Many people will be raising a glass or two this festive season but it can be easy to drink more alcohol than planned or drink more often at this time of year.
Unfortunately, drinking too much can have a negative impact on our mental health, wellbeing and our relationships with family, friends and the people around us that lasts longer than the dreaded “morning-after” feeling.
Many of us drink alcohol for a variety of reasons: we might drink to relax, to socialise, to de-stress, to have fun, to relieve boredom, to deal with feelings of loneliness, and to try and cope with or avoid problems. However, drinking too much and too often can cause or make worse a number of problems with our physical health, and also affect our mental health and emotions.
For many people at this time of year, drinking alcohol can be part and parcel of our relationships with friends, family, or partners. Some people may feel pressured by others or even themselves to drink alcohol “to be sociable”, especially if they are not naturals at parties or social gatherings. This can stop us taking action to improve our drinking habits, even when we know those habits are not working for us.
“There tends to be a lot of alcohol flowing at this time of year as people come together to celebrate the festive season so it can be easy to lose track and drink more than you planned,” said Geoff Barnes, deputy director of Public Health in North East Lincolnshire. “This can lead to worse things than a sore head the next day. A big night out can too easily end in rows, violence or a drink driving charge from getting behind the wheel the morning after when there is still alcohol in your body. No one really expects abstinence but please stick to low risk drinking guidelines and make sure the alcohol from the night before is completely out of your system before you drive again.”
Alcohol can have a negative impact on our relationships in many ways. It can heighten family tensions, get in the way of clear communication, and mean we are less present for each other, including our children. If a loved one is drinking heavily, it can cause huge worry. There is also a real risk of someone’s drinking causing conflict, with alcohol being a factor in many cases of domestic abuse and it can also impact on personal vulnerability and safety.
Alcohol is strongly linked with mental health problems like anxiety and depression. However, the relationship between alcohol and mental health is complex. Some may use alcohol as a means to try and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, although alcohol can initially provide us with short-term feelings of elation, excessive or regular alcohol consumption is more likely to make those symptoms worse and can be harmful to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Managing your drinking habits and getting the right support are crucial to your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
So, How much is too much? Understanding alcohol and its units can be confusing as alcoholic drinks are available in so many different options, strengths and sizes but understanding the units within alcohol you consume can help you take stock of your drinking and enable you to look after your health.
The Chief Medical Officer’s ‘low risk,’ alcohol drinking guidelines advise that it is safer (for both men and women) to drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days, to include several drink-free days and avoiding ‘binge drinking,’ (drinking over 8 units in a single session for men, over 6 units in a single session for women).
If you are concerned you are drinking more than the “low risk” guidelines above, help is on hand to support you to change your habits.
We Are With You (All ages) – 76B Cleethorpes Road, DN31 3EF, Grimsby, 01472 806890 – www.wearewithyou.org.uk/services/north-east-lincolnshire/
Anyone struggling with their mental health can contact Navigo:
Call 01472 256256 (option 3) or Freephone 08081 968442
Text ORANGE to 85258
Mental Health support and advice is also available from:
Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/branches/grimsby/
More resources and links available at https://livewell.nelincs.gov.uk/your-wellbeing/healthy-minds/healthy-minds-contacts/
Support for those who have encountered relationship violence
The Blue Door – https://www.thebluedoor.org/