July marks the month of not only Plastic Free July which we are well and truly on board with, but also Dry July. This brought me to think about alcohol a bit more deeply.
Being pregnant has led me to sit back and observe the drinkers from a distance (as oppose to being one of them) and I can say it’s been rather eye-opening. Not only does it seem nearly impossible to socialise without drinking, drinking also causes an array of issues that seem to just be accepted or ignored.
Everywhere you turn, from casual dinners to promotional events or celebrations alcohol is a primary inclusion and consumed by the majority. So you can see how it is a challenge for one to stay dry for 31 days.
Several people around me are participating in this challenge and my interest lies mainly with how they will all feel after completing it, should they complete it. The health and wellness benefits will no doubt be undeniable for some.
Some food for thought;
Sleep - Many believe drinking helps them to sleep better, therefor rely on a few beers or glasses of wine in the evening to unwind and prepare for bed. Research has proven that yes alcohol may send you off to sleep easier and initially put you into a deep sleep, however reduces your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is a stage of deep sleep when people dream and is the most restorative stage of sleep. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and cause further lack of sleep. So all though it might seem like alcohol helps with sleep, it is in fact causing worse sleep. Some alternatives to improve sleep...
- Get regular exercise, but no later than a few hours before bed
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening
- Reserve the bed for sleeping and sex only
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature
- Set regular wake and bed times
- Try a meditation or mindfulness app - one of my favourites is Calm
Health - When a person drinks alcohol, the body reacts to it as a toxin, and channels all energy into expelling it. Because alcohol is made from sugar or starch, it contains lots of calories and although I don’t believe in calorie counting...calories from alcohol are 'empty calories', they have no nutritional value. Because our body’s don’t store alcohol our systems want to get rid of it, and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.
Alcohol dehydrates your body, including the skin – your body's largest organ. This happens every time you drink. Drinking too much is also thought to deprive the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients. That we try so hard to put into our body with skincare and supplements! Alcohol can also cause your face to look bloated and puffy. You might find it bloats your stomach too. And then there's the cellulite; many believe the toxins in alcohol contribute to its build up - eek!
While alcohol can have a very temporary positive impact on our mood, in the long term it can cause big problems for our mental health. While a glass of wine after a hard day might help you relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health.
Relationships - Alcohol works on the brain to lower our inhibitions which may make you feel more confident and less anxious. But, those lower inhibitions can also make you accidentally say or do something that you may come to regret - we have all experienced this right? That regret and/or shame, following your not so subtle actions is often enough to make you reconsider your drinking habits.
Scientists have linked aggression to the consumption of too much alcohol – so it's not surprising that you're more likely to argue after drinking. Arguing a lot when you're drunk could reveal underlying problems with your relationship. Alcohol is often used as an excuse for bad behaviour. So the rate of failed relationships due to one or both, drinking too much is rather high.
I know from experience, there is no point trying to pick a fight with a drunk person. There is no reasoning with them, their common sense and practicality is minimal or non-existent, not to mention they will most likely be far more reactive to certain comments which may result in them overreacting. So best to walk away and deal with it in a sober state...and preferably not hungover.
Some tips to help improve your alcohol related relationship issues...
1. Go alcohol-free The best nights out, or evenings in, don't have to include booze. You can bond over being 100% present and yourself...try doing something else you both enjoy. Be creative!
2. Set your limits You should both know each other well enough to know when the other has had too much and problems arise, agree on your limits before you start drinking and don't let alcohol get in the way of enjoying your time together.
3. Talk it out sober If something is worrying you, don't wait until you've had too much to drink to talk about it. Instead, try and discuss any problems with your partner over a coffee.
4. Let things go One of the worst things you can do in a relationship is hold on to past issues. If you have worked through the issue, if has no place in your future, so don't hold it against your partner as a reason to get upset with them about their drinking. If you are hoping for changes you need to believe they are possible and support you partner. Remember you are on the same team!
Unless of course the issue is reoccurring - then it needs to be properly dealt with and it might be helpful to get a third party to contribute to sorting it, if you haven't had any luck resolving it between the two of you.
5. Be strong If alcohol is really affecting your relationship negatively and you are no longer happy, know when to walk away. You can't help or change someone who doesn't want to change or be helped. Respect yourself enough to make the call when enough is enough.
For those of you that have made the decision to participate in this event (which is also a great cause!) hopefully this has helped make it a little easier to stomach by acknowledging all the good you’ll be doing for yourself and those around you. For those who hadn’t...maybe it’s now persuaded you to take the challenge...or another.
All this obviously highlights the more negative side to alcohol and is usually only relevant when alcohol is abused...but then when you think about it - it is a lot harder to list the positives? I am in no way saying everyone should stop drinking all together...I know I will enjoy my wine again when once my baby is born. I just think it can't hurt to reconsider the way we drink and take it a bit more seriously.
I think most would agree how much of a turn off a highly intoxicated person is, male or female. Or a person consumed by anything in an unhealthy way. So even if only for this month...let’s all put our relationships, health, self respect, self worth and self love first. I’m almost certain we’ll be better for it and feeling pretty damn good come the end of July...maybe even so good it will stick.
Seeing as my sobriety started 7 months ago, I’m challenging myself to cut down of my phone...I see this as one of my worst fixations and want to feel better about it. Just like alcohol it’s an addiction and causes issues with health and relationships, so I feel it’s a appropriate alternative. However, slightly unrealistic to go completely without so instead will be more conscious of my use (only when absolutely necessary for communication or work) and allocate significant screen-free times.
So here's to feeling healthier, sleeping better and improved relationships. I won’t wish you luck - as luck will have nothing to do with it. But if you are choosing to challenge yourself in some way this month - I wish you strength, persistence and reward. Believe in yourself! Xx