Having dinner with friends, celebrating a birthday or holiday, watching sports, or at the end of a long day, many turn to alcohol to “enhance” the occasion or relieve some stress.
With alcohol widely available in just about any flavor you can think of and heavily marketed to entice us to try the latest fruity or dessert-like combinations it’s easier than ever to grab an alcoholic beverage to toast our good fortunes or drown our sorrows.
While an occasional drink may not be an issue, a habit of consuming alcohol regularly can quickly build.
You might think that drinking makes you feel good in the moment, or helps you destress. But it’s a slippery slope to becoming alcohol dependent. Indulging in alcohol can lead to a slew of health, relationship, or financial problems.
When feeling down, anxious, or stressed out, drinking can seem like an easy solution-a way to self-medicate. Yet, alcohol use can actually lead to depression or make mental health issues worse.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the problem of trying to manage our emotions and mental health with alcohol and offer some alternatives instead.
More Harm Than Good
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Alcohol use and mental health are often intertwined. Many people turn to alcohol as a way to cope with daily life stressors and mental health concerns.
Yet alcohol is a depressant, which means it can actually make things worse.
Numerous studies confirm drinking can exacerbate existing mental health issues and lead to anxiety and depression. Alcohol also interferes with medication that’s prescribed for mental health conditions.
People who have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to experience negative effects from alcohol. This includes increased suicidal thoughts, worsening mood symptoms, and feelings of hopelessness.
It’s important to note that even if you don’t have a diagnosis of depression, having a history of depression increases your risk of developing alcohol dependence later in life.
The link between alcohol and mental illness isn’t limited to those with a diagnosis of depression.
People with anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mental health conditions are also more vulnerable to experiencing negative consequences from alcohol.
The bottom line? If you’re struggling with emotional wellbeing, alcohol won’t help. In fact, it could do more harm than good.
Finding Better Treatment & Coping Alternatives
If you’re struggling with your mental health, drinking is not the answer. There are other ways to manage your mental wellness without turning to alcohol.
Here are a few things you can do:
–Talk to a therapist or counselor – They can provide guidance on how to better deal with everyday stresses and help you find healthier coping mechanisms.
–Get support from family and friends – You can talk to them about what’s going on emotionally and seek their advice on alternative ways to handle stressful
–Join a support group – Find a local group to attend where you can share experiences and learn new techniques for dealing with difficult situations.
–Eat a healthy diet – Eating a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables can be helpful when managing your mental health. Try eating foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. These will keep you fuller longer and may help curb cravings.
–Exercise regularly – Exercise helps release endorphins into your body, which naturally boost your mood. It also improves sleep quality and reduces stress levels.
–Get enough sleep – Sleep deprivation can cause irritability, fatigue, and poor concentration. Make sure you get adequate sleep each night.
–Avoid triggers – Identify your triggers and avoid places or people that make you anxious. For example, if you tend to become anxious around crowds, try avoiding large gatherings.
–Meditate – Meditation has proven effective at helping reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. Start with just 5 minutes per day and work up to 20 minutes daily.
–Learn relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and guided imagery can help you feel calmer and less stressed out. Try this simple breathing exercise, take deep breaths through your nose while counting slowly to 10. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process three times.
–Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness meditation can help you become aware of your thoughts and feelings and allow you to take control of your emotions.
–Find something positive to focus on – Focus on something that makes you happy, whether it’s spending time with loved ones or doing an activity you enjoy.
–Take time out – When you feel overwhelmed, take a break from your normal routine. Get some fresh air and take a walk, or read a book.
–Take time off work – Taking some time away from work and focusing on yourself can be an effective way to relieve stress.
–Find hobbies – Hobbies can be great outlets for stress relief. Get creative and try something new!
–Stay connected – Connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Share your feelings with someone close to you. Talking about your problems can help ease your worries.
–Don’t self medicate – Alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Self medicating by using other substances like marijuana, cocaine, or some prescription drugs can also worsen your mental health condition.
–Be patient – Don’t expect immediate results. Your mental health journey won’t happen overnight. Remember that there are no quick fixes and it takes time to heal.
If you’re struggling with mental health problems and excessive alcohol use, it’s important to get help. There are many resources available to help you manage your mental health without resorting to consuming alcoholic beverages.
Consider online treatment programs such as those offered by Monument, or you can also find support groups and other resources through organizations like :
-National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
-American Psychiatric Association
-Depression and Anxiety Association of America
-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
-National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about the best treatment options for you.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone or look for relief in a bottle. Break the cycle.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help instead of relying on alcohol!