends or be part of teams, clubs or other groups. Often they can’t visit with grandparents and other family members. This lack of social connection can have a major effect on their mental health.
  • Fear and worry. Everyone is feeling the strain brought about by this pandemic. People worry about those they love getting sick from the virus. Parents have lost jobs. It may feel like things will never be normal again. There’s a lot to be concerned about these days, and adults aren’t the only ones doing the worrying. Kids are worried, too – and they often overhear adult conversations, which can add to their concerns.

How Parents Can Help

Life is slowly returning to some sense of normalcy as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean things will immediately – or ever – return to the way they were before the pandemic. And if your child or teen has been struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues during the last year, they won’t just go away either. But here are a few things parents can do to help:

  • Stick to routines. Although the only constant seems to be change these days, try to stick to routines as much as possible. If kids are still learning remotely, make sure they’re following a schedule throughout the day. If activities are resuming, create new routines so kids know what to expect. Putting activities or deadlines on a calendar may help.
  • Encourage social connection. By now, you’ve likely found new ways for your kids to socialize – whether through virtual parties or socially-distanced outdoor get-togethers. Although these types of social interaction may be getting boring by now, keep them up as much as possible. As restrictions ease, encourage children to get back to social activities they used to enjoy.
  • Emphasize the future. This past year has certainly been rough, but things are getting better. Help your child focus on the good times ahead by planning an outing or vacation together. Talk about the activities they can enjoy this summer, as well as new extracurricular activities or sports that might be fun to try.
  • Look for signs of trouble. Bedwetting, clinginess and sleep disturbances may mean your preschooler isn’t coping well. Nightmares, poor concentration and withdrawal from friends may indicate problems in elementary-age children, according to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The NASP lists sleeping and eating disturbances, conflicts, delinquent behavior and agitation among the signs that teenagers are struggling.
  • Seek professional help if needed. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health and things don’t seem to be improving, get in touch with a mental health professional who is experienced in treating children or teens.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: February 18, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

Staying Connected When Disconnected

Staying Connected When Disconnected

During these current unpredictable times of COVID 19, staying connected has been more important than ever. We as human beings have a natural need for connection that shows up in many ways in our lives. From the underlying needs associated with driving behaviors to our casual desire to spend time with our loved ones, connection is a relatable need. Yet feeling disconnected is something which plagues so many people.

Feeling disconnected can have many origins. We feel isolated when we are depressed. We feel barriers between us and other people when we are anxious. Traumatic experiences cause us to feel hypervigilant around people or make it difficult to trust. Ambivalent or anxious attachment styles from caregivers during childhood lead to feeling as though we cannot have healthy connections with others. Regardless of why we feel disconnected, it is a common experience for many people. We can even feel lonely in a room full of people (although chances are, we have not had the opportunity to be in a room full of people since the pandemic started).

Prior to COVID 19, many of us met our needs of connection through social gatherings. From holiday get togethers to coffee dates to book clubs to yoga classes, we all have our preferred forms of connection. Since COVID-19, we have become resilient and creative in finding ways to get out needs met. With state protective measures vacillating in response to cases spiking, it is important to consider the ways we can continue to meet our needs for connection to feel fulfilled during the pandemic, or in anticipation of a post pandemic world.

Here are some ideas to nourish connection during a pandemic, or any time:

  • Schedule face time dates with a close friend or phone calls with a family member you do not want to lose touch with. Block out at least one hour in your schedule to catch up.
  • Schedule video hang outs with multiple friends across multiple locations and engage in a happy hour, dinner date, or a game. There are many online games available that can be played with multiple players across various locations. Watch a movie or show together through video sharing platforms.
  • Write letters to friends or loved ones and send them via postal services. It can feel rewarding to receive a handwritten letter from a loved one and become a cherished sentimental object in the future. Send thank you cards for Thanksgiving and holiday themed cards during December.
  • Journal about your favorite memory with a friend or a family member from your childhood. Write out all the details you can remember including your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that you can remember from that time. Meditate on this experience.
  • Create a playlist that makes you think of a person you wish you could spend time with in person. If possible, ask this person to contribute to the playlist. Play the playlist while enjoying that person’s favorite food or light a candle of that person’s favorite scent. Journal about how that person makes you feel to increase feeling connected to them.
  • Practice self-massage, yin yoga restorative poses, or progressive muscle relaxation to promote physical connection needs being met.

Try to listen to your inner intuition and hear what type of connection it is that you are truly needing in that moment. Like many other forms of coping, connection building is something that is not one-size-fits-all. It is important to match the activity with the unmet need to feel fulfilled.

Alejandra Rose, LMFT