Day 16 – Dealing with stress without alcohol



Life is stressful, isn’t it? Stress and anxiety are common phenomena in our societies, cited as some of the most common reasons why many reach for the drink in order to unwind. After a long busy day, it can seem the easiest, most accessible and most immediate way to relax. But, if you’re turning to alcohol often and over the recommended guidelines, than you could be doing yourself more harm than good. Drinking alcohol often exacerbates stress, in fact increasing anxiety rather than reducing it, and becoming a vicious cycle.

Regular heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in the brain, which are needed for good mental health, and therefore to regulate stress and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it acts by slowing down the central nervous system’s process down. So, while the initial feeling of de-stressing may help in the short term (that drink in the bar), in the long run it may contribute to those continued feelings of depression, anxiety and stress (waking up the next day).

What can I do?

Don’t avoid the issue. Turns out, more often than not, alcohol isn’t the root cause but just the knee-jerk reaction to something more deep seated. Take some time to figure this out, disconnect from technology, step away from others, and avoid trying to alter your mood with booze. By dealing with the root causes, you may find that your relationship with alcohol might organically shift

Eight ways to unwind without a drink

1.  Eat food and drink water Our nutrition expert Sam Waterhouse advises that positive food choices can help us unwind and cope better with everyday anxiety. She suggests you fill yourself with nutrient dense foods. So cut out the fizzy pop, reduce the carbohydrates, and instead fill your belly with foods full of vegetables and good oils like salmon. Down a pint of water, and along with a full stomach you are less likely to reach for the bottle.

2.  A bit of mindfulness An ancient practice that is becoming more and more popular. The newly more sober journalist Polly Vernon had this to say about her experiences with the Headspace app. “I emerged from my first meditation session feeling very much like it was not a load of crock: within a week, I was hooked. Something about Puddicombe’s easy breezy, blokey, defiantly non-hippie delivery, or just the act of sitting quietly for a set period of time, resonated with me, sceptic or not.”.

3.  Exercise You can choose from all kinds of sport and exercise: running, gym, cycling, pilates, the list is endless. Practices that combine a bit of mindfulness or mental attention with the physical movement are particularly effective for relaxing both body and mind. The best-known types of these are Yoga and Tai Chi and other martial arts.

And you don’t even necessarily have to get to a class. Movement for Modern Life offer excellent online Yoga classes to suit every level of experience. Try “Twist to unwind” on their 14 day free trial.

It may seem hard at first, but if you are changing your drinking, the combination of exercise and reduction in wine/beer calories will show a bigger pay-off. And the endorphins from exercise will give you a natural high.

4.  Look ahead Have nervous energy at the end of the day? Then utilise it to sort out things in advance for the following day. Make your lunch, pack your work bag, do a few of those niggly errands and the satisfaction of being ahead of yourself will make the moment when you sit down and finally relax all the more sweeter.

5.  Turn on some tunes or have a laugh! When has a blast of music not cheered you up? Combine it with a few pre-emptive tasks (see above) and you have a win-win situation. Making the most of technology on offer, you can build yourself an uplifting and/or relaxing playlist ready to play when you most need it, or get onto iPlayer and listen to some radio comedy.


6.  Put what’s worrying you, or indeed what makes you happy, into words Writing or talking about the things that prey on you may make them seem smaller. You can use a diary, your check-in page in Club Soda, or sharing your thoughts with others on Club Soda. Read Lior’s blog about how making a list of things that made her happy was not only a great process, but is now her personalised manual for dealing with stressful and unhappy times.

7.  Get a massage You must have saved a few quid from not buying alcohol. Boffins haven’t figured out why having your body pressed and prodded works wonders, but they know that it does. Whatever it is you fancy, a full-body massage, pedicure, manicure or facial – all are great ways to unwind. And don’t forget that hugging is completely free and works in exactly the same way!

AJ8.  Be in nature Our expert member Andy Jaeger is a big believer that just being outside and connecting with nature will relax you and make you happy. In fact many of the top things that will make you happy involve being outdoors.


For more on stress (and gong baths!), watch this short October 2015 webinar video clip.

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