Managing Anxiety Without Booze

The poster I shared about mental health got me reflecting.  In my day job I get to work with young people who are struggling with emerging mental health issues, that include the culprits that I struggle with, namely stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

I realise now that I struggled with these before I started to drink and I used alcohol to manage these thoughts and feelings.  Over the next few posts I’m going to give myself the advice I give the young people that I see in the hope that I might take it!  Maybe it will be helpful for you too?

So starting with anxiety the resource that I give out is taken from the brilliant Mind website.  Their resources are so good I’m not going to re-invent the wheel but share here the bits I highlight with my students:

“Anxiety can make you fearful, alert, on edge, irritable, and unable to relax or concentrate.  They way you think can be affected: if you fear that the worst is going to happen, you may start to see everything negatively and become very pessimistic.  To cope with these feelings and sensations you may feel tempted to start smoking and drinking to much, or misusing drugs.”

This was me to a T.  Drinking to help me relax and to mediate and self-medicate away any anxiety.  It was a double-edged sword as the times I was most anxious, so before job interviews for example, I would want to drink more and then shoot myself in the foot for the next day as I felt so rough (rebound anxiety anyone?!).  I learned this pretty early on and in my later drinking years would always not drink before these most anxiety provoking events.  Untreated anxiety can progress to panic attacks and I have only ever had one and it’s no fun so if you need help seek medical advice.

Mind recommend these tips to help you with anxiety:

Learn to control the symptoms using breathing and relaxation techniques

Assertiveness training

Complimentary therapies, such as yoga, meditation, massage, reflexology, etc

A healthy lifestyle so a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and exercise and a key sentence for me was “You may find it easier to relax if you avoid stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol.”

And reaching out and talking to someone about what is worrying you.

When I was drinking I became anxious that I couldn’t cope without alcohol and this fear fed on itself making it even harder to walk away from the very substance that was creating the anxiety.  Now that I don’t drink my anxiety has reduced considerably as the booze was making it worse not better.  Who knew?! 🙂

11 thoughts on “Managing Anxiety Without Booze

  1. Anxiety and drinking were definitely related for me, too. I drank for “confidence” and stop thinking, just to empty my head. I have felt pretty anxious since quitting, too, though. Last week my shoulders were sore from being tensed up so much. Perhaps this is just early days though – hopefully it will settle down. And at least now I am not worrying about my drinking, how much I had last night, do I need to shop for tonight, is there enough, what am I doing to myself long term, what do people think of me, do they know etc etc etc. Actually, just writing that brief list now has made me realise how much less I have to be anxious about now, compared to a couple of months ago! I will definitely check out the mind website. Thanks for the post 🙂

    1. The confidence trickster ‘false friend’ booze cons us all MTM. Perhaps a good sober treat would a neck and shoulder massage? 😉 Glad it is better and for me it did take time and felt like it got worse before it got better. The mind website is a fantastic free resource xx

  2. My anxiety is still pretty high. I stopped taking caffeine because of a series of panic attacks in Dec and they haven’t recurred but I still feel everything mentioned in the list at the top of the quote. I think regular exercise would help but (surprise surprise) the thought of exercising is making me irrationally anxious (it’ll take too much time from work, I’ll be so rubbish I won’t keep it up, changing kit etc is too much palaver, round and round it goes). I wish an exercise addiction was as easy to pick up as a sugar addiction when you give up booze!

    1. I’ve heard that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) works wonders for anxiety. I only drink decaff tea and coffee too. As for the exercise stuff I used to be the same but taking up running has been an absolute life saver. Would an exercise class with banging tunes not appeal? 😉 xx

      1. It’s the other people I struggle with. The gym in my building has reopened after refurbishment so I have to start going up there this week. Banging tunes on the IPOD!!

  3. Yes, I definitely need to figure out a better way to handle my anxiety. I do love yoga, and I think if I could make time to breathe in that way a few times a week, it would really help. But it’s really interesting to me to realize that my drinking actually made my anxiety worse in a lot of ways. I was anxious about my drinking, for one thing. And for another, being hung over, with that racing heartbeat, that lightheadedness, really feels something like the beginnings of a panic attack. I have had a couple of those, too, and I wonder whether they were prompted/encouraged by the hangovers I almost certainly had. Thanks for the food for thought.

    Hilda

    1. Hi Hilda and thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 My one and only panic attack certainly wasn’t helped by booze over-consumption and being hungover! I need to consider yoga too xx

  4. I have also noticed a huge difference in my anxiety levels since I stopped drinking. I realise now that is was my hangovers that meant I started every day in an extreme state of anxiety that would gradually subside over the day and was only truly banished when I was safely back home with glass in hand. A crazy and vicious circle that I am glad to see the back of x

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