Carol

As some who gets hangovers lasting a week, Carol never drank too much - Once she got to a sensible age! However as a patient with an auto immune illness, since she was a teenager she has to drink very little. So she really understands how Irish society makes this very difficult. Carol is responsible for all aspects of Lifewise operations that Valerie and Angela do not cover.

Posts by Carol

Easter thoughts on COVID19 crisis

In this COVID19 crisis, we are living through such strange, uncertain events.  We’re now part of a generation that is living through momentous times. Future generations will look back and wonder

How did they cope?

in the same way, we wonder how people coped during wars, bombings and famine.

COVID19 crisis is challenging

There is no doubt, we’re all experiencing a range of difficult emotions and different challenges. Some people are working crazy hours, some people have no jobs and are wondering how to pay the rent or mortgage.  Everybody feeling the pressure, from carers trying to make decisions as to whether to continue with home help, or stop to reduce the risk of infection, to when is the best time to go to the shops to avoid infection and the queues.

We go though different emotions

Experts say we go through different stages, as we try to make sense of what’s going on. Initially we’re in denial, then we resist, then we start looking for alternatives, then we finally make peace with the change.

The image below shows these stages very clearly. The only point I would make is I don’t think we move in one direction only. We can go back and forth through the stages. I know I often do.

covid19 crisis

Be kind to your self

So it’s no wonder, we find ourselves less organised, less productive, maybe drinking more. We’re still using emotional energy trying to make sense of it all. Plus there’s all the extra practical stuff, taking time to wash our hands constantly, queuing to buy groceries, cleaning down groceries. All that extra cleaning. Online calls and meetings are much more tiring than face to face meetings. So we need to be kind to ourselves and not expect too much of ourselves.

Look at your self care routine

I find keeping a different routine of self-care really helpful. So instead of meditating at night I now meditate in the morning, because it helps get rid of that stressful feeling I wake up with.

With the weather getting better, I now do Tai Chi in the garden during my work breaks. (I’m sure it gives my neighbours a great laugh, this mad yoke doing weird movements in the garden!)

Find a new self-care routine that works for you. A routine that also makes clear how and when you drink. For example, not drinking before 8pm. sticking to 2 standard drinks each time you drink. Days when you won’t drink.

 An Easter thought

We’re hearing reports that drinks sales have increased substantially.  So it might seem like everyone is going mad drinking and anyhow the COVID19 crisis could kill us all off eventually.

But on this Easter Sunday- which has killed more people?

Well to-day, for the very first time, after 4 weeks of lock down restrictions, COVID has finally overtaken alcohol in the number of deaths this year. It shows how dangerous alcohol really is.

So managing our drinking to stay within the low risk guidelines will help to ensure, we’re not one of these death statistics.

Flowers photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Change graph from Stairway Consultancy

Mind your Mental Health during the COVID crisis

Feeling down in this COVID crisis?

Mental Health Services are reporting a big increase in demand because of the COVID crisis. Lots of people feeling down. It’s not surprising, because life has changed so much and we’re likely to continue like this for another while.

So it’s really important to look after ourselves. Self-Care and being kind to ourselves has never been so important. A key part of this is not drinking too much. Drinking increases depression and anxiety as Red Lady found.

It’s harder not to drink too much in this COVID crisis

When we’re down and anxious, it’s harder not drinking too much. Plus, all those COVID meme’s and social media posts make drinking seem like the solution. We gave some tips on minding your mental health here and all our courses are now free.

But given all the uncertainty and job losses, it’s not surprising that all our levels of anxiety and stress are much higher. So maybe a specific Smartphone app might help?

Confidential online help is available

So here’s a listing of smartphone apps that can help. All of them are free or free to try out to see if you find them useful.

These mobile apps can help you manage anxiety. They have been reviewed by a group in the HSE (the Mental Health Apps Review Sub Group) This is one of the many positive things about this crisis.  Usually support for Mental Health is an afterthought. But the HSE seem to really understand the impact this COVID crisis is having on people’s mental health. Despite the terrible pressure they are working hard to help.

Mobile apps to support your mental health

Mindshift (by Anxiety Canada)

A user-friendly self-help tool based on proven scientific strategies, MindShift CBT teaches about anxiety, helping users to engage in healthy thinking and to take action. Users check in each day to track their anxiety and work with tools in the app.

Clear Fear 

Clear Fear is an app developed for teenage mental health charity Stem4 which uses the evidence-based treatment CBT to focus on learning to reduce the physical responses to threat by learning to breathe, relax and be mindful as well as changing thoughts and behaviours and releasing emotions. You can personalise the app if you so wish and you will be able to track your progress and notice change.

Headspace

Headspace is a well-known mobile app that teaches meditation and easy to use mindfulness skills. Map your journey, track your progress, and reap rewards in your overall health and wellbeing. You can even ‘buddy up’ with friends and motivate each other along the way.

So why not try out one of these apps?

Or if you don’t like apps, Mental Health Ireland have a nice daily planner you can download to take control of your day. It even has useful tips.

Mental Health Reform now have a listing of telephone helplines that you can contact directly.

Stay Safe

PS

If you have a physical dependence on drink and are worried about getting hold of drink, GP’s have been given new guidelines to help in this situation, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Free online courses during COVID crisis

As we head towards our third week of working from home due to COVID, it’s all so easy to get sucked into drinking too much. So much stress, worry and uncertainty. However, we know alcohol increases the risk of chest infections and respiratory disease so it’s important to stay within the low risk guidelines to reduce the impact of COVID, if you do get it. It’s one area we can all control.

Low risk Drinking Guidelines


The low risk guidelines  are 11 standard drinks for women, spread over the week with 2-3 alcohol-free days per week.

For more on these guidelines and what is a standard drink check out here or the HSE site 

covid

All our courses are now free

So to help people during this difficult COVID crisis we’re making all our online courses free for the next few days. You can do them at your own pace, in your own time. It’s totally confidential.
All of our courses are kind and compassionate. They make no judgements. Sign up is easy. All that’s needed is an email address.

The courses include

Top tips to reduce alcohol harm

My drinking pro’s and cons

Stop my drinking or reduce my drinking?

Manage my alcohol cravings

I’m a social drinker

Know your safe drinking limits

So this is a really good time to try out some of our courses and manage your drinking. It will really help reduce the impact of COVID.

Don’t get locked in with Corona Virus

What a difference a week makes when Corona Virus strikes. Last week, normal life, this week all the schools and pubs are closed.

Pubs closed due to Corona virus

Initially the pubs were left open, but there was a general outcry when videos on social media showed mass gatherings in pubs and people ignoring the new social distancing rules. So, for the first time ever most pubs have closed voluntarily with the Government passing emergency laws to make sure all pubs close.

Will attitudes to alcohol change?

So will attitudes to alcohol change now? Eh no. Videos are circulating of totally empty beer shelves in supermarkets with only Corona beer sitting in isolation. Shows the power of branding, but also that people are really stocking up.
We’re seeing loads of funny videos, many praising drink.  Some countries are reporting an increase in home drinking

Don’t get locked in

The Alcohol Forum have produced some great tips on how to avoid drinking too much while stuck at home.

They include

  • Plan to have two alcohol free days a week
  • Don’t stockpile
  • Keep it late
  • Mind the children
  • Out of sight

You can see more on these below.

Corona virus

This too will pass

Alcohol is a depressant, so drinking too much alcohol will make this crisis seem even worse. This Corona virus crisis will last for a while. Life is never going to be the same again. But the most brilliant minds across the world are working on this and we will see solutions.  

I’m no fan of Fine Gael, but they do appear to be taking the right actions, developing extra healthcare systems & good communications, special welfare arrangements for people who have lost their jobs, stopping evictions and freezing rents.

So keep telling yourself, this too will pass. In the meantime as concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl says

 “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms,—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

For more tips on dealing with adversity and difficult times , click here

Banner Picture created by onlyyouqj – www.freepik.com

Our Top Tips on COVID19 to protect your mental health

It’s all Covid19 this week which would nearly drive you to drink, particularly if anxiety is a problem. Listening to all the news would make anyone anxious. So here’s our top tips to maintain good mental health and avoid sliding into drinking too much to numb the fear.

1.Stick to reliable sources of information

There’s lot of misleading information around so stick to reliable sources only. Check out the HSE website or the World Health Organisation website  

2.Limit the time you spend listening or talking about Covid19

There’s wall to wall coverage and I find the more I listen to it, the more depressed I get. So I’m now restricting the amount of time, I spend on social media and feeling better all ready. Many mobile phones have a digital well-being feature where you can set a timer to limit how much time you spend on Facebook, Twitter etc. Don’t check social media before bedtime as you may find it harder to sleep.

3.Pay attention to your own needs and feelings

During times of stress, it’s really important to pay increased attention to our own needs and feelings. I’ve noticed I’m more anxious than normal. Given I’m in the high risk category and I help care for two elderly parents in poor health, I’ve had to accept this is okay. So I’ve started taking Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

For best results, take it within half an hour of a shock or bad news.

If you have an alcohol dependence, make sure to get the alcohol free version.

4. Take a walk in nature

There’s lot of research which shows walking in parks, forests or by the sea really improves our mental health. So going for a short walk in a green area every day will help. Just maintain a 6.5 ft distance (about the height of a tall man) from other people.

5. Stay Connected

Yes, we have to avoid crowded situations but staying in touch with people we like and love is very important. Phone calls are better than social media. Agree a rule that you will spend at least 50% of the time talking about happy stuff and not just about COVID19.

6. Reduce or stop drinking

There’s lots of evidence that alcohol increases the risk of chest infections. Professor Charles Parry states it can also increase the risk of damage from infections such as COVID-19. So yet another reason to manage your drinking. You can see the complete risks of drinking here.

You can find more tips on managing your mental health here.

William and Kate have a pint

This week, Prince William and Kate visited Ireland and have a pint. Yet again, a grim, toxic message that the highlight of our Irish culture is a pint of Guinness produced by a global multinational. Priceless advertising publicity for a product that kills three people every day.

These trips are planned in meticulous detail, every little detail is pored over and analysed in minute detail. Who will they meet? How long will they stay? Who will greet them when they get out of the car? Where are the likely problems? These trips don’t just happen.

Why?

So the fact that no in Government thought to ask why a visit to a brewery was planned is disappointing.  Not one official or senior manager in the entire Government  thought to say,

“Hang on, we have a crisis in our hospitals with 760 people on trolley beds. Yet 1,500 hospital beds are occupied very night by people harmed by alcohol. So why are we promoting alcohol when it does so much damage to our economy and society?”

Disappointing Royals

Like many Irish people of my age, I’m not a fan of the Royals. But since the younger royals set up their Royal Foundation to tackle the stigma of mental health, I’ve been an admirer.  Prince William’s brother Prince Harry has even spoken about his own mental health struggles and how he used alcohol as a means of coping with the pain of losing his Mother. So they know on a deeply personal level the links between alcohol harm and mental health.

Badly advised

So did they or none of their advisers not see the dangers of visiting a brewery to have a pint? That they were sending a message that alcohol is a safe activity? Despite Alcohol Action Ireland and many other experts saying there is no safe level of drinking.

Have a pint

Or were they advised, those Paddies would get very upset if they did not visit a brewery?  Either way, the Royals undermined their own promotion of mental health when they and the advisers agreed to have a pint, which they know would send photos around the world.

Does it matter?

We saw how crowds welcomed the Royals. The actions of the Royals visiting a brewery to have a pint sends a hugely important message. It sends a message that alcohol is just another ordinary product. If the Royals are drinking it, it must be ok for me to drink it. It normalises alcohol and that no visit to Ireland is complete without going to the brewery to have a pint. So yes it does matter.

Brainwashing at the highest level

So as we try to manage our drinking, it is vitally important to really notice and reject these toxic messages that alcohol is a safe product, which all normal drink. Try not to absorb these misleading messages. Look at alternatives messages about alcohol. For example, Foil Arms and Hog’s really funny fantastic video . Do not be brainwashed

Memories of drinking can make you miserable

Memories of drinking may be making you miserable. At this time of the month, when the credit card bills hit, and it seems ages to the next pay day, it’s very easy to get down.  Thinking about those wonderful times when we were drinking freely seems very attractive and tempting.

Euphoric recall

It’s very tempting to start back into old habits as we remember being happier then. Padraig O Morain describes this as “euphoric recall”. It means we recall drinking as really fun and pleasurable, with the world in full colour and happy laughter everywhere. Life was a carnival.

Dying for a drink

These memories then kick off cravings for a drink. We literally feel we are dying for a drink. The trick is to remember, these memories are only one part of our drinking. The other part of our drinking is the reason, why we took action to start controlling drinking. The memories of hangovers, arguments, lost time, too much money spent, or unwanted sexual contact. If you have n’t written down  the reasons why you want to manage your drinking, it’s a good time to do it now. You’ll find help here.

Cravings

Cravings can feel like the end of the world, but they don’t last and are usually gone within 20 minutes. Knowing it’s normal to have cravings and having an action plan to deal with them really helps. You’ll find more help on this here.

Change your beliefs around alcohol

If we think people have more fun with alcohol, then we’ll feel totally miserable if we’re not drinking. Our Irish culture encourages us to believe that people who drink always have more fun and enjoy themselves more.

We’ve often written about this. We admire the people who can hold their drink and are the life and soul of the party. We rarely hear about the downsides of drinking.

So make sure your internal beliefs about alcohol reflect the reality of drinking and are not euphoric recall.

Photo by Siri from Pexels

Stefanie changed her relationship with alcohol

Good to see a magazine featuring a range of Irish celebrities talking about their relationship with alcohol.

First up was Stefanie Preissner, creator of the popular RTE show Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope

A hangover lasts 3 days

She talks  in gruesome details about waking up with a hangover which lasted 3 days, but she’s chuffed with herself for waking up in her own bed because as she says

My standards for what constitutes a good, safe night of drinking have plummeted so low, that I can achieve them simply by waking up at home alone”

She wasn’t the only one of her friends in this. The group texts would start in the afternoon, putting the jigsaw pieces of the night together until they reached the last person to blackout.

It takes effort to learn that drinking is not cool

Stefanie says we’re taught from a very young age that drinking is cool and fun. She never realised she was drinking too much because she hung out with other people who drank too much. As she says

“It’s nearly impossible to call out binge drinking, when it’s part of our cultural identity…

Irish people will do anything to protect their relationship with drink..

We call people “dry balls” or dry shites” if they try to highlight the dysfunction of drinking

There’s social currency when someone can hold their drink and not be seen as lightweight”

Stefanie is not an alcoholic

Stefanie is very clear, that she was and is not an alcoholic. But she was noticing the impact alcohol was having on her life. It was a toxic relationship. The money, the hangovers, the loss of time. Taking lots of painkillers.

Not drinking has a downside

Stefanie sometimes misses the ease with which she could drink herself into oblivion, it made it easier to sit next to annoying people at parties or events. It made it easier to deal with feelings because you could just avoid them- grief, sadness, anger all sloshed away.

She has a brilliant life now

But she says has a brilliant life, apart from all the people who feel threatened by her being sober.

She ends with a call, to people to think about not drinking.  As she says

“Not drinking for a while, wouldn’t be a problem for someone who wasn’t dependent on it.

Irish Culture is changing

Stefanie is brutally honest about her own drinking and the culture of binge drinking among her friends.

It’s great to see influencers like Stefanie showing it’s possible to enjoy life without binge drinking. Breaking down the stigma of the alcoholic label. That you don’t have to be an alcoholic to experience the downsides of drinking. Finally, our society is beginning to wake up to the harm of drinking too much.

Hopefully in years to come, it will acceptable to not drink. Making it a lot easier for those of us trying to drink less.

Stefanie’s’ article is well worth reading here.

There’s no such thing as happy new year

So after the free for all of Christmas eating and drinking, we’re into the ritual of telling each other happy new year and the annual ongoing civil war with ourselves. This year it seemed to be worse as it was the end of a decade.

A civil war with ourselves?

That’s how Marian Keyes describes the New Year in her latest video

I was really surprised to hear her talk about hating herself. That she’s achieved nothing, she’s a failure and she hates looking back. It’s why she hates the New Year’s Eve.  All those expectations to have the perfect night and to actually be perfect.

Hearing this from a very successful, much loved author, who is  kind, does lots of volunteering in unpopular causes and   who has been happily married for 24 years is incredible. It shows how often we just don’t see the good parts of ourselves and focus only on the bad parts.

Hating ourselves

 I find myself nodding in agreement as she talks about the pressure to be perfect. To lose weight, get fit, improve ourselves and for many people to drink less or not drink at all.

We start off with great intentions, with all these New Year resolutions, but end up in a cycle of lapsing, denial and hating ourselves.

There’s no such thing as Happy New Year

Marian says there’s no such thing as Happy New Year. Everyone has some pain in their life, some stone in their shoe. So it’s impossible to be happy all the time. So she never says Happy New Year, she just says happy day. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Go easy on yourself

So go easy on yourself, don’t be over ambitious or try to be perfect. Pick one small thing, that means something to you and focus on that.

If you want to reduce your drinking, start with something that you have confidence you can achieve.

If you’ve been drinking every day for the last ten years, try not drinking one day a week. You can find more advice on setting targets here.

Build in positive rewards

Make sure you have some positive rewards built into your New Year resolution. So you could put the money saved from drinking less, into a jar each week and then treat yourself to something you like at the end of each month.

So wishing us all success this year, in learning and understanding and being at peace with ourselves.

It’s well worthwhile watching the full Marian video here.

PS

Here’s Marian’s really funny takedown of those people who boast about their achievements of the last decade

MY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE LAST DECADE

I CLIMBED on a chair and found the place where Himself hides the chocolate

I LOST my temper when he moved it to another spot

 I FOUND the new one

I GAINED some heft

I GREW as a person (size-wise)

I UNDERSTOOD that chocolate is great