Taking it past the limit
When I usually speak to you about self-care, you may have noticed that being mindful of alcohol consumption is frequently on the list.
To be clear, this is not an article about stopping drinking altogether. Enjoying the occasional drink can be a lovely thing, a way to relax or unwind and of course a fun way to celebrate life’s special moments. However, there is a line whereby excessive drinking can be detrimental to your health, not only physically, but mentally as well. It is important to remember that alcohol is a drug and just like anything else, it should not be consumed excessively.
How does alcohol affect your mood?
Serotonin is the chemical that helps to regulate your mood. Regular drinking over a period of time can significantly lower the serotonin levels in your brain. This means that whilst it is true, drinking may alleviate some negative and difficult emotions in the particular moment of drinking, the chances are that your mood will become progressively worse in the long run. In fact, studies show that anxiety and depression is more prevalent for those who drink heavily.
Plainly speaking, utilising alcohol as a coping method over a long period of time is not healthy and can lead to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and more.
Initial signs that alcohol is negatively affecting your mood and mental health include: –
- Poor sleep after drinking
- Experiencing regular hangovers
- Experiencing black outs or loss of memory
- Low mood or inability to focus
- Becoming angry in situations where you would normally be calm
- Experiencing anxiety in situations where you would normally feel comfortable
- Drinking excessively when faced with difficult or stressful situations
- Impacted relationships with your partner, family members or close friends
- Impacted performance at work
What can you do?
Awareness is key: always be aware of why you are drinking. Remember not to assume it will assist you to cope with a bad feeling or difficult situation for the long term. Rather, it is more likely to make matters worse. Do take the time to figure out why you are drinking excessively. There may be underlying problems that have caused you to turn to alcohol as a method of coping. Stress, anxiety, depression, having suffered a previous abuse or trauma, physical pain or grief for example, are all things that can trigger alcoholism or an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Consider adopting some lifestyle changes: If you feel that your alcohol consumption is starting to become a problem, perhaps it is time to consider making some minor changes to your lifestyle and daily routine. The first step may be to limit the number of alcoholic drinks that you are consuming. Then perhaps aiming for alcohol free days may be something you are willing to consider. Take account of how many drinks you normally consume on a weekly basis. If the number is high, what can you do about it?
Taking a step by step approach will illuminate for you as to whether you are using alcohol as a means to cope with whatever struggles or life stresses that you are facing. By cutting down on your drinking you may well be surprised to find that you start to feel better in yourself and far healthier too. Remember the benefits of exercise, even walking, which is arguably the best way to tackle stress, as is adopting daily breathing exercises.
Tell somebody: Whether it be a close confident or a therapist, talk to somebody about any difficulties that you are experiencing.
If you find that you are struggling with alcohol, do not hesitate to visit your doctor or a mental health professional. You may be addicted to alcohol, in which case support is available to assist you in your recovery.
Be mindful of what you are consuming and the potential negative effects that they may be having upon your health. Do not suffer alone or feel the need to mask your emotions any longer.
Wishing you a bright and positive start to the New Year,
News on Sunday – My Weekly Advice Column
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