Dry January: alcohol and anxiety

Here’s a really sad fact about me: I get chronic post-alcohol anxiety. So this year, I’ve done the unthinkable and committed to Dry January. This is very unlike me, because A) I generally advocate for moderation not deprivation and B) I bloody love a drink.

alcohol and anxiety 2This sounds awful, but it’s true. I love red wine and cold pints. I enjoy fruity, overpriced cocktails and the camaraderie of popping a bottle of prosecco in the office on a Friday afternoon. I like squeezing fresh lime into a rum and ginger on a sunny day, and I’m especially fond of a glass of Baileys as a nightcap in a hotel.

In light of this admission, I really don’t want there to be a link between alcohol and anxiety, because that spoils my fun big time.

Sadly, all too often after a glass or two, my sleep is strangely disturbed. I wake in a panic, heart pounding, mind racing. It makes sense, to be fair. Alcohol raises your blood pressure and reduces serotonin levels in the brain. The depletion of this feel good chemical is enough to give anybody a touch of hangover ennui.

Hangovers also make me scatty AF, so I spend the whole miserable time panicking I’ve forgotten to do something important; I once travelled 45 minutes back across London to check I’d turned the hob off on a hangover. I had. Dope. I’m usually happy to put up with this, given it clears within a day or so.

But managing my anxiety is a daily battle, and whilst 90% of the time I have it well under control, recently I’ve needed all the help I can get—so I finally decided to commit to a booze free month. So what are the results?

Actually, pretty good. I was worried it would kabosh my social life, but instead of avoiding socialising altogether, I’m still going to the pub for a ginger and lime so I don’t feel like I’m missing out too much. Actually, there are some really good low-alcohol alternatives nowadays–check out my favourites here! My sleep is less disturbed, my heart rate is under control, and I’m generally feeling less maudlin.

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I can’t promise never to do this again.

It took about two weeks for me to really start feeling better, so moving forward, I’m definitely going to try and incorporate some booze-free fortnights into my life. I can’t say I’d quite forever – I’m too attached to drinking rum out of coconuts – but I’ll certainly be more mindful now I know the benefits for sure.

If you’re suffering with anxiety, and tend to drink quite a bit, I’d definitely recommend giving a few sober weeks a whirl. If you’re worried about the peer pressure of drinking, or people calling you out, I strongly recommend dead-eying them and bluntly saying ‘I’m taking a break from drinking for my mental health’.

It’s also surprisingly easy to be at the pub and have nobody notice you’re not drinking – nowadays, there are all sorts of great low-alcohol options that look and taste surprisingly similar to the real deal, like Kombucha.

I’ve still got another ten days, but the mixture of my mental clarity and my noticeably healthier bank balance is spurring me on no end. So next time you’re going through a bad anxiety patch, give it a go, even if it’s just for a two weeks—because if you’re anything like me, the relationship between alcohol and anxiety might be stronger than you think.

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