Alternative stress mediators to alcohol

The New Year is a great time for resolutions and fresh starts, though many struggle to stick to pledges and find themselves reaching for a glass of their favourite tipple after a busy day at work. When feeling stressed, it’s often easy to turn to alcohol, making the concept ‘Dry January’ seem impossible.

Whilst a small amount of pressure can help people work harder, intense stress can have a major impact on both their physical and mental wellbeing, so it is important to know how to manage it effectively.

Head of coaching at Westfield Health, Mark Pinches, advises on alternative stress busters to get through dry January without caving in to temptation.

Take up a hobby

“If you’re needing a way to unwind that doesn’t involve alcohol, consider taking up a hobby in your spare time. Doing something new outside of work will challenge your brain in a different way, take your mind off workplace stresses and help you relax. Hobbies can be as active or stationary as you like and don’t have to be regimented, though some may find meeting for a scheduled class helps them to commit.

“The social interaction that comes with group hobbies will give you the chance to form new relationships outside of the workplace and help relieve stress. Alternatively, hobbies like gardening, cooking and writing are all solitary and can be picked up ad-hoc.”

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is the process of bringing your awareness and attention to the present moment. It combines meditation, yoga and various breathing exercises that not only reduces stress but also helps build an inner strength against stressful situations. This will give you chance to pause and step back from your thoughts at the end of a busy day, allowing you to refocus on goals for the following day.

“If you feel too busy to take time out for relaxation, plan ahead by setting aside space in your diary. Not only will this improve your mental wellbeing over time, it will help make sure you don’t fall off the wagon with your Dry January pledge.”

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Exercise

“Exercise is a great stress release and something that people of all abilities can take up. When we do physical activities, the brain releases endorphins which are feel good hormones, giving a natural high and boosting mood. A good way to stick to this is to commit to exercising a couple of nights a week with a friend or colleague as you’ll be less likely to cancel last minute. Not only will this improve your mental health, the combination of less alcohol and more exercise is bound to pay off physically.”

Prepare

“Organisation and forward planning will not only alleviate stress, it will prevent it occurring in future situations. It can be easy to go home, have a drink and bury your head from looming problems of the following day, but this will only lead to additional pressure and eventually burnout.

“In general, the more you familiarise yourself with a problem, the more comfortable you will be with it and thus less stressed. However, it is also important to remember to shut off from work, so aim to get preparation done early in the evening so you can zone out and focus on something else to unwind before going to bed.”

Healthy eating

“Giving up alcohol is a great opportunity to also eat clean, as fast food and drinking often come hand-in-hand. As well as improving your physical health, sensible diet and nutrition choices can improve stress levels as in general comfort foods increase hormones that make us feel stressed. Likewise, certain foods are more likely to boost mood and reduce stress levels. Eating carbohydrates increases serotonin levels in our bodies, a hormone that improves both mood and concentration. It is therefore a good idea to incorporate a sensible amount of carbohydrates into your diet, without going overboard.”

For more information, visit: www.westfieldhealth.com/blog

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