April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This post was developed in coordination with the Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services (University of Alaska, Anchorage), American College of Nurse-Midwives, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health.
These past weeks have brought rapid change as our families, our communities, and our profession respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us – and our patients – these changes have brought increased stress and anxiety and we may be looking for new or additional ways to cope. Some of us or our patients may increasingly turn to alcohol or food, so this week we would like to focus on some healthier coping strategies that you can integrate into your daily routine or share with your patients.
First and foremost, we should acknowledge that self-care is important for all of us – if we are not looking after ourselves, how can we do our best caring for others and supporting their needs? Our first inclination may be to indulge in some favorite snack foods or a glass of wine, but there are many healthier alternatives. Self-care can take many forms – whether it’s taking a little time to read a new book or re-read an old favorite, enjoy a long shower or bath, watching a favorite TV show, or practicing yoga.
Self-care should also include looking after our emotional and social health. Stay connected with loved ones, even if we cannot meet them in person, by taking some time to text, phone, or video call. Share those silly memes and a laugh. If you’re feeling anxious, try some positive calming activities such as steady breathing and muscle relaxation, yoga or tai chi, or listening to your favorite music. There are even some apps available to walk you through meditation practices, such as iCalm, Headspace, and many others.
We should also take care of our physical health. If you are at home, this might include committing to getting up and moving regularly. This doesn’t have to take long – even ten minutes every hour or two can help! Maybe try something new, do some dancing to your favorite music (great fun if you’re also at home with children!), or try a free YouTube work out. If you’re able, get out and go for a walk – but remember the 6-foot rule (or 10 feet if you’re running!)
Maintaining our physical health should also include ensuring that we – as much as possible – maintain a healthy diet. Try putting together a container of fruit and veggies to munch on through the day – carrots, cucumber, apples, and mandarins make good and easy snacks, especially for children. And while it may be tempting to eat junk food, drink that extra cup of coffee or two, or finish the day with a large glass of wine, remember that good sleep is important self-care as well and vital for maintaining a healthy immune system. While alcohol may seem to help you sleep, we know that can negatively impact the sleep quality and immune system functioning, so try some other relaxing alternatives such as a soothing herbal tea.
Remember, we’re all in this together – and we’ll get through this together.