Alcohol and mental wellbeing: Raising awareness

An increase in alcohol consumption has led to businesses seeing the importance of promoting alcohol awareness and its effects on employee mental wellbeing. Don Shenker, founder of the Alcohol Health Network, explains how employers can support their staff.

lady at workstation

Many people use alcohol to reduce stress, ease anxiety and unwind after a long day. However, the number of drinks consumed can easily increase during challenging circumstances. For instance, around one in five adults in the UK (21%) consumed more alcohol during the COVID-19 lockdown than before, research from Opium found. 

As well as impacting physical health, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can influence mental wellbeing. This can negatively affect a person’s performance at work.

Employers are seeing the importance of encouraging a healthier relationship with alcohol by raising awareness with their employees. By offering support and access to relevant information, employers can help staff navigate challenging work environments and build their resilience.

 Whilst a higher alcohol consumption was something joked about at the beginning of lockdown, with the reality of how long this situation may continue, we really need to encourage our employees to take check of their overall health and settle into healthier routines for the longer term. It’s easy to form new unhealthy habits when your routine has been taken away so tools like the Drink Checker can be a helpful reality check’
Sophie Money, Group Protection Wellbeing Manager, Aviva

Alcohol and Stress

Alcohol consumption and mental wellbeing go hand in hand: if we’re feeling overwhelmed or are finding a situation difficult to handle, we might drink with the intention of managing those emotions. Similarly, we might consume more alcohol than we realise after a challenging day.  The problem is that alcohol depresses our central nervous system. 

Too much alcohol can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Disruptive sleep

Another problem with alcohol is what follows an initial sense of relief or ‘buzz’. Due to its addictive properties, drinking can quickly become a go-to solution for managing stress. 

As many employees handle demanding work-life balances, anxiety and worries about health and personal finances, it is important for employers to assist them in understanding the impact alcohol can have on their mental health and suggest more positive ways to deal with stress. 

Helping employees keep well

Awareness of how much we drink and using lower risk guidelines are effective ways of keeping alcohol consumption in check. 

Employees can: 

  • Use Drink Checker to anonymously check how much alcohol they’re consuming and whether this has increased
  • Try low or no-alcohol alternatives
  • Use smaller glasses to keep consumption lower
  • Try and be aware of their stress levels and manage these with relaxing activities such as gardening, taking a bath or going for a walk

Employers can:

  • Encourage employees to switch off completely after work (a walk or exercise are good examples) if they’re working from home
  • Offer resources that combat stress and anxiety, like yoga or meditation
  • Support employees by offering to talk with them if they’re feeling anxious, stressed or worried

The Alcohol Health Network is running Alcohol Awareness Webinars, with advice and tips to drink safely and stay healthy. Email for more information or visit their website to see more of what they do.

About Don Shenker

Don is the Founder and Director of the Alcohol Health Network – a social enterprise specialising in promoting alcohol awareness in the workplace. They provide expert resources for employers who wish to promote alcohol awareness as well as training, online learning and policy advice.

This article was originally published on aviva.co.uk

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