Are You Drinking Too Much Alcohol During Self-Isolation?

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Stay-at-home orders and self-quarantining have upended life as we know it. Suddenly, many of us have no jobs to go to. The bills are piling up, we’re isolated from our friends, and we’re worried about the health of our families. We have no idea when this will end and what our “new normal” will look like when it does. If you have kids, home schooling and cabin fever just add to your growing stress.

There’s no shopping, the gyms are closed, and you can’t go to the local bar. So, what do you when you need to take the edge off during this difficult time? If you’re like many, you reach for the nearest bottle of wine, beer, or liquor. Even if you weren’t a big drinker before, you might notice that you’ve been drinking more than usual now.

Are you wondering whether you’re drinking too much alcohol while you’re self-isolating?

How much is too much to drink? And could your at-home drinking habits potentially cause you some serious long-term issues? Here’s what you need to know.

You’re Not Alone!

First of all, let’s get something out of the way. If you’re drinking more than usual during this time you’re alone. In fact, statistics show that Americans are doing almost everything in excess while under stay-at-home orders.

Consider these statistics:

  • Alcohol sales were up 55% in the week ending on March 21st
  • Liquor sales last month skyrocketed 75% compared with the same time last year
  • Wine sales were up 66% and beer sales were up 42%
  • Online alcohol sales increased by 243% since this time last yea
  • Pornhub’s traffic is up 11.6%.
  • During the week of March 16th, Americans streamed 156.1 billion minutes of content from services like Netflix and YouTube.

In states where it’s legal, marijuana sales have also skyrocketed. Video game sites are having trouble keeping up with traffic and sales of potato chips, Oreos, Kraft Mac & Cheese, burgers, pretzels, and other “comfort foods” are all up.

The reasons why people drink and do other things to numb their feelings haven’t gone away. If anything, they’ve compounded. However, just because “everybody else is doing it” doesn’t mean there aren’t some potential problems.

How Much is Too Much?

According to the CDC, “binge drinking” is defined as having 4 or more drinks on a single occasion for females or 5 or more drinks for males. They further define “heavy drinking” as consuming 8 or more drinks a week for females or 15 or more a week for males.

While it’s totally normal to exceed these guidelines once in a while, if you’re doing it regularly, there might be some reason for concern.

Whether you’re drinking more or less than the guidelines above, you’ll also want to look out for other signs of “problem drinking.” This may include:

  • Spending the bulk of your time drinking
  • Drinking more or for longer than you intended
  • Finding that drinking is your only (or primary) coping method
  • Continuing to drink even if it causes anxiety, depression, or health issues

If you’re finding that your drinking interferes with daily activities, like your ability to work, take care of household tasks, care for your children, or keep up with your personal hygiene, then this is also a definite red flag.

If your drinking is affecting your relationships or other people in your household have commented on how much you’re drinking, these could also be signs that you need to address your alcohol consumption.

What Are the Potential Health Effects of Drinking Too Much Alcohol During COVID-19?

It’s well-documented that excessive consumption of alcohol lowers your immune system. At a time when it’s critical to stay as healthy as possible, you might want to rethink that third (or fourth) glass of wine.

If you’re hung over every day, your immune system is also busy dealing with combating the effects of dehydration and fighting off headaches. This could leave you more susceptible to contracting other illnesses.

Excessive drinking can also cause long-term health effects like liver disease, high blood pressure, digestive problems, heart disease, and stroke.

Don’t panic yet, though. Most experts agree that normal drinking habits aren’t dangerous. As long as you consume alcohol in moderation, you should be fine.

You do want to be careful, though, of developing dependencies. This is easy to do when your daily routine is interrupted. You may find that it’s easy to fall into patterns of drinking early in the day, drinking more than usual, or drinking every day.

Some Tips to Keep You Healthy

To make sure that you aren’t overdoing it, try to limit yourself to just one drink a day for women or two for men. Also pay attention to serving sizes. For example, a serving of wine is 5 ounces, but most people pour much more than that into a wine glass.

A serving of beer is 12-ounces, so a pint of beer is actually more than one “drink.” A serving of liquor is 1.5 ounces. When you’re making cocktails at home, keep this in mind.

How to Curb Drinking and Stay Healthy During Self-Isolation

If you’re drinking too much alcohol, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Not only can this cause physical issues, but it’s also not good for your mental health.

Recognizing the issue is a great first step. Next, you’ll need to find some ways to reign it in.

Start by asking yourself why you’re drinking in the first place. If you’re drinking as a way to deal with boredom, anxiety, or stress, try turning to healthy coping methods like doing yoga, practicing meditation, taking walks, or journaling.

Drinking out of boredom? Spend some time on Pinterest looking for fun projects to do at home or start planning your next party or vacation so you have something to look forward to when things get back to normal.

Make sure to stay in touch with family and friends as this can help relieve some of the sadness or depression that comes from feeling isolated. Reach out by phone, FaceTime, or even just send a text or email.

If you start to feel overwhelmed by your fears, depression, or stress, or you think you’re drinking too much alcohol to mask other negative feelings, there are many excellent online resources, like TalkSpace, where you can speak to a professional therapist who can help you work through your problems.

Above all, remember not to beat yourself up too much. This is an unprecedented time, and we’re all doing our very best to get through each day. Hang in there and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it!

Originally published at on April 20, 2020.

Full-time freelance writer, blogger, and marketing expert. Learn more at

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