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Manage Daily Life Stressors without drinking
By Jaye Hoelscher on
It’s a common scenario – it’s been a long day at work, maybe you’ve worked well overtime. You’re brain fried, frustrated, emotionally and physically exhausted.
One of the first things so many of us hear ourselves saying is: “I need a drink!” And when we get that first drink into us, there is this real feeling of “aahhhhhh”. A chance to breathe, relax and let go of the day’s stressors. That sigh – that deep breathing – is something we clearly don’t need alcohol for – it’s just often we go until the end of a long day without ever taking a deep breath and allowing ourselves a moment to be still.
Before always playing out this work-reward scenario and heading straight for the bottle every time the going gets tough, take a moment to consciously monitor your thinking.
What are my motivations around having a drink? Can I find the relief I need in alternate, more productive ways? Maybe a boxing session to get out some aggression or an action planning session with a mentor to feel more in control, perhaps a long walk with the dog to get some space.
While sometimes sitting down with your mates at the end of a hard week to have a drink and debrief your stuff is a really rewarding practice, if we are engaging in alcohol consistently after stressful periods, especially on a day-to-day basis, we may be creating a habit that can easily become a default pattern; and over time, not a positive one.
Recognise your thought processes
Of course, there are elements of alcohol that do physically relax us, but there is a large attachment that many of us have made with alcohol that signifies a reward for hard work done or something that will make us feel better; a coping mechanism, whether we acknowledge that or not.
Our beliefs are largely what drive us to making behavioural decisions, often without consciously thinking about them, so if we are telling ourselves during times of adversity – or when facing daily stressors – that we ‘need a drink to feel better’, that belief we hold onto in our minds can get the better of us if left unchecked.
One of the biggest challenges and realisations for me has been to recognise my own thought processes – particularly during stressful periods – and that is, “when I feel I’m stressed or feel have worked hard, I deserve a drink.”
As a health professional, I am the first to acknowledge that this is a belief that should be recognised and challenged because looking to booze as a coping strategy or reward long-term will not only hinder my health physically, but it can cripple emotional coping and psychological productivity if left unattended.
Breathing via different channels in the body, physiologically counteracts our stress response and begins processes to ease the nervous system. So, as simple as it may sound, conscious focused attention to slow, steady breathing is an incredibly useful coping mechanism.
When the girls are having champagnes at the end of a hard week, this month I’ll be making mocktails of all different varieties, getting creative with fresh fruit, mineral water and teas.
To be honest, while the mental knowledge is there that I’m not drinking alcohol which can be a challenge at times, the physical ritual reward has been just as satisfying. I can still have good conversation, good company and waking up guilt-free is priceless.