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Alcohol and stress: 8 ideas to wind down without a drink

By Posted in Skills and Tips

Coming home from work stressed, or otherwise feeling a need to relax? We all know a stiff drink helps in the short term, but alcohol and stress are not such a good idea in the longer term. So what could you do instead? Here are some ideas that work.

1. Eat food and drink water

Nutrition expert Sam Waterhouse advises that positive food choices can help us unwind and cope better with everyday anxiety. She suggests you fill yourself with nutrient-dense foods. So cut out the fizzy pop, reduce the carbohydrates, and instead fill your belly with foods full of vegetables and good oils, like salmon and vegetables. Down a pint of water, and along with a full stomach you are less likely to reach for the bottle.

2. A bit of mindfulness to avoid alcohol and stress

An ancient practice that is becoming more and more popular. The newly more sober journalist Polly Vernon had this to say about her experiences with the Headspace app. “I emerged from my first meditation session feeling very much like it was not a load of crock: within a week, I was hooked. Something about Puddicombe’s easy-breezy, blokey, defiantly non-hippie delivery, or just the act of sitting quietly for a set period of time, resonated with me, sceptic or not.”

3. Exercise

You can choose from all kinds of sport and exercise: running, gym, cycling, pilates, the list is endless. Practices that combine a bit of mindfulness or mental attention with the physical movement are particularly effective for relaxing both body and mind. The best-known types of these are Yoga, and Tai Chi and other martial arts.

And you don’t even necessarily have to get to a class. Movement for Modern Life, for example, offers excellent online Yoga classes to suit every level of experience.

It may seem hard at first, but if you are changing your drinking, the combination of exercise and reduction in wine/beer calories will show a bigger pay-off. And the endorphins from exercise will give you a natural high, alleviating the need to mix alcohol and stress.

4. Look ahead

Have nervous energy at the end of the day? Then utilise it to sort out things in advance for the following day. Make your lunch, pack your work bag, do a few of those niggly errands and the satisfaction of being ahead of yourself will make the moment when you sit down and finally relax all the more sweeter.

5. Turn on some tunes and ditch the alcohol and stress!

When has a blast of music not cheered you up? Combine it with a few pre-emptive tasks (see above) and you have a win-win situation. Making the most of technology on offer, you can build yourself an uplifting and/or relaxing playlist ready to play when you most need it, or get onto iPlayer and listen to some comedy.

6. Put what’s worrying you, or indeed what makes you happy, into words

Writing or talking about the things that prey on you may make them seem smaller. Read Lior’s blog about how making a list of things that made her happy was not only a great process, but is now her personalised manual for dealing with stressful and unhappy times.

7. Get a massage

You must have saved a few quid from not buying alcohol. Boffins haven’t figured out why having your body pressed and prodded works wonders, but they know that it does. Whatever it is you fancy, a full-body massage, pedicure, manicure or facial – all are great ways to unwind. And don’t forget that hugging is completely free and works in exactly the same way!

8. Be in nature to avoid mixing alcohol and stress

Being outside, surrounded by the sights, sounds and sensations of nature can relax you and make you happy. In fact, many of the top things that will make you happy involve being outdoors. Whether it’s going for a run, pottering around in the garden, listening to the dawn chorus or going for a long walk by yourself, notice your surroundings and let the tensions of the day slip away.

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