The coronavirus outbreak is a particularly challenging time for third level students. In addition to being worried about coronavirus, you may be stressed about exams, finances, or your accommodation situation. Dealing with all of this and adapting to a new routine can be tough. You may be drinking differently at home than you would in a social setting. Yet alcohol can make stressful times feel even worse, affecting the quality of our sleep, making our immune system less effective, and impacting on our relationships with others. Due to the rapid changes in our lives as a result of the pandemic, how we react with alcohol could be different during this time.

If you drink alcohol, here are some tips to help you cut back and look after yourself. 

  • Try to develop a daily routine and delay drinking until as late as possible – try not to drink during the day.
  • Have at least 2 – 3 alcohol free days per week. This is in line with the low risk weekly guidelines – 17 standard drinks for men, 11 standard drinks for women. 
  • Stay hydrated by having a water or other non-alcoholic drink as every second drink
  • Eat well before you drink and don’t consume alcohol on an empty stomach
  • Measure your drinks using a shot glass or egg cup, don’t pour straight from the bottle
  • Avoid buying alcohol in bulk and choose low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks 
  • Prepare for peer pressure. Try to tell your friends you usually drink with about your plans to cut down, so they understand. Reasons for this could be diet, medication, fitness, or an early start in the morning! Remind your friends that everyone reacts differently, what works for your friends might not work for you.
  • Check out USI/STAND calendar for alternative events without alcohol (https://www.10000students.ie/calendar)
  • There may be certain times you associate with drinking e.g late at night or at the weekend. Think how you will get through these moments before they happen and find more advice here
  • Avoid using alcohol to cope with stressful feelings. Using alcohol to help with emotions could quickly become a pattern and a norm that you rely on to support yourself.
  • Alcohol can have risky interactions with illegal drugs and some prescription medication. Learn more here.
  • If you choose to drink, avoid doing this in public spaces or other people’s homes due to the current public health measures.

There’s lots more information and support available if you need it. 

Mental health

  • If you feel like you’re using alcohol to numb your emotions because of stress, contact your college counselling services to arrange an appointment to talk to someone
  • For useful resources on your mental health go to the ‘Mind Your Mental Health’ on usi.ie
  • HSE’s www.yourmentalhealth.ie has specific advice on how to mind your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
  • You may have grown up with a parent or older sibling with substance use problems which may be affecting your mental health and relationships – www.alcoholactionireland.ie/silentvoices has a range of helpful resources.
  • If you feel you are at risk of suicide during the pandemic, call 999/112 or present to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department 

Domestic issues

  • Issues in the home? www.stillhere.ie has information on domestic and sexual violence support services available during the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Reach out for help and dial 999 if you feel a parent/family member is a danger to themselves or others

Alcohol-specific information and support

  • If you’re concerned  your drinking is having a negative impact on your health or relationships, try the self assessment tool on askaboutalcohol.ie. Some less obvious health symptoms you might not connect with alcohol include; poor sleep, skin rashes, low mood and anxiety. 
  • For confidential information and support about alcohol, contact the free HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline at Freephone 1800 459 459 from Monday to Friday 9.30am and 5.30pm, or email helpline@hse.ie any time. 
  • Get tips and tools to help you manage your use such as an alcohol diary and change plan worksheet: http://www.drugs.ie/alcohol_info/tips_tools/
  • Support groups such as AA and SMART Recovery are now available online for people who are trying to remain alcohol free. Learn more here

This blog has been developed in partnership with www.askaboutalcohol.ie  

Get up to date factual information about Coronavirus at HSE.ie.