Going Sober for October
by Helen Sharland
A year ago
Often alcohol is there either as an emotional ‘crutch’ to numb or lessen a problem you may have going on, or it’s a social situation where you enjoy a drink or conversely feel the pressure to drink. When considering ‘giving up’ for any period of time, it’s really important to immediately change that mind set to ‘what am I going to gain’, it may seem a cliché, but in this instance very true…
'Sobriety is not the ultimate goal. A good life is'
Macmillan cancer support have launched Sober for October and it’s a great initiative to try to break the habit whilst supporting cancer patients at the same time. Are you having a go at being Sober for October this month? Here's a few reasons why perhaps you should give it a try...
There are many resources out there to explain why understanding your alcohol consumption is so important - aside from the awful hangovers you feel! And there are so many reasons why excessive or regular drink is not a great idea for your mental health in specific, so we’ve compiled a few articles which will hopefully help you make a bit of a change this month to benefit your entire emotional wellbeing.
Let's look at the benefits to giving up the G&T's
First up we summarise an excellent article excellent article over on the Priory Group website - ‘Benefits of giving up alcohol for a month’ so let’s delve in with the positives;
- Better sleep - After one week away from alcohol, you may notice that you are sleeping better. When you drink, you typically fall straight into a deep sleep, missing the important rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
- More hydrated - When you drink alcohol, you lose around four times as much liquid as what you actually drank. Dehydration can cause headaches, as your organs take water from the brain due to their own water loss. Salt and potassium levels also reduce, which can impact nerve and proper muscle function while also causing headaches, fatigue and nausea. Therefore, giving up alcohol can help you keep well hydrated, which is in turn beneficial for your brain.
- Calories saved - If you were to give up drinking six 175 ml glasses of wine a week, you would save around 960 calories, which is the equivalent to three burgers or five and a half bags of crisps. After a fortnight, you are also likely to start losing weight as a result of giving up alcohol’s empty calories. If you were to stop drinking six 175ml glasses of wine per week, you would have saved 1920 calories at this point, and 2160 if you’d stopped drinking around six pints of lager.
- Reduced blood pressure - Drinking too much alcohol can cause your blood pressure to rise over time. After 3-4 weeks of not drinking, your blood pressure will start to reduce. Reducing your blood pressure can be crucial as it can help to lessen the risk of health problems occurring in the future.
- Improved skin - Giving up alcohol will have a positive impact on your skin due to you having better levels of hydration.
- Improved liver function - Removing alcohol from your diet for four weeks can also help to improve your liver function as your liver will start to shed excess fat.
WOW! So there are the benefits, so many which is great. Let's now take a look at the effect alcohol can have on your mental health specifically. Alcohol it is a huge factor in worsening depression and anxiety, a classic example of a short term fix causing long term problems. Daily alcohol consumption, can result in you not truly feeling honest emotions, they are buried which we probably know is not the best place to put your emotions, aside from the damage to your body physically.
How alcohol affects our mental health
Another great article over on Alcohol change highlights the following concerns that alcohol has specifically on our mental health;
- Overuse of alcohol can worsen the symptoms of many mental health problems. In particular, it can lead to low mood and anxiety
- As the immediate feeling of calm after drinking fades over time, you may feel worse than before
- Post-drinking hangovers can be particularly difficult, with the usual headache and nausea being accompanied by feelings of depression and/or anxiety
- Using alcohol in this way can mean that the underlying mental health issues aren’t addressed
So how do we do this challenge and create change?
- I really recommend following No Beer for a Year, such a great concept where they focus on the mindset around alcohol. Society has made alcohol glamorous and is so ingrained in our every day language it will be a tough one to take on, but the good news is that more and more people are realising you don’t have to drink to have a good time! These guys really coach you through the challenge, even if you just follow their social pages.
- There are many apps to help you reach goals, worth researching to find the right one for you
- You may feel pressured to have a drink in the pub with your mates, but there is nothing wrong with having a soft drink (there are some more interesting ones of those out there now too!) Once you’ve done it once, people begin to back off too, others really don’t mind and you never know who you maybe inspiring to do the same thing..
- When 6 o'clock comes and you feel that G&T calling, maybe focus on creating an exercise regime for that time instead, or simply reach for a flavoured soft drink as a replacement - you only have to Google non-alcoholic drinks to find a plethora of AMAZING alternatives you can make at home!
- When out for drinks or dinner, often it's just about getting over the first drink to break the habit that is the hardest, again choose an alternative that you genuinely like, to help you though. There are even 0% alcohol options in the pubs now which could be a really good way to progress.
- Try changing your language too, by saying ‘I really need a drink’ or ‘ooh it’s nearly wine o’clock’ you are imbedding this language and ‘need’ for alcohol sub- consciously (often around the kids too..!)…why we glamourise drink is strange when you think how awful it makes you feel and the negative effects it has on your body, take a moment to think about the language you use on a daily basis, you'll be amazed at the amount of references you either say or hear..finding a healthy alternative to getting the same 'relief' alcohol gives you could be a really great way forward, be it exercise or relaxation, some time just for yourself perhaps..
- Don't forget to praise yourself, keep a record of your progress, maybe write a diary, tick off the days in your planner, then reward yourself at the end of the month as it's a fantastic achievement and you should be proud of yourself.
Another great follow is Catherine Gray and her brilliant book ‘The unexpected joy of being sober’, I really recommend listening to any interview with Catherine and of course reading her book, the best advice I’ve heard her say;
‘nothing good happens after 1am’…think about it….so true!!
I hope those resources help you, I’ve done dry January this year and have had 2 glasses of wine since the beginning of September and I have to say the proof really is in the pudding..I feel SO much better, happier and clearer each day and getting a great sleep, right now I need all the help I can get to keep a positive mindset for my family to get us through this time, so it’s working…I would definitely recommend having a go and if you can raise some money for Macmillan, even better.