We've teamed up with local business Fortis Therapy & Training to offer some useful resources to our follower base, beginning this month with promoting a healthy relationship with alcohol. Fortis is an award-winning mental health organisation who provide therapy and counselling sessions for all ages. Founder Alexis Powell-Howard has taken her business from strength-to-strength since its inception in 2012, winning multiple accolades including a recent listing in the top 100 Female Entrepreneurs in the UK. She took the time this week to have a chat with us about mental health, putting a spotlight on the importance of mindful drinking.
Let’s face it - booze is bloody lovely. There really is nothing quite like coming home from work on a Friday, making a G&T and putting your feet up. Or how about that bottle of Pinot shared between friends on a sunny Saturday evening in the garden?
But these casual drinking scenarios are a world apart from the regular and dangerous boozing that some partake in, and the way life has been the past year and a half it is no surprise that more and more people are turning to alcohol as a way of coping.
Alcohol has been described as ‘the UK’s favourite coping mechanism’, and many of us do drink to try and help manage stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. This is sometimes called ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol. Unfortunately, although alcohol can help us feel relaxed initially and give us a brief feeling of euphoria, the effects are short-lived and the long-term negative consequences of drinking a lot over a long period of time can be quite harmful.
So what does a "healthy relationship" look like?
Alexis says “Most people have a ‘relationship’ with alcohol and, as with any relationship, it is about how well the relationship works for you and how balanced the relationship is. You may find your relationship has altered over the last 18 months, due to how you have been feeling - for example, ‘needing a drink’, as a distraction, a need to feel lighter and to feel ‘better’, ‘happier’ ‘less anxious’ ‘less angry’ or a celebration of seeing friends and family again or feeling more confident when walking in to places full of people."
Regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in the brain that are vital for good mental health. So while we might feel relaxed after a drink, in the long run drinking excessive amounts of alcohol has an impact on mental health and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with.
“Alcohol affects how our brain functions, that’s why we feel less inhibited when we have had a drink but it can make us feel more anxious the next morning, also explaining why there is the potential for addiction. It can affect our health, sleep and our mood, depression, anxiety levels and the food you might crave too."
So how can we drink more mindfully?
To drink mindfully is to have a certain attitude towards alcohol and moderate drinking habits if required. A drink should be a choice - not a requirement - and enjoyed in a comfortable and friendly environment.
Think twice and assess your mood before drinking alcohol - if you're not feeling great, it might be better to give it a miss rather than add a hangover on top. Don't let anyone force you into drinking - if you're not in the mood, don't drink. Mindful drinking is all about deciding what is right for you, today, at this moment.
“Be aware of how much and how often you are drinking - keep a record over the course of the week so you can be accurate about your intake. Notice what triggers you feeling that you ‘need’ a drink, then slow down and savour being in the moment and being with others. Keep hydrated in between drinks to reduce the amount of alcohol you are consuming and supplement alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones, meaning you feel you have had the ‘treat’ - if you see drinking in this way. Beyond this, if you are struggling access help and support with a professional therapeutic service."
The best advice is to drink responsibly and stick within the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines by not having more than 14 units of alcohol per week, but if you are aware that your relationship with alcohol has become something that you struggle with or are dependent on, then it is time to seek help.
If you’d like to read further, below Fortis have provided a series of really great resources on promoting a healthy relationship with alcohol and how you can be more mindful in your drinking habits.
If you have any concerns about yourself or a loved one and would like to speak someone directly, Fortis offer one-to-one services and can be reached on 01472 241794 or via email to email@example.com.
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