While many Ohioans are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and most state mandates have been relaxed, our understanding of the pandemic’s impact on mental health is just beginning.
According to a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine, using alcohol as a coping mechanism for unwanted feelings like anxiety, depression, or loneliness has increased since the start of the pandemic.
Participants from the study reported consuming 26.8 alcoholic drinks over half a month. Additionally, one-third of participants reported binge drinking, and 7% reported extreme binge drinking.
Through surveys, the study also found that 60% of participants increased their alcohol consumption since the start of the pandemic. This behavior was mainly driven by growing stress, more alcohol availability, and boredom resulting from spending more time inside due to the pandemic stay-at-home orders and restrictions.
There’s no denying that gambling can be used as a way to relieve stress or as a form of escapism, just like unhealthy alcohol consumption and drug use.
Here are tips that can help create healthier habits and improve your overall well-being:
- Avoid Triggers. Whether you’re simply looking to reduce your alcohol consumption or quit altogether, avoiding the environments, people, or social activities that used to cause you to drink alcohol can help. Limiting your exposure to stressful situations is also important.
- Make Time for Regular Exercise. The positive impacts of regular exercise are endless. Not only does it get your heart and muscles pumping, but it also keeps your mind sharp and can even stave off unwanted stress. So try a new workout at home, visit your local gym, or head outside to exercise a few times a week for 30 minutes.
- Get Enough Sleep. Your body — and most importantly, your brain — needs quality sleep to thrive, especially during times of increased stress. A good night’s sleep of the recommended 7-9 hours can boost your immune system, improve your memory, and even strengthen your heart!
- Prioritize Hydration and Nutrition. Eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water are two integral aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Making sure you eat a diet full of whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables will give you the vitamins and nutrients you need and helps cut back on unnecessary junk food. Drinking at least 64 oz of water a day helps fight fatigue, improve your mood, and aid digestion, among other benefits.
- Talk to Someone If You Need To. Lastly, if you find yourself overwhelmed with everyday life and are coping by drinking alcohol, you might want to consider seeking help. Visit Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services at mha.ohio.gov to access local behavioral health services.
And remember, if you are using gambling to ease your stress and think it might be leading to a problem with gambling, know you’re not alone, and free help is always available. You can call the Problem Gambling Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-589-9966, or connect with someone by texting 4HOPE to 741741.
There are also free local resources available at BeforeYouBet.org, where you can learn about the signs of problem gambling and take the 2-minute quiz to gauge your risk level.