For many people, a glass of wine or a cold beer after a tiring day at work is a routine way to break up the day and relax into the evening. For some it’s the natural precursor to supper and bed. But what is not generally understood is that regularly reaching for a drink after work can be harmful to your physical and mental health and can be a symptom of alcoholism. The risk is that it becomes a form of self-medication, an emotional crutch to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
How alcohol affects the body and mind
Many people are uncomfortable if they have a night without a drink, mistakenly believing that it helps them to de-stress and switch off from their working day. In fact, the opposite is true. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the brain and central nervous system, slowing your heart rate and breathing. Regular drinking also lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain, a chemical that your body uses to regulate mood. So whilst in the immediate glass of wine after work might make you feel relaxed, in the longer term it has the adverse effect. Overconsumption of alcohol actually exacerbates stress and contributes to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. This is especially true if someone is regularly drinking more than is outlined in the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines. Their advice is not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week, and this applies to both men and women. Read more alcohol facts here.
The good news is that there are endless ways to relax, manage stress, and enjoy yourself, without relying on substances to cope. A good way to start is by thinking about what you’re interested in and where your passions lie. Perhaps its sport, music, volunteering, charity work or travel? If you would like to quit drinking, remember that life is about so much more than alcohol. It’s just a matter of getting out there and finding what you enjoy!
1. Create a new evening routine
Changing your routine is crucial when trying to break any habit. Whether going completely sober or reducing your alcohol intake, creating a new healthy routine at night will help you with any cravings or urges you may experience. Things like drinking herbal tea, taking a long bubble bath or reading a good book will all help you to relax and chill out without alcohol. Limiting phone and screen time for at least an hour before bed can also help.
Running is a brilliant way to relax after work: not only is it a fantastic form of exercise, it costs nothing! Running releases a whole host of feel-good endorphins, creating a natural high in the body, and is proven to reduce feelings of stress, depression and anxiety.
Yoga is also a powerful tool of relaxation, helping to clear and to focus the mind. There are lots of types to try: from restorative to Bikram, aerial to ashtanga or vinyasa. Practicing yoga has many benefits such as weight loss, increased energy and fitness levels, and improved flexibility, strength and posture. Taking up a yoga class in the evening is a great way to unwind and a very healthy alternative to drinking alcohol, replacing artificial highs with natural ones
In recent years the therapeutic benefits of meditation and mindfulness practice have been widely reported. If you’re feeling stressed, a couple of minutes of mindfulness can help guide your mind away from overthinking the past or worrying about the future, and instead focus on living in the present. Consistent practice of meditation and mindfulness, even if just for 5 minutes each morning, can help those with addictive tendencies to better manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours without the use of drugs or alcohol. There are plenty of apps to help you such as Headspace and Calm, or you might like to try an online guided meditation course.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to be of service to others and keep yourself busy and your mind engaged. Helping others in a volunteer role fosters a sense of connection with others, and has been proven to increase psychological wellbeing, self-esteem and happiness. If you’re trying to find ways to unwind at night without alcohol, why not consider taking up a volunteer role a couple of nights a week? There are hundreds of charities and organisations to choose from. You might want to help the homeless in the local community, work with children or the elderly, or perhaps you’re passionate about animals and could help at a local animal charity or in conservation.
Getting creative in the kitchen can be extremely therapeutic – and it’s fun too! A relaxing evening spent cooking and discovering new recipes is a great way to build self-esteem and de-stress in a healthy way. It is a practice of self-care as well as mindfulness, encouraging you to focus on the task at hand. Seeing and tasting the finished result is rewarding in itself, and cooking with friends can help to build those meaningful connections in life.
As you can see, the list of ways to unwind without alcohol could go on ad infinitum, and in truth, it’s about finding what works for you and where your interests lie. As with most things in life, preparation is key. This is especially true when deciding to change your routine and break unhealthy habits. As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Having a structured plan in place for when urges and cravings occur, is the best way to prevent you from falling back into old patterns of behaviour and help your alcohol recovery
Benefits of quitting drinking
When cutting down on your alcohol intake, remember to take it one day at a time and be kind to yourself. It may be difficult at first, but know that it is worth it and that the benefits are endless. Some of these can be enjoyed immediately: improved quality of sleep, better looking skin and weight loss, as well as feeling less tired and more energetic. In the long-term, reducing a person’s alcohol intake has been proven to significantly improve heart, liver and immune system function, as well as reducing levels of anxiety and depression.
If you or a loved one is suffering with alcohol addition, we advise you seek professional treatment at a trustworthy, professional alcohol rehab. If you would like to know more about alcohol addiction treatment, please contact us at the Providence Projects, private rehab in Bournemouth. Call today on 0800 955 0945 or complete our contact form.