Ask me anything: How do I switch off without a drink?

As a certified This Naked Mind coach, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about how you can take back control of your drinking.

If you have a question please send it to me at rachael@inspiredtochange.com.au

Question: My life is busy and I have a drink at the end of the day to help me unwind. The problem is that I don’t stop at one glass and then I feel awful the next day. How can I destress without drinking?

Answer: I used to drink wine to switch off at the end of a busy day and, because alcohol is a depressant, it did help to slow everything down.

Great you may think – problem solved.

However it is not that simple.

When you have a drink to relieve your stress, you are simply numbing your senses and slowing your mind temporarily.

It certainly isn’t solving any of the issues that caused the stress in the first place.

“So what?” you may say. “I don’t want to solve it, I just want to ignore it for a while.”

Fair enough. And you will – for the first 20 minutes – which is around the time it takes for that initial numbing effect to start wearing off.

Of course, usually by then we’ve moved on to the next glass and the next one.

Meanwhile, your body is working through some very complex adjustments to try to get itself back to equilibrium.

Our bodies are always working to retain the status quo, so when we are depressing our central nervous system with alcohol, our bodies counter this with adrenaline and cortisol.

When we’ve had a night of drinking to relieve our stress we generally wake up the next morning feeling awful. This is due to our bodies working hard to counter the effects of alcohol which, ironically, is an extremely stressful process.

We then have the additional worry about how much we drank, what we said to those around us, trying to remember parts of the night, worries about what we are doing to our health and – to top it all off – the original life stresses that we were drinking to numb.

The relief we get from alcohol is short lived and actually leads to more stress.

How then can we deal with stress if alcohol isn’t the solution?

The simplest way, which may sound counter-intuitive, is just to let it be.

The problem is we tend to suppress any negative emotions we experience, which may work in the short term, but doesn’t provide any longer-term solution.

Emotions serve a purpose in providing us with information about what we need to pay attention to and what we need to work on to feel better.

So if you learn to sit and experience your emotions – you become much more in tune with yourself and those emotions become far more manageable.

I also think it’s important to learn how to de-stress without a drink. If you’re into exercise – a run, walk, dance, boxing session – all do wonders for relieving stress.

Other people like gentler ways to unwind. I love a relaxing bath, meditating or reading. Yoga, a massage, baking, gardening and watching funny cat videos on YouTube are also mood lifters. Find out what helps to lighten the load for you.

Once you find your favourite ways to manage stress you’ll be surprised at how much less time you spend in a state of worry, anxiety and stress.

And, if you’re not using alcohol to manage stress, that is one less thing to worry about!

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