Keep alcohol away by keeping your stress at bay.
“It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.’ — Hans Selye
For many people, the thought of drinking alcohol is directly related to stress relief.
After a particularly busy or challenging day, one of the first things that come to mind is how nice either a cold beer or a nice glass of wine would taste right about now.
For whatever reason, we have created a direct link to the concept of relaxing and “unwinding” and the need to have some type of alcoholic beverage in our hands to do so.
You see it all the time on television shows or commercials in which a lovely couple sits down on the beach to relax with some type of drink to help them do so.
Corona has even associated itself directly with vacations and the concept of relaxing with their “Las Vida Mas Fina” (the Fine Life) tagline.
Therefore, it is no wonder that many people feel that giving up alcohol will cause them to become giant stress balls in which they keep all of their emotions and feelings locked up inside without any avenue to let them out.
And since stress can perhaps be as dangerous to our health as alcohol, it is no wonder that some people will use this circuitous thinking to rationalize them not stopping or cutting back on alcohol.
Their thought process goes something like, “Stress will probably kill me quicker than alcohol, so I might as well enjoy it.”
Since there is some truth in this, it is important for anyone who decides to reduce or stop drinking altogether to make sure they have a number of different techniques to truly deal and cope with stress to ensure they are not trading one life ailment for another.
Here are three techniques that one can implement immediately to be able to help with this and continue on their alcohol-conscious journey in a very healthy manner.
While stress is known as the silent killer, there are very few things that are known to combat it as well as exercise.
Stress is your body’s reaction to what it perceives as harmful situations, It can be a combination of personal or professional pressures that can build up over time. This could take the form of psychological pressure or even physical pressure that you can feel in your body.
This is one of the reasons that actual physical exercise works so well. One of the things that occur when your body thinks it’s in a stressful situation is that your muscles tend to tighten up.
This works well when you are in a situation in which you need to run fast or ward off an attack, as a result of the “fight or flight” mechanism, but not so well when you are under chronic stress from mental worry and your body doesn’t know the difference.
To alleviate this, physical exercise will actually help you loosen your body up and give it the release that it thinks it needs as a result of the stressful situation.
Just like the mind initially made your muscles tighten up because it felt the stress of a potentially dangerous situation at hand, the adverse effect can take place in that the mind will think the stressful situation has been handled as you work out the physical tension in your body and expend enough energy to make it feel that you are now better and safe.
This could explain why so many people feel a sense of relief after a good hard workout to expend enough energy that their body is more focused on now replenishing that energy than any previous stressful thoughts.
The other side of this is endorphin release.
Artificial endorphin creation by alcohol is one of the many reasons that many individuals enjoy imbibing on a regular basis. We’ve discussed the science behind how your body can become so used to alcohol for the creation of endorphins that it can be challenging over time to create them on your own.
Exercise also helps in this endeavor by helping you create these endorphins naturally, therefore giving your body that feeling that you were so used to getting from alcohol but without the after-effects of potential addiction.
This pumping up of these neurotransmitters sends signals of pleasure throughout your body and will typically alleviate any stress, as your mind is so focused on enjoying this feeling that it will somewhat “forget” about the stressful things you may have been thinking about before.
One of the indirect ways that exercise helps alleviate stress is also related to something that you should be doing on a regular basis as well to help with it.
For some people, the consistent repetitive nature of exercising puts them in somewhat of a trance-like state in which their mind turns off for a bit and goes on autopilot as they push through the pain to experience the pleasure on the other side of completing a difficult set of reps.
One way to increase these feelings of blissfulness and take your mind off problems in a more complete manner is through meditation.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and continues to be one of the best ways to relax. Stress is highly psychological and meditation can help clear your mind of the thoughts that are bogging it down and clear it to have more peace of mind.
Meditation has been known to help a number of various illnesses that could be worsened by stress.
It doesn’t take long either.
In a study by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, it was proven that meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day could provide significant results.
Some people have even surmised that as little as five minutes may be able to work if you do it consistently every day and fully immerse yourself for that amount of time.
Not only does meditating allow you to lessen your focus on stressful situations from the past, but it also has been shown to help you improve your future responses to stress as well.
This ability to cope with future stressful situations and not feel the need to grab an alcoholic beverage to cope will dramatically help with keeping cravings at bay and you stay alcohol-conscious.
Write down or talk to someone about your feelings
Many people don’t quite recognize the effects that stress may be having on them until it is too late and they have put their physical health or mental well-being at risk in some way.
To prevent this, one of the best ways to ensure that you are acknowledging any potentially stressful situations in your life and the effect that they may be having on your long-term health is to journal about them and/or talk to someone about them.
Keeping things bottled up emotionally and feeling that we can handle it on our own is often one of the worse ways of dealing with a stressful situation and has a tendency to only make things worse over time.
Without an outlet or avenue to release stress, a minor situation could turn into something major unexpectedly.
Instead, it is good to write about stressful situations in something known as expressive writing in which you put down all of your thoughts and feelings on paper.
In a study by Dr. James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas, 46 college students were asked to write about either personal traumatic events or trivial topics for 15 minutes on four consecutive days.
Over the next six months following the experiment, those students who wrote about the traumatic events visited the campus health center less often and used pain relievers less frequently than those who wrote about the trivial topics.
There have been other studies performed that have resulted in reduced stigma-related stress of gay men, chronic stress of elderly caregivers, and anxiety-induced stress of test-takers before an important exam.
For those who are willing to take it a step further and let others in on how they are feeling, talking to someone about stressful feelings is an equally great way to deal with stress.
Studies have shown that talking to someone about problems and sharing stressful situations with others can reduce stress dramatically.
It not only just makes you feel betters about the situation, but can also help improve your physical well-being and even your immune system.
To increase the chances that this will happen, Sarah Townsend, an assistant professor at USC Marshall School of Business suggests talking to someone who displays what is called “emotional similarity” or someone who can truly empathize with what you’re going through because they are experiencing or have experienced the same thing in the past.
This typically creates more of an effect of kinship and connection that allows one to feel more heard and understood than someone who may not be able to truly understand what the other person is going through.
This is one of the reasons it’s so important to have support groups of similar individuals going through alcohol-consciousness who can give you perspective and share their stories as well for encouragement and advice on how to cope.
Stress is rarely helpful and especially not when you are on an alcohol-conscious journey to remove alcohol from your life.
Hopefully, these three simple tips above will help keep the stress at bay and aid you on your journey to keep your alcohol relationship under control and become your absolute best self.