6 Tips To Help You Say No To Alcohol

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Problem Drinking: How Many Is Too Many?

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Drinking is an entrenched part of socialising, so much so that it can be easy to excuse problem drinking as social drinking. As a general rule – if you drink to cope with stress, if you continue to drink despite the problems it causes in your relationships or at work, or if you find it hard to stop when you’ve reached your limit there’s a good chance you have a drinking problem.

Social drinking can still be problem drinking

Social drinking can still be problem drinking

Admitting that can be hard, but the cost of not admitting you have a problem can be harder. Over the longer-term, problem drinking can affect your career, strain your relationships, lead to financial stress, and cause serious health problem.

Nearly 15% of Australian adults report that they drink alcohol at a high or risky level. If you find it hard to say no to alcohol try our tips below. If they don’t help you achieve your goals consider speaking to your GP about a referral to a clinical psychologist. A clinical psychologist can provide you with practical strategies for managing drinking and also help you to address any underlying factors that may be contributing to your drinking.

Tip #1: Commit to Change

Change is hard. You need to be clear on why you want to change before you start to think about how to. Write out your reasons for change. Think about how drinking affects your health, your relationships, your work, your family, your self-esteem, and weigh up whether working towards change is worth it

Tip #2: Identify your Triggers

The first step in managing drinking is identifying your drinking habits and triggers. Keep a drinking diary and record how much you drink and when. If you’re serious about change, be honest with yourself. You’ll never change if you under-estimate your drinking. Also make a note of your thoughts, feelings, and activities in the hours leading up to drinking. Common triggers are: the time of day; feeling upset, lonely, or bored; work stress; having an argument with someone close to you; or others around you drinking. Once you know your triggers you can start to work towards eliminating them.

Tip #3: Set Realistic Drinking Goals

When making any sort of change it’s important to set realistic goals. Setting unrealistic goals sets you up for failure, which lessens your belief in your ability to change and makes any future change seem even more overwhelming. Use your drinking diary to establish how much you’re drinking each day. Avoid guess work because you can’t set realistic goals unless you have an accurate start point. Each week set a realistic drinking goal. For example, if you’re drinking 4 beers a night 7 nights per week you might pick 4 nights and aim to limit yourself to 3 beers on these nights. If you’re successful, you might then limit yourself to 3 beers each night of the following week.

Tip #4: Make Yourself Accountable

If you’re serious about change, make yourself accountable. Tell a close friend or family member about your weekly goals. Knowing someone knows about your goals can help you stick to them.

Tip #5: Know Your Loopholes

You’ll probably have weeks where you don’t meet your goals 100%, its ok. Learn from your experiences. If you drink more than you intended to reflect on how you rationalised this at the time. Knowing your drinking loopholes will help you to not fall for them next time.

Tip #6: Manage Urges

Urges might feel like they’re going to hang around for forever, but they won’t. If you’re having an urge to drink, practice waiting the urge out; see if you can delay acting on your urge by 5-minutes. If at the end of 5-minutes it feels like you can wait another 5-minutes, wait another 5-minutes. Do this until the urge passes. If you clock watch 5-minutes will feel like 5-hours. Make a list of things you can do to keep busy and work through your list while you’re waiting out your urge.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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