It’s the end of another hard day and you head on home to try and switch off, relax and unwind.
Or perhaps you’ve put the kids to bed and you’re looking forward to ‘zoning out’ in front of the TV for a couple of hours.
You deserve a little reward. You made it through to the evening without:
A. Shouting at the driver who cut you up on the roundabout on the way to work/the shops.
B. Actually strangling your annoying micro managing boss.
C. Throwing all your toys out of the pram when your mother phoned (for the third time!)
So, what do you do? Crack open the beer, uncork the wine or have that first nip of whisky?
There was a time when you didn’t drink every day. When you were a child, you didn’t consider having a drink before you went to bed. You knew exactly how to relax and unwind without alcohol.
So, when did the pattern start?
Perhaps you had a particularly stressful period in your life and you ‘irrigated’ your problems with alcohol. It either numbed the bad feelings or simply helped you switch off and go to sleep.
Or perhaps you just got into the habit of sharing a bottle of wine with your partner from time to time. Then it turned into a nightly habit.
Anyway, a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Right?
Yes, that’s true…up to a point. But consider:
One headache tablet might be helpful. A whole bottle certainly won’t be.
Some exercise is really good for you. Overdoing it may cause injury.
We all need water but too much will imbalance the electrolytes in your brain and could even kill you!
A couple of chocolates from the box is a treat. Eating the whole box is just plain greedy.
General guidelines show 1 unit of alcohol as:
1.5oz distilled spirits (1)
Accepted advice is to drink no more than 1-2 units a day for women and 2-3 for men and also to have a couple of alcohol free days per week to ‘rest’ the liver and digestive system. Exceeding this amount can lead to some real proven health problems.
But many people consistently underestimate their level of alcohol consumption. The typical response to ‘how much do you drink?’ is ‘I only have one or two glasses.’
It’s really important to be aware of how much that glass holds. More and more of us are drinking at home. I knew someone who only had one glass at night. That glass held half a bottle of wine!
Ever wondered what that regular drinking habit is doing to your body? Research shows our tolerance for alcohol goes down with age. The body has to work far harder to process what is, essentially, a toxin. For women it’s even more toxic. (2)
Some of the problems include:
Facial puffiness; alcohol makes fluid leak from the blood vessels. This collects in the face at night, especially around the eyes where the skin is looser.
Alcohol opens up the blood vessels in the face. This can lead to a permanently reddened complexion and spider veins too.
Weight gain; surprisingly, a large glass of wine may contain up to 180 calories. A couple of these is the equivalent of a plate of bacon and eggs!
Alcohol is an appetite stimulant and suppresses the ‘executive control’ area of the brain. Many people find that, after a drink or two, they either hit the biscuit tin, crisps, peanuts or order in a pizza! Sound familiar?
Liver damage (obviously); fatty liver might be the warning sign that something is wrong. Later, scarring and cirrhosis can be irreversible.(3)
Gastric problems; drinking on an empty stomach irritates the lining. Stomach ulcers, or worse, can be the result.
Poor sleep; one small drink before bed can actually help that transition into the land of nod. More can interrupt and interfere with good quality sleep leaving you tired and irritable in the morning.
Sex hormones are also disrupted by alcohol which can reduce fertility in women and testosterone production in men. Libido is often affected.
The list continues, but, if you’re over doing the booze, you might be feeling quite uncomfortable that your habit has tipped over into addiction.
If you are feeling uncomfortable about your level or frequency of alcohol consumption, try these helpful hints for cutting it down or cutting it out.
Decide whether you are cutting out or cutting down. It’s important to establish your personal goal. Once you’ve decided…write it down.
1. Create a vision board or something you can focus on each day to remind you of what you want to achieve. Remember to state your goals positively not negatively, such as ‘I want to be a controlled drinker and live a life free of addictions.’
2. Don’t keep too much alcohol in the house. Only buy as much as you intend to drink in one evening or the temptation to overdo it may be too strong to resist.
3. Record your intake. Get a notebook and start to become really aware of how much you’re drinking together with the calorie count…and cost. That should rein you in!
4. Have alcohol free days. If you have decided to cut down rather than cut out, allow at least two days of the week when you are alcohol free. Decide right at the start of the week exactly when these will be. There is an expectation pathway in the brain which ensures that what you focus on is what you get. Set your filters for the coming week to ensure success. (4)
5. Don’t ‘binge drink’ at the weekend as a reward for having saved up all your alcohol units. Limited regular consumption is actually safer than irregular bingeing. Just because you’re allowed one unit a day and you haven’t drunk for two weeks, doesn’t mean can have fourteen units in one night!
6. Find other ways of winding down. Try a relaxing bath, soft music. Phone a friend. Try out yoga, meditation, tai chi or…knitting. There are so many ways to relax at the end of the day. Get creative.
7. Finally, build relapse into your model of recovery and don’t beat yourself up too quickly if you don’t achieve your goal straight away. Changing behaviour can take time for some people. If you over indulge and regret it afterwards, learn by your mistakes.
Recognise triggers and danger zones and keep reassuring yourself that you are taking control of your health and taking control of your life.
What do you think? Do you drink too much or know someone who does? Is it affecting your relationship? Tell me in the comments below…
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