Alcohol Awareness Week 2020 This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week has, appropriately, focused on the relationship between alcohol and mental health. Slap bang in the middle of our second national lockdown and at the end of a year that for all of us has been filled with stress, anxiety and frequently loneliness. Unsurprisingly, recent research from Alcohol Change UK found that ‘over half of drinkers said they have drunk alcohol for a mental health reason.’ People are drinking more so they can sleep better, to cope with stress, because they are bored and because they are sad. At The Living Room we’ve seen an obvious increase in the number of people enquiring about support for alcohol problems and the number of female drinkers who have referred has increased from 45% to 60%. Other treatment services in the area have seen similar increases in people seeking help for their drinking. The causes for this may be varied but the isolating nature of lockdown and the emotional, financial, and physical pressures of the pandemic are a clear factor. That’s why we wanted to spend the week sharing advice on how to manage your wellbeing during this time and help anyone who’s struggling to access support from home. For anyone who hasn’t followed our posts on social media, we have some key bits of advice to help you stay sober, ease your reliance on alcohol and thrive in difficult times. Alcohol recovery tips If you’re in the early days of not drinking or easing off, you may get cravings, or you might want to reach for a drink when you’re feeling down. Ways to deal with cravings: Self-care: swap out the drink for an activity that allows you to relax and (more importantly) get some much needed ‘me time’. Taking a hot bath, cooking and eating your favourite comfort meal, listening to a bit of music you haven’t heard in years, it will be personal to you. Surf your cravings: cravings are like waves, they come and go. A great technique is to visualise your craving as a literal wave and you as a surfer. Ride that wave without getting ‘wiped out’ by it. Sounds weird but it works for a lot of people. Delay your decisions: like with the surfing trick, you can ride out a craving by simply putting off having that first drink. Say to yourself “I’ll wait 10 minutes”. When the time is over, do it again. You will find yourself moving past the craving. Distraction: could be cleaning, exercise, playing games, going for a walk - anything that keeps your mind and your hands busy is a good start Ways to improve your wellbeing Mindfulness! Check out the free covid-19 sessions ‘Weathering the storm’ that Headspace (the mindfulness app) offer here Box breathing: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold again for 4 seconds - repeat until you feel calm and relaxed Get ahead of the New Year rush and build a regular exercise habit: walking after every meal, trying out some bodyweight exercises at home or in the park, there’s plenty of ways to add movement to you day – and check out the free exercise and behaviour change courses that Beezee Bodies offer here Stay connected: Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, people in recovery. Connection is a vital part of our lives, so pick up the phone or log-in to Zoom and reach out to the people you love – you can also connect with people in recovery with the Sober Grid app and Alcoholics Anonymous Get inspired! Amanda joined us using Zoom at the start of the first national lockdown. A few months later, she feels clearer and more capable of dealing with the challenges in her life. Read her amazing story here. Felicity has had an incredible journey. Going from a person who masked her pain with alcohol to someone who’s truly happy and in control for the first time in years. Read about her journey here.