After a long tiring day at work, it would be nice to sit on the couch, turn on the TV and open a bottle of beer. Or it would be nice to have some drinks with friends to lift your mood and enjoy the weekend. But what if your social drinking has become regular and heavy? Now, this is alarming.
Heavy drinking will affect your everyday life, negatively affect your mood, negatively affect your mental well-being, and worse, may lead to mental health conditions. The long-term effects of alcohol will do you no good, so the next time you open that bottle of beer, think twice. This article will help you understand the effects of alcohol on your mental health, ways to cut down your alcohol consumption, and healthier ways to relax.
What Happens to Your Brain When You Drink Alcohol?
Regular and heavy alcohol consumption interferes with the chemicals and neurotransmitters on your brain. Alcohol is considered a depressant that affects the chemical process, balance, thoughts, actions, and feelings. This means alcohol slows down the functions of the central nervous system. Binge drinking can have an accumulative effect of lowered serotonin levels, which in turn may cause sleeping troubles, depression, and anxiety.
While initially drinking alcohol may make you feel better for a short period, it’s the long-term effect that you should think of. When there’s alcohol dependence that’s slowly starting to develop, this may also lead to aggression, mood disorder, and worse substance abuse disorder.
Related: What is Substance Use Disorder?
Alcohol and Mental Health: How Drinking Affects Your Mental Health
Here are two ways chronic drinking of alcohol affects mental health: worsen existing mental health conditions or the development of one. The most common mental health conditions from alcohol dependence are depression and anxiety. Here is a more detailed explanation of the connection between alcohol and mental health.
Alcohol Abuse Can Worsen a Mental Health Condition
If you have an existing mental health condition, it’s not a good idea to resort to drinking alcohol as your coping strategy. You should know that having a drink will all make it worse. You may find yourself drinking more and more and end up in a mental health decline. The symptoms of mood disorders, stress, depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts may worsen over time. With your mental health now facing problems, it is further exacerbated by alcohol use, and there may be tendencies of self-harm, psychosis, aggressiveness, or recklessness.
Plus, if you already have an existing mental health problem and are on antidepressants, mixing it with alcohol is not a good idea.
Alcohol Use May Lead to Mental Health Illness
As mentioned earlier, heavy and regular drinking lowers the production of serotonin in your brain. This will slowly lead to depression, increase stress, and other kinds of mental health conditions.
When this all goes out of control, a person may behave impulsively and lose their inhibition. They may do things they may regret, like self-harm. Before everything is too late, slow down on that drink. If you have problems, there are more healthy ways on how to deal with them.
How to Cut Down With Your Alcohol Consumption
If you’re starting to be bothered by symptoms caused by problem drinking, there are many ways to cut with your alcohol consumption. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), women consuming more than seven drinks per week is considered heavy and excessive.
As for men, more than 15 drinks per week is considered heavy drinking. As you can see in liquor commercials on TV, it says to drink moderately. Here are some tips you can follow on how to cut down on your alcohol drinking.
- Start counting: Now that you know the recommended alcohol consumption start counting on what you boggle on a weekly basis. Here’s what you need to know when measuring your alcohol consumption: One serving of pure alcohol is 14 grams. This equates to Regular Beer: 12 ounces, Wine: 5 ounces, 80-proof liquor: 1.5 ounces.
- Drink other liquids in between: While drinking, space it out by drinking soft drinks, juice, water, or other beverages.
- Replace your alcohol with other liquids: This a great idea when friends pressure you to drink more. When you’re drinking vodka, ask the bartender for water. If you’re drinking whiskey and coke, ask for a coke and put more ice. Have you seen that ever famous throw the tequila behind your back move? Do that too.
- Dedicate one day a week for drinking: If you can, dedicate one day a week to drinking. As much as possible, drink moderately and have an alcohol-free night during the weekends.
- Be upfront to your friends and family: During a social gathering, may it be with friends, family, or colleagues, be upfront to them that you’re trying to cut down on your alcohol. They will understand when you tell them frankly.
Instead of Drinking Alcohol, What Should You Do?
If you drink to boost your mood, there are other ways you can do aside from drinking. You can try to develop these regular habits on how to cope with stress and deal with your life’s tension. Instead of drinking, try to do the following:
- Exercise daily: You can go to the gym, walk, yoga, tai chi, swim or ride your bike. During exercise, your body produces endorphins (the happy hormones), which in turn boost your mood.
- Spend more time in nature: If you want to spend your weekend to de-stress, don’t think about drinking. How about the plan a weekend in nature? You can hike in the woods, spend time on the beach, or bike in nature. Spending time in nature at least 2 hours a week can make you happy.
- Keep yourself busy: Have a new hobby, learn a new skill, and keep yourself busy so you won’t even think about opening that wine bottle.
- Go to therapy: If you’re feeling down, go to therapy instead of going out drinking. A therapist can also give you more advice on how to take care of your mental health.
If you’re looking for a therapist that is just a phone call away, try the Telehealth Counseling services of Kentucky Counseling Center. Social drinking is okay as long as it’s at moderate levels, but if you think you may be drinking too much. Could you do something about it now?