Do you recognise any of these situations?
Driving home after a hard day at work, imagining walking through the door and drinking that first glass of wine?
I find myself wondering what time I’ll get the children to bed so I can grab that first drink.
I had that drink to “calm my nerves,” before going out, but I was so stressed and miserable it didn’t help. All it did was make me feel a bit numb.
We all know someone whose first response to a bad day is ‘Arrgh – I need a drink’. That feeling that just one drink will take the edge off my stress of the day. But how long is it before one drink is not enough? The second or third one is needed to have the same effect.
Drinking alcohol doesn’t reduce stress
It is easy to assume alcohol is a stress reliever because of the short-term benefits of alcohol. It is a sedative and depressant that affects the central nervous system. But alcohol does not fix the stress, just temporarily dulls the symptoms.
At first, drinking can reduce fears and take your mind off of those troubles. It can help us feel less shy, give us a boost in mood, and make us feel generally relaxed. In fact, alcohol’s effects can be similar to those of anti-anxiety medications. But once we start drinking, we can build a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol.
This can make anxiety and stress even more difficult to cope with. Whatever effects we get from drinking alcohol, it will be short lived as Alcohol doesn’t make things better, it just dulls the problem until the next time….. and the next time. The problem is that each next time needs a little bit more to get the same effect, the same escape.
We all know that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can have noticeable physical and mental consequences. But over time, consuming too much alcohol can lead to blackouts, loss of memory, and even brain damage and an increased risk of having a stroke. Not to mention the damage it does to the liver. Conversely, these issues can create more anxiety as we cope with their symptoms that are as a result of the initial stress.
Some ways to help
It is so much better to treat the cause rather than dull the symptoms of anxiety. Easier said than done I know. But a good place to start is to really be aware of how much we are drinking. Is it every night? If it is, how about giving your body a break and start off with reducing this down to every other night. Then over time this can be reduced more and more. Which means that the drinking becomes more under control and not an every night habit.
Whatever stress we’re facing, there are more effective ways to cope with it than drinking too much alcohol. Exercise a great way to de-stress: even a brisk walk can help clear your head of the day’s worries. A hot bath or some gentle stretches will relieve tension from your body. Both these are great ways to pay a little attention to the body and take time out from the stress of the day.
If a drink is definitely needed, how about delaying the first drink by adopting a dinner-only drinking habit. This means that over the evening there is less time to drink alcohol, so less should be consumed.
The problem here is that what started out as what we thought was an aide to help with a stressful day can become the problem. The stress doesn’t go away and the alcohol replaces the stress as the major issue.
The first thing to do is recognise that there is a problem with the way that alcohol is impacting on life. There are ways to reduce the stress in your life which would need to work hand in hand with reducing the drinking. Often people need help to do this, as there may be underlying issues that started the need for the drink in the first place. Recovery often is a gradual process, which with help can be successful. But alcohol dependency often goes hand-in-hand with other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. This is why it is always a good idea to seek help when trying to change these habits.
There are lots of different therapists out there and different people respond to different ways of working. It’s important to know what is out there and find something that makes sense to you. If we are going to work through these personal issues with someone, it is so important to feel comfortable with them. Don’t ever feel that because an initial approach has been made, that a booking has to be made with that person. Do your research, talk to different people and go with what you feel comfortable with. There will be someone out there who can work with you to help you to overcome these things. It’s just a question of taking the first step.
Change is possible today.
If you would like to know more about taking that first step, contact me to find out more.