Much work has been done over the years to educate the public on matters of safe drinking. We have seen local and national adverts on how many units of alcohol are safe for both women and men to consume in one sitting and how often per week. Some of this has been increasingly highlighted because of increased female consumption and the different effects of alcohol on women to men.
Publications are beginning to emerge on alcohol consumption and its impact during the Covid – 19 Pandemic. Recent evidence is showing that people have increased their drinking at home since the Corona virus placed restrictions on people being able to meet up in bars & restaurants over this past year or so. Which may mean many of us may consider moderating our drinking.
Alcohol can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of our body, including our brain, bones and heart. Alcohol and its associated risks can have both short-term and long-term effects which can include alcohol poisoning, ongoing heavy drinking can also increase your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, both of which are major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes and many other long term health risks associated with alcohol misuse. Find out more about the risks here.
During periods of stress, it’s not uncommon to lean on different ways of coping such as: overeating/under eating, overspending, over exercising. For some it may mean having that extra one or two glasses of wine, beer, or spirit to help us relax at the end of a stressful day or maybe even before an upcoming challenging event.
One of the modules from our Living Life to the Full course ‘The things we do that don’t help’ explains how sometimes the things we do that help make us feel better for a while can in fact make us feel worse in the long term. When you are down it may seem the best solution to head for the box of chocolates or open that bottle of wine. We can lean on things at times of stress that don’t really help, but these things can actually become part of the problem or create a longer term problem that becomes increasingly difficult to address. Find out more about why we reach for the things that don’t help, and what to do about it.
During the coronavirus pandemic it has been more important than ever to look after our health and wellbeing. We have seen in the media that being overweight, elderly and/or in poor health has a greater impact on the symptoms of the virus and may impact on ones recovery time.
Sleep & Alcohol
Alcohol can initially help us relax and that may seem a good idea to do before bed if you’re not sleeping well. Whilst one or two units of alcohol helps you relax and maybe even fall off to sleep, alcohol can interrupt your quality of sleep – Rem sleep (the time during sleep when thoughts/events, memories and emotions are being processed) this can then impact on your mood the following day. Alcohol will also relax your throat muscles more, restricting your airflow when sleeping and the result is your more likely to snore and disturb not only your own quality of sleep but those around you as well. The result is a vicious cycle of poor sleep – increased drinking – poor sleep and round the cycle goes….. Having a few drinks can increase our appetite leading to another Vicious cycle of over eating and gaining weight because you’re eating more than you need when you are drinking, or the next day when hungover making unhealthy food choices and again the Vicious cycle spins. Or on the other hand maybe you’re drinking too much and you’re missing out on meals, losing weight, becoming malnourished. This combined with drinking too much can have some serious long term health risks…..
The Vicious Cycle Explained
The vicious cycle is a way of understanding how the worse we feel the less we do and the less we do the worse we feel. The good news is it can also spin the other way and become a Virtuous cycle.
Have you wondered how a vicious circle works? Let’s say for example you have been made redundant- how does this life event affect how you think about things? Some of the thoughts that might go through your head could be “ I have let people down”, you’re worried about not having enough money for the mortgage, you might feel useless and rejected… and a whole host of other unhelpful negative thoughts begin to get stuck in your mind.
When we are stressed we often don’t see life in a balanced way and we focus on negative things. Bad thoughts go round and around in our head- this is called ‘Altered thinking.’
Altered Feelings – Altered Physical Feelings – Altered Behaviours
When we are upset and stressed we experience all sorts of emotions and feelings- depression, worry, guilt, shame, anger, irritation- these feelings are known as ‘Altered feelings’- the cycle starts to spin and we are thinking and feeling unhelpful things. Then we may start to feel physically ill, we might experience symptoms like the shakes, butterflies, you may have trouble sleeping, be tired, have no appetite, lose your sex drive and be more prone to catching colds and coughs- this is called ‘Altered physical symptoms’.
Altered physical symptoms leave you feeling bad mentally as well as physically- this this impacts on how we respond – what we do, you might not bother getting up some days. You stop paying bills, meeting friends, you may be too tired to clean the house or go out. This is known as ‘Altered behaviour.’
Altered behaviour completes the vicious circle- now you feel really low- physically tired and may have stopped doing things and can’t be bothered going out. Now our negative thinking gets worse, and we get further down and less able to cheer ourselves up. Try completing the attached worksheet to see if you’re caught in a vicious cycle of unhelpful drinking.
What are the benefits of cutting down on alcohol?
If you’ve been feeling sluggish, lack of motivation and you’re looking for a way to boost your energy levels and motivation then cutting down on alcohol is a good place to start. It will improve your physical and mental health, you may even find you save money for that long needed break away or new bed!
It has been a tough year for most of us for varying reasons and the impact of the pandemic has hit most of us in one way or another. The evidence shows that people who consume alcohol regularly under normal circumstance have been turning more often to alcohol as a way of coping (Alcohol Change UK). Even a short-term change in your drinking can motivate you to maintain change in the long term and continue to make healthier choices in the future.
Have you heard of dry January? This public health campaign has been growing in popularity over the past ten years. The idea is you sign up to no alcohol for the month of January (but really you could make this pact with yourself any time or the year). People who have cut down or stopped drinking have reported many benefits:
People who have cut down or stopped drinking have reported many benefits:
- An improvement in overall general health
- More money to spend on healthier choices – eating healthier.
- Getting a better night’s sleep and improved relationships at home
- More energy to engage in healthy activities.
In addition to all of this, having alcohol-free periods can reduce the very serious risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and even reduce the risk of developing some cancers.
By cutting down or going alcohol free for a 4-6 weeks allows a long enough period for us to realise we feel more relaxed enjoy our social activities and interaction with others more. This in turn allows us the opportunity to explore other more helpful ways of coping with our mental or physical health problems. Try our 10 Things You Can Do to Feel Happier Worksheet here.
There are things we can chose to do, every day to help us to feel better, and perhaps replace our focus on alcohol, to something more positive that gradually improves our health and wellbeing. Our Tips for staying happy blog gives a few ideas of things you can do that will help you to feel better straight away. Read the blog here. You will most likely notice a difference in your decision making and productivity levels too.
Making changes to our behaviour can be very challenging so ….
It’s very easy to be tough on yourself and to let bad thoughts take over—we tend to do it a lot, much more than we realise- we are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Take a step back and consider how you look after yourself. Like all living things, we flourish in an environment of warmth and kindness, rather than cold and criticism. How can you begin to be a little kinder to yourself? Discover more about building kindness towards yourself by practising mindfulness techniques and kindness meditations in the linked audio files here.
Look to introduce things we can replace alcohol with as a way of coping instead of always repeating the same unhelpful behaviour at times of stress.
Use our planner sheet to help you decide what it is you are going to do to help you cut back- when and how you are going to do it. Check your plan- is it realistic, something you know you can do, (make small achievable changes like cutting out one day or drink less 2 days of the week).
In your plan, aim at changing just one thing at a time. Make a separate plan for each of the things you want to start doing again.
Is your plan slow? To make sure you are aiming at one thing, and is it realistic.
Is it easy? The easier the steps, the more likely you are to do them.
Are you ready to unblock it? What will you do if it goes wrong? If it goes wrong, how will you get round these problems.
Our little book helps you decide if you are drinking too much and offer guidance on how to start addressing it safely. Explore where two days free of alcohol can lead to – a week – a month – the future! Download our drinking diary worksheet to help you. For further help and support Go to NHS Alcohol units for further information.
The benefits of reducing our long-term alcohol consumption is huge. It will help reduce your risk of numerous health problems, several cancers, liver disease avoiding the greatest risk factor for death and disability to adults in the UK.
Our relationships and alcohol!
Is your relationship with alcohol affecting your relationship with close family members, work colleagues, friends or just the way you relate to people around you? Is it clouding your judgement, are you jumping to conclusions or always thinking the worst? Our relationship book ‘You Me and Us’ helps you to take a long look at your relationship and help you decide whether to work on changing things, or to choose to get out. Covering the full complexity of these difficult decisions, readers will be able to consider whether they want to leave just for today, or forever.
Start today by making one small change. If you need help, sign up to our course for free at www.llttf.com
The Living Life to the Full Team.