Drinking too much

Why do you drink too much?

You promised yourself that you would only have one drink and here you are, lying in bed with a raging hangover and the feeling that you won’t be able to move all day. The day is spent in a haze and you find yourself questioning your drinking habits and asking yourself: “do I have a problem?”

Sound familiar? There is nothing wrong with drinking to much occasionally, but research suggests that about a third of women and 40% men binge drink. In a time where we know how detrimental alcohol can be on our body, why do we still drink to “get drunk” so often?

There are many triggers which might lead to too much drinking, but it is often a way of escaping or numbing uncomfortable feelings. These may be feelings triggered by anxiety, stress or depression (even if you only have mild forms of either of these).

Tunnel

Internal triggers

You may feel like getting drunk

  • Makes you more fun/cool
  • Helps you overcome your social anxiety
  • Is the only way to decompress from a stressful week
  • Stops you thinking your fight with your friend/partner/boss
  • Helps you to forget that you feel like you’re not good enough
  • Helps you to forget your feelings of sadness

Drinks

External triggers

You may feel like

  • People will judge you if you don’t drink
  • All social situations revolve around drinking
  • You will get bored if everyone around you is drunk

What can you do about it?

Drinking too much is a vicious cycle that can seem impossible to get out of. However, it’s actually quite simple if you make small steps towards improving your drinking habits. Try out some of the exercises below!

Identify your triggers

Do this when you get the urge to get drunk

Try to understand what causes you to over-drink. Is it a specific person or a social situation? Is it a thought that crossed your mind? Try to understand what it is and either avoid the situation (e.g. the toxic friend that makes you feel bad about yourself) or identify a healthier way to deal with it (e.g. speak to a friend or blow off some steam on the dance floor).

Understanding and being mindful of triggers helps you to take a step back before you start drinking and in the long term will help you to learn to substitute drinking with more helpful behaviour.

Slow down

Do this when you start drinking

Try to drink slowly, drink a full glass of water between each drink and don’t stand at the bar all evening.

Although this does not solve the feelings that cause you to over-drink in the first place, it does help with damage control!

In addition, over time you might also be surprised to find that you can have an equally enjoyable (and less embarrassing!!) night on much less alcohol than you thought was necessary!

Make adjustments to your lifestyle

Always do this

Do you feel like your drinking is exacerbated by the fact that you always meet up with your friends at the pub? Try to suggest a game of tennis instead or a walk in the park.

Getting out and doing new activities will not only directly stop you drinking too much but can also improve your mental wellbeing and address the issues that are causing you to over-drink in the first place.

Set some limits

Do this before a night out

Pre-defining a “drink limit” will help you keep your drinking in check and will eventually show you that you don’t need to get drunk to enjoy life.

Whether you decide to limit the days of the week on which you drink or the number of drinks you can have in an evening is up to you. However, it goes without saying that whichever option you go for should help you to limit drinking (i.e. it will not help if you have 10 G&Ts on the two evenings per week you are allowed to drink and similarly drinking 2 G&Ts every night of the week will not help you to feel better).

Dig a little deeper

Do this when you get the urge to get drunk

You are more likely to binge drink if you are unhappy or unsatisfied about something in your life, so ask yourself: What am I trying to escape? Are you unhappy in your relationship? Do you have negative feelings about yourself? Is your job too stressful?

The moment you understand what the issue is, you can start doing something about it.

See a therapist

Do this if you feel like you are having trouble with these feelings

If you are imagining lying on a couch while speaking to a silent bearded man who nods and says “hmm.. interesting”, think again!

Most professionals nowadays have a significantly more interactive approach to therapy (be it face-to-face or by skype). Therapy can really help to efficiently deal with feelings that are unpleasant and puts you in charge of your emotions so that you don’t surrender to them.

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