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By Letshego Zulu

Contributor


How to relax without alcohol

Not everything revolves around alcohol. Here's how you can relax without reaching for a beer when you are seeking some downtime.


We all need to unwind at the end of a stressful day. But you should take note if you notice that the main or only way you’re doing so is by reaching for a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Alcohol can trigger a cycle of increased use that feeds on itself. For some, routine alcohol use may be a way of masking deeper emotional, mental and life challenges, and this coping mechanism can turn into an addiction.

Even if you’re a casual drinker, alcohol can have a boomerang effect on anxiety. For starters, alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycle, making it tougher to get a full night of quality rest. And we know that poor sleep contributes to anxiety, so turning to alcohol to calm your nerves may become a vicious circle.

Relaxation without alcohol
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Here are some alternatives to alcohol to help you relax:

Hang out with a friend

Time connecting with friends cheers you up. It releases feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.
Oxytocin calms the stress response and there’s evidence that it curbs the urge to stress-drink, according to research. Spending time with friends may even help you live longer, shows other research. Plan a long walk with a buddy or schedule a phone date.

Get Physical

A bike ride, a walk, or taking a high-intensity exercise class can alleviate the stress that drives us to drink. It will also give you a shot of endorphins, a chemical the body makes that triggers positive feelings.

Experiment with non-alcoholic drinks

There are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks that are just as tasty without the booze. Instead of concocting your favourite cocktail, mix a virgin version, try one of the growing number of non-alcoholic beers or brew some soothing chamomile tea, which has its own calming properties.

Woman relaxing
Picture: iStock

Meditate

Meditation may even help you relax as much as a vodka martini. Alcohol chills us out by drowning out the noise and stress.

Meditation, on the other hand, helps to quiet the brain and relieve stress (rather than just covering it up). Try using a meditation app to get you in the habit.

Just remember to put your phone down for a little while afterwards because doom-scrolling or watching the news will just fire up your brain again.

Dance (even by yourself)

There’s something joyful about putting on your favourite music and dancing around the room by yourself. Music releases dopamine, the same feel-good chemical that floods the brain when we drink alcohol, a study shows.

Tackle the overwhelming

Attending to household projects you’ve long neglected can help distract you from the urge to drink as hard as they might be to convince yourself to do.

No one wants to clean out the closet, but when you actually do it, it can bring an immense amount of joy. Don’t be hard on yourself if your new happy-hour habits take a few tries to catch on.

In the long run, these have ad vantages like sleeping better, becoming less anxious and having more energy – a virtuous cycle.

If you suspect you are drinking too much and are having trouble cutting back, reach out to your doctor or mental healthcare provider. They can help and recommend treatment if you need it.

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