Stop drinking alcohol – mental health benefits and more

Decision to stop drinking

Nearly two years ago, I decided to stop drinking alcohol. I read about a friend who had given drinking (who I have had a few merry nights with) and the positive impact it had had on her life. From this I decided I would go a month without alcohol. I succeeded. That rolled on to another month. Then another month and another. And it still continues. 

Drinking socially and for the sake of it

I have to put my hands up. During my student years and as an aid worker, alcohol was a social part of my life. Watching Adrian Childs programme ‘Drinkers Like me’ reminded me how my own social life often circulated around drinking. Plans were made around meeting at pubs, picnics with wine, taking a bottle round to a friends. Many goods times were had. However, some times are fuzzy and some meant I did not enjoy the day after. Regrets, giving up? No. Regretting not giving up earlier? Yes. 

Reflecting on my life without alcohol has shown me that it has had a positive impact on my life, and in hindsight I wish I had not gone back to alcohol after the birth of my children. I thought I would share with you what I have learnt about myself and other things I have discovered since I gave up my relationship with alcohol.

Three main impacts of stopping drinking alcohol

  • I feel healthier. I no longer wake up to a hangover or feel not quite right. I am able to get up early and have more energy during the day. I feel less sluggish and less irritable during the day.
  • My sleep has improved. Years of having continuous sleepless nights has stopped. I now recognise that alcohol helped me get to sleep. However, I would always wake up, and struggle to get back to sleep. In the last 2 years, I have found I have deeper and less interruptive sleep. 
  • Improvement on my mental health. Looking back on my daily reflections, I notice that I have a more positive outlook on life and I have more motivation. I am able to look at issues more rationally and as a result my confidence has grown. I find myself getting less bothered about things.

Reflecting on what I have discovered

The three reasons above are good reasons for me not to pick up a glass of wind again. However, I have discovered other things. Not only about myself but also about others. I thought I would share these with you. 

Not drinking alcohol saves money. Going out with my friends is cheaper. Drinking socially is expensive. Food bills without alcohol is considerably cheaper.

Fun with drinking

I do not need to drink to have fun. Dry January –  I would hear people say that they could not go out during this month, or they could not wait until the end of January when the fun could start again. It resonated with me as I remember making similar comments. Yet here I am now. I am having same amount of fun (if not more) as before alcohol.

No hiding

I do not have to hide behind alcohol. I can be who I am. Confidence in myself has to come from me not from drinking. I am able to be myself in social or networking situations. I feel I come across as more confident and relaxed. I can be me. Being sober means I fully trust myself. I am in control of my emotions and actions.

More time

I have more time. This does not mean I am going out less. No. What I mean is my evenings at home are focused around spending time with the family or doing things for myself. Instead of sitting down with a glass of wine watching the television or hurrying bed time, I am valuing my time at home.

No drowning sorrow

Good and bad times can be felt. I do not need to drown my sorrows. I do not need celebrate my successes with a glass of champagne.  Instead feeling those strong emotions is good. There is no need to supress them. I can work through hard times by myself. I can feel happy and elated and enjoy that feeling. I can share it to. Feeling these good and bad times means I feel more alive.

Tackle problems rather than avoid them

Alcohol makes problems worse. How easy it was for me to drink to help me forget a bad day? The reason for bad day is still there tomorrow. Worse off if I was hungover, I was usually feeling irritable or tired, making the problem seem worse. Drinking does not make a problem go away. It only delays having to face it.

Enjoying sobriety

I’m enjoying sobriety. The longer I am sober, the more I want to be. I had to admit giving up drinking was not easy. The main battle was my mind. When I first gave up, I seemed to be thinking about drinking daily. However, like most habits, once I had got past the 30 days, I stopped thinking about it. My evenings are planned on what I want to do, rather whether I can drive or not. The longer sobriety lasts, the less I want a drink.

Judgement from others

Other people have problems with me giving up. Yes, it is true. People now comment on my lack of drinking (I never got comments that I drank too much!). People think I cannot walk into a pub without drinking (I can and do –  though pubs do need to improve their choice of teas though!). Giving up is my choice. I do not judge my friends or anyone else on whether they drink socially. That is there choice. I can still laugh and have fun with those who are drinking.

Enjoying more activities

I have a wider social circle and activities. Rather than arranging to go out with friends for a drink, I am discovering other things to do. Both on my own and with new friends. I am enjoying different activities. I feel some friendships have deepened. Without drinking, my conversations are meaningful and relaxed.

Where do you go?

It is hard to find a coffee/ tea shop open after the hours off 5pm (apart from the chain coffee shops). Since giving up, I have noticed there are not many non-alcoholic places to meet in the evenings in the centre of Sheffield. 

Role model for children

I am conscious on the positive role modelling I am having on my children. My children talk about not drinking when they are older. They are learning from me. They see fun can be had without alcohol. I am more even tempered so they are not seeing any cross words through alcohol or seeing me out of control. When I am with them I am just me.

In conclusion if I had to choose the one reason to stop drinking, it would be the improvement on my mental health. My mental wellbeing has improved immensely. 

Do you feel alcohol impacts your mental wellbeing? 

Grab a cup of tea and let’s talk about mental health

Jess Glynne inspiring me to write about mental health

Last year, it was This is me, I make no apologies song that inspired me for #timetotalkday. This year my inspiration is Jess Glynne’s song ‘Thursday’. Although it is a love song, some of the words struck a chord with me and seemed apt.

Often clients who have had time off work for anxiety, stress or depression, worry about returning to work. ‘What will people think of me?’ they ask me? ‘What will my colleagues say?’ ‘No-one will understand’? The stigma of mental health is something they fear. The importance of Time to Talk is to create conversation and discussion. This will help stop the stigma around mental health. Stop the fears that my clients and others who suffer from poor mental health.

I’m sick of covering up

Jess’s second line of the song says ‘I’m sick of covering up’. That is what #Timetotalk is saying. Let’s stop covering mental health up. Let’s talk.  We don’t need to hide or be ashamed if we have a mental health problem.

Jess’s second line of the song says ‘I’m sick of covering up’. That is what #Timetotalk is saying. Let’s stop covering mental health up. Let’s talk.  We don’t need to hide or be ashamed if we have a mental health problem.

I’m tired of feeling so broken

‘I’m tired of feeling so broken’ continues in the song.  Yes, those suffering mental health problems are exhausted from feeling broken. Many want to move on but don’t know how too or feel afraid too. It is isolating as people as people that they feel they are the only ones broken or depressed. Talking about mental health and their struggles, would help stop people feeling isolated. This can be achieved through talking to friends, sharing on social media or through a qualified counsellor.

‘I wanna love, I don’t wanna cry, don’t want those tears inside my eyes’

Jess’s song continues. Often clients who come to counselling sit embarrassed by their tears or will announce they will not cry today. They see tears as a sign of weakness. It is not. Crying is an emotion. Sometimes you cannot stop the tears falling. The emotions need to come out. Perhaps it comes from our childhood trying not to cry in front of others. I remember as a child being told to wipe away my tears or being called ‘cry baby’.  How shameful is that? In fact, all I just wanted was a hug and a chance to talk. So where is this going? Well, maybe next time you see someone crying, why not sit with them, and ask if there is anything you can do for them. Show them empathy.

‘I try to embrace all my insecurities’.

 Insecurities can cause highly emotional responses, and make us feel bad about ourselves. This in turn causes a lot of mental stress or anguish.  Embrace your insecurities and try to tackle them one by one. Notice it when feel an insecurity. Rather than react to it (for example, run away or ignore it) try to tackle it. Feel it. Look at where it comes from and think how you can change or build upon it. Don’t beat yourself up. Try to put positive words into your head and be rational. 

‘I was always taught to just be myself. Don’t change for anyone.

How inspirational these words in the song are? It important to have the confidence to be yourself. Believe in yourself. If you are going to change, only do it because you want too. If you notice a behaviour in yourself that does not help or makes you feel bad, then change it. Only make changes because you want to. It is helps you be happier. Remember to do it at your own pace. 

The song ends ‘I wanna to feel beautiful’. Yes! Learn to love yourself. Feel positive about who you are, and grow from your mistakes. Don’t struggle.

How would you continue the conversation of talking about mental health? #timetotalk

8 helpful ways to deal with stress

Deal with stress

 

Do you find you often feel stressed?

Are your nights disrupted with poor sleep?

Is your mind often thinking about too many things.

Then STOP.

 

It sounds as though you are stressed. Need to find ways of tackling your stress?

Below are eight helpful ways of dealing with stress. Active change can help you build a happier life for yourself. Continue reading

Therapeutic Journal – Journey to knowing yourself

Why write a therapeutic journal?

Therapeutic journal

 

Therapeutic journal is aimed at helping you, the writer, to understand yourself better. It can take you on a journey where you discover the ‘real’ you. It can help you to start understand how your think. It can help you learn to feel your emotions. It can help you unpick your problems. Through your therapeutic journey you can learn how to tackle your issues head-one. Continue reading

Working Therapeutically with Syrian Refugees

Working Therapeutically with Syrian Refugees

As part of Refugee Week,  I thought I would  share my experiences of working therapeutically with the Syrian Refugees on the Resettlement programme. This programme is based here in Sheffield with the Refugee Council.

When working as a humanitarian worker, I enjoyed working with different communities.  I worked with displaced people and refugees who had fled their homeland or country due to conflict.  I was installing emergency water and sanitation systems. During this work, I spent a lot of time listening to the communities, (especially women), as well as providing emotional support.  It was therefore exciting that this experience led me to have the opportunity to work therapeutically with the Syrian Refugees. It also fulfilled my silent ambition to be working again with refugees.  Continue reading

Working as a counsellor for Employment Assistant Programme.

A steady income for many private counsellors is being an affiliate to an Employment Assistant Programme (EAP). UK EAPA report that 50% of employers now have support through an Employment Assistant Programme. There are many companies in Sheffield who sign up to an EAP. That is a lot of counselling! But what is an EAP and what are the pros and cons of working for them?

Continue reading

Counsellors guide to online counselling

Counsellor Guide to online counsellingIn 2017, 90% of households in Great Britain had internet access, an increase from 89% in 2016 and 57% in 2006. We are beginning to rely on using the internet for our daily tasks – banking, music, communication etc. So why not finding support for mental health issues? You will see that they are various apps providing support – Headspace, Calm etc. This also extends to providing counselling online. Continue reading

6 ways to move on from bad news

6 ways to move on from bad newsWe’ve all been there. Being let down at the last minute or receiving news that is upsetting. How do you cope and move on from bad news?

I thought I would use my recent example of being let down by our builder to show you useful ways of moving on. Continue reading

6 easy steps to creating an online blog

Creating a blog online is relatively easy.

The fastest way is set a blog up in WordPress or Blogger. I use WordPress as I find it easy to use. I can choose my own themes, layouts and there are plenty of free plug-ins that add functionality to my blog.  I have created the blog and website myself and I continue to manage myself. I pay for my domain name only. Everything else is free!

This blog post will look at setting up a counselling blog in WordPress. Continue reading

Blogging for Counsellors

Blogging for Counsellors

 Why create a counselling blog?

  1. Blogging for counsellors helps give clients (and other professionals) an indication of what counselling areas you specialise in and it demonstrates what you know.

 

  1. Blogging helps build your writing skills. It allows time for reflection. It increases your knowledge of the counselling process, different areas of mental health and the techniques that you use.

Continue reading