Having a drink is a very common way to relax and unwind at the end of the day, helping to ease any feelings of tension or anxiety that may have built up. However, these effects can be deceptive and misleading, and drinking can actually have the opposite effect in the long run, making you feel more anxious and stressed than you might have done otherwise.
It’s important to deal with your stress and anxiety head on, rather than distracting yourself with a drink, which can leave you experiencing more negative feelings, especially if it affects your sleep.
Even if it’s one drink a night, this could be one drink too many - but it’s easy to fall into this kind of trap, as it doesn’t feel like you’re really drinking very much at all, especially if you’re doing it at home instead of at the pub or in a bar… which many of us are now doing, of course, because of lockdown restrictions.
There are little signs to pay attention to that could suggest you’re drinking too much and that you perhaps don’t have quite the level of control over your drinking that you believe you do.
For example, do you find yourself struggling to limit the amount you’re drinking each night? Do you set yourself a limit and find you go past this each time? That may be a sign that you’re not quite as in control as you believe.
Another sign is using drinking as a coping mechanism, which may well have happened to many of us over the last year, as we try to make sense of the pandemic and the situation that we’ve found ourselves in.
If your immediate reaction to bad news or a stressful situation is “I need a drink”, or even if it’s in response to good news or a means of celebrating, this could suggest that alcohol is a bigger part of your life than it perhaps should be.
The key is to find more positive, healthier ways to relax, whether that’s by hopping in a nice warm bath with a book and some calming music on, getting some exercise or even taking up a new hobby, such as knitting or colouring-in.
Another strategy you could consider is online mindfulness therapy. This involves a combination of meditation, mindfulness exercises and gentle yoga to help anchor you in the present moment. It is clinically proven to help reduce stress and anxiety helping you create a better relationship with difficult thoughts and emotions that can lead to reaching for alcohol. It is a discipline and it can take a while to really benefit from mindfulness practice but every time your thoughts wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
It’s natural for thoughts to pop into your head but don’t dwell on them and don’t give them your attention. Continue with your breathing exercises and before you know it, you’ll be feeling a lot more centred and relaxed.