Day 5: Finding better ways to unwind

What will you reach for instead?
Alcohol Reset Challenge

DAY 5 OF 7

Finding Better Ways to Unwind

Alcohol's reputation as a stress reliever isn't wholly unfounded. Since alcohol acts as a sedative, it can help you relax after a rough day, or feel calmer after getting some bad news. These benefits might even hold true over time, with occasional drinking.

With more regular drinking, though, alcohol often begins to increase stress, not relieve it:

  • If drinking helps you cope, reaching for alcohol can become a habit.
  • Eventually, you'll build up a tolerance, so it might take a few drinks before you feel less stressed.
  • Those additional drinks can negatively affect your mood, sleep, the decisions you make about how to handle the source of your stress, and more.

Day-to-day stressors will undoubtedly pop up in your life, no matter your drinking status. Finding productive, satisfying ways to unwind and refresh without alcohol can help you reduce that stress effectively, this month and beyond.

For today's challenge: Identify a few alternative ways to decompress.

Building positive coping skills and finding new ways of de-stressing can make it easier to go alcohol-free, even if you're not quite there yet, explains Ruby Mehta, LCSW, director of clinical operations at online recovery platform Tempest.

She recommends getting curious about other things you find relaxing as a first step. "If nothing comes to mind, think about what you used to do to relax before you started drinking," Mehta says.

A few ideas:

  • curling up with other soothing beverages, like teas
  • spending time with loved ones or pets
  • cooking or baking
  • diving into (or revisiting) creative pastimes like writing, art, or music
  • taking a warm bath with scented candles
  • reading a favorite book
  • getting into an exercise or stretching routine

Explore different options until you find something that really works for you. When you land on something that helps ease stress and brings you comfort, sticking with it can help the new habit become second nature.

Another way to counter the urge to drink? Try delaying.

When your first instinct whispers, "Have a drink," you might say, "First, I'm going to put on some music and take a bath."

Afterward, you might find that the desire to drink has mostly dwindled away.

Finding it tough to stick with alcohol-free relaxation? Mehta recommends finding an accountability buddy or coach who can offer encouragement and support.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about handling slip ups with self-compassion instead of shame and self-punishment.

Until tomorrow,
The Healthline Team

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