While the COVID-19 vaccines are giving people hope that the pandemic may soon come to an end, an increase in alcohol dependence

 Dr. Robert Stockman, a psychologist with 4C Medical Group, part of OptumCare, recommends keeping an eye on the well-being of older adults and paying attention to the signs of alcohol dependency including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, agitation or anxiety, among others.

He also recommends other coping techniques to help older adults relieve stress without alcohol, including:

 Physical activity. Exercising regularly can increase overall health and sense of well-being. Unlike alcohol, exercising actually reduces stress in the long-term.

Mindfulness techniques. According to the National Institute of Health, people tend to consume alcohol when feeling stressed or anxious, so mindfulness exercises – such as meditation and breathing techniques – are recommended to naturally help your body and mind relax and release stress.

Find a quiet place in your home and set a timer for a specified period. If you’ve never meditated, start off with just three minutes, and focus on your breathing.

Stay connected. Having a strong support system is key to help you with the temptation of drinking alcohol to relax. It’s very important to stay in contact with close friends and family during stressful situations, so check-in with your loved ones.

Creative expression. Creative outlets such as writing in a journal, drawing, music and dancing, can provide a way to manage anxiety in a healthy manner, according to the American Addiction Centers.

Perhaps this is the right time to test your creativity with a new activity that can help you release stress.

 Get help. In response to the outbreak, Optum opened its emotional support helpline providing access to specially trained mental health specialists. This is a toll-free number, and it will be open 24 hours a day seven days a week for as long as necessary. This is a free service.

The number is 866-342-6892.

More information: OptumCare.com.


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