February 2021

Promote Healthy Habits Beyond Dry January

Last year challenged the mental health of the global community. People were stuck in their homes stressed about work, school, finances, the health of loved ones, and the future in general. Alcohol consumption skyrocketed. Going into 2021, “Dry January” was expected to be more popular than ever – a reset button for many. It’s important to help patients extend healthy habits beyond January and to find other coping mechanisms to address whatever may be driving them to reach for a drink.

Exercise is a great place to start. February tends to see New Year’s diet and fitness goals wane. Remind patients that exercise doesn’t only benefit physical health – it’s extremely helpful for mental health. Gym closures may be a hurdle for some – explain that not all exercise needs to involve weights and treadmills. Encourage patients to simply get outside for 30-minute walks each day. If inclement weather prevents this, suggest online fitness or yoga classes. Just getting the body moving may provide all the stress relief that’s needed to skip a drink.

Meditation is another great option. There’s evidence that practicing transcendental meditation helps relieve anxiety and can also reduce blood pressure. Encourage patients to give it a try – there’s no reason to expect any side effects and there are a lot of videos and resources online to help people practice in the safety of their own home.

If patients are looking for a physical replacement of a drink – suggest something else to reach for when they have the urge to pour a glass of wine – non-caffeinated teas such as lavender or chamomile are good options. Kava teas are also popular for their calming effects. But remind patients that there have been cases of liver toxicity after kava use, so patients with any history of liver problems should avoid it. In addition to teas, flavored sparkling waters are good suggestions. But expensive functional waters probably aren’t worth the money.

Encourage patients to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol even if they aren’t interested in abstaining completely. When used in moderation, beer and wine both have notable health benefits. But suggest drinking only on certain evenings, limiting to 1-2 glasses, and avoiding hard alcohol.

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