Our top tip for chilling out this Stress Awareness Month? Take control of your drinking.
It’s so easy to fall into that trap: you come home from a hectic day at the office, kick off your shoes, and automatically grab a drink to calm your nerves.
Think before you drink
The thing is, while a drink might help reduce stress in the short term, it can come at a price. It’s true that a rise in your blood alcohol content might lead to a temporary feeling of excitement. But once it goes back down, this can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. The result? You wind up feeling even more stressed than before. For some people, this alcohol-induced anxiety can last for an hour or so; for others, it can last an entire day.
Be fair to your future self
Alcohol is a depressant: that means it slows down the central nervous system, which can lead to a temporary feeling of relaxation. But in the long term, excessive amounts of alcohol can alter the chemistry of your brain and change the way your body perceives stress. That means that heavy drinkers can experience higher levels of anxiety when they’re in a stressful situation than people who only drink in moderation. So while you might feel like you need a few pints to get you through that next work do, there’s a good chance those beers are just setting you up to feel even more jittery next time around.
On top of that, excessive drinking can have a number of other mental and physical effects, from memory loss and weight gain to irritability, insomnia, and impotence. Each of these can themselves be tough to deal with and again, they’ll only add to whatever else is stressing you out.
Find your Zen
Sure, alcohol can provide some temporary stress relief. But there are thousands o f simple stress-beating techniques that are cheaper, healthier, and more effective than reaching for the booze.
- Get outside! Lunch breaks are a time to switch off from work and give yourself a breather. Get out of the office and go for a run or a jog or a wander – or just sit and enjoy the sun.
- Crack on the headphones. Whether it’s Beethoven, Beck or Beyoncé, find the tunes that chill you out and bring you back to earth.
- Don’t bottle it up. Get it off your chest. Talk to family. Talk to friends. Talk to online communities. Never be afraid to let people know how you’re feeling.
Be drink smart
We’re not saying you need to quit drinking altogether. What’s important is to be mindful of your drinking habits, and to make sure that these aren’t harming your mental or physical health. A great place to start is by taking the two-minute alcohol test DontBottleItUp. This can show you how risky your current drinking is and help create a realistic plan that works for you.
You can also use the free DrinkCoach app to help you track and change your drinking on the go – just download it on the App Store or Google Play, or click here to find out more.
So get online, take control of your drinking, and make this Stress Awareness Month your most chilled out month yet.