Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Is your alcohol consumption really making you happy?

Yay! It’s WEDNESDAY afternoon – only a few more hours to go until that first glass of red wine that will help wash away all the stresses and strains of the day… Does this sound like you?

Surprisingly, according to a recent Scottish Health Survey, one in four people in Scotland drink at harmful levels (more than 14 units of alcohol a week). And other UK statistics suggest that the rest of the UK is also drinking too much. Are you are one of them! If you’re unsure, you can always check.

There are many reasons why people choose to drink alcohol and like most things, taken in moderation, it needn’t become a worry.

When asked why they drink, most people will cite one or all of the following:

"It relieves stress"

It’s true that alcohol is a sedative and as such can take the edge off any stress you are experiencing. However, it’s also a depressant and so, chances are, once the sedative effects have worn off, whatever was bothering you before will return – with knobs on!

"It makes me less shy / more confident"

Booze can act as a social enabler; lowering our inhibitions and making it easier for us to interact with other people. This is great for situations when we need to meet new people, or if we feel self-conscious in large groups. However, almost all of us can remember more than one occasion where our drinking tipped us over the edge from being the life and soul of the party, to not being able to remember how we behaved the following morning. It’s a fine line…

"It’s good for the heart"

A common fact shared by wine drinkers all over the world. There was some research that purported that drinking a small amount of red wine could have positive benefits for the heart. But – and here’s the thing – is a small amount of red wine ever really enough?

We want you to focus on just one question for a moment: do your drinking habits really make you happy? If you have to think before answering, it might be time to take a closer look at your alcohol consumption.

For this year’s alcohol awareness week, the focus is on the health impacts that regular over-drinking can have on your health. Many people believe their drinking is under control if they can get through each day without needing a drink. However, if you regularly choose drinking over other pass times and activities, this could be a warning sign.

For some people, the answer is to stop drinking altogether, but that doesn’t work for everyone – in fact, here’s an interesting article about the way we justify our behaviours to ourselves, when we know our actions are potentially harmful.

We need to be really honest about the effects alcohol has on us – and those around us. Yes, alcohol can make you feel great, but have you thought about the following potential knock on effects of alcohol?

Depression


Alcohol alters the chemistry in our brain, which leaves us more susceptible to feeling depressed. The difficulty is deciphering whether you’re drinking because you’re depressed, or if your drinking is making you feel depressed. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced an interesting leaflet about this topic.

Anxiety


Feeling anxious after an evening on the booze is quite a common side effect. It’s caused as the body breaks down the chemicals and your blood sugar levels drop. It’s not normally a major problem, but if you are someone who is prone to feeling anxious (regardless of whether you’ve been drinking or not), the effects of the alcohol will heighten your anxiety – as will certain anti-depressant drugs.

Family


Most people believe themselves to be happy drinkers. However, we’ve already talked about the ways in which we justify our behaviour to ourselves, so here’s the reality: alcohol can also make you short tempered, self-centred and strongminded. Most family issues caused by alcohol include money problems, arguments and the inability to be ‘present’ within your family and play an active role.

Relationships


Some say that the fact alcohol lowers our inhibitions means we show our true selves when we’ve been drinking. In reality what alcohol does is heighten our feelings. If we’re in a good mood, alcohol can make us feel great and we want to share this feeling with those closest to us. When we’re feeling a bit grumpy, alcohol can act as an aggressor – unmasking negative emotions - and often we share this side of ourselves with our nearest and dearest too!

For more information about alcohol awareness week, click here >

PS: Know your limits…

In January 2016, the guidance around recommended limits of alcohol was updated. The advice is to not drink more than 14 units a week and to spread these units evenly over three or more days.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

National Stress Awareness Day – how to manage stress

Although it’s fair to say that people have a higher awareness level of stress and mental health issues today than many years ago, it remains a difficult subject to broach with friends and family. It’s National Stress Awareness day TODAY and the theme of this year’s campaign, by the mental health charity Mind, is to ‘do something different’. They’ve developed a range of free resources to encourage people to make it easier to bring up the subject of stress in the workplace.

When people talk about stress they often talk about things getting on top of them; of matters manifesting themselves that feel beyond their control. However, who or what causes the stress is largely immaterial – we all have to look within ourselves to understand what we need to do during stressful times to regain our equilibrium to be able to take things in our stride.

With just one in three adults suffering from stress, anxiety and depression accessing treatment (source NHS data for 2014), self-care plays a huge role in the management of various mental health issues.

We’ve pulled together seven steps to beat stress to help you effectively manage any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Get moving


During times of stress, often the last thing you want to be doing is exercise, but it’s a medically proven stress buster. It doesn’t matter what you do – walk, jog, swim – so long as you get your heart and lungs working faster. Exercise releases endorphins which are the body’s natural sedative, which help us calm down and approach situations with greater clarity.

Get present


Meditation and mindfulness are both tried and tested ways of managing stress levels, helping us to relax. A calm, clear mind helps us to put things into perspective and develop appropriate responses that help us cope with stressful situations. A relaxed, settled mind is less anxious and copes better with stress. Our previous post on mindfulness techniques will get you started >

Get more sleep


Stress can make sleep difficult and yet it is the very thing our body needs in order to process information and help us make sense of stressful situations. Ways to induce sleep include taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music and writing down a list of all the things that are on your mind before taking to your bed to avoid them taking over your subconscious thoughts.

Steer clear of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine


To maximise your chances of getting sleep, it’s wise to cut out the coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. These are all stimulants, and although they might make us feel better initially, the ‘come down’ we experience as our body processes them only adds to our stress.

Get talking


A problem shared is a problem halved, but more than that, talking to other people often helps us develop an alternative viewpoint that is difficult to acknowledge when we’re under stress. Friends and family are often only too happy to listen as it helps them feel more connected to you during times when you need support. Or if the problem involves those closest to you, talking to people not involved, such as work colleagues, can also help. The main thing is that you talk to someone you can trust rather than keep it all bottled up inside.

Take control


During stressful times it is easy to internalise things and over-think about the situation we’re in. Taking control of what we’re facing breaks it down into manageable chunks. We can then develop action plans and coping strategies to deal with each piece of the jigsaw, which makes even the most insurmountable stressful situations easier to tackle head-on.

Get positive


Thinking about happy memories or times when you have been successful is a great way of reducing stress. Visualisation techniques are often used by sportspeople to help them battle their nerves and compete with confidence, they’re also a way of reminding us that difficult times do pass and that life is a tapestry of good and not-so-good times.

For more information about how to keep things in perspective, we recommend the following article https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201610/keeping-life-in-perspective

We will be posting tips and podcasts throughout today on the subject of stress and how to manage it. Join us on Twitter and Facebook.