Is wine part of your self-care ritual?

2018 has been the year of self-care. Everywhere we hear about the importance of looking after ourselves, making space for ourselves in the midst of chaos and finding ways to recharge and boost our emotional resources.

Being able to make choices about our personal wellbeing is powerful and can make a huge difference to our quality of life.

It can give us a sense of control and mastery over our lives, which is important when our lives are busy and stressful. There is a growing awareness that our busy lives and multiple commitments (especially for the sandwich generation) have resulted in a generation of people who are stressed, anxious and in desperate need of ‘me’ time, but sadly do not have many options for this.

Alcohol use as self-care

Many use alcohol as a way to unwind and relax after a chaotic, stressful day. On one hand, it is kind of a great self-care tool. It can be physiologically relaxing, has a pleasurable taste and is often consumed when relaxing on the couch with something nice to eat.

On the other hand, it is a somewhat risky self care tool. One that is hard to cap at one or two, largely because it is almost too effective at helping us to unwind. We generally stop at one bubble bath, or one cup of tea a night – but alcohol is a self-care tool that is fairly difficult to shut off, due to its powerful effects on a stressed out brain.

Often, particularly if someone has had a stressful day, they might crave that release. However, at the same time, the release is then followed by a desire to keep the feelings going. Many people also experience this effect with sugar and junk food. The mechanism is similar, but with alcohol it is even more profound, since it is affecting multiple parts of the brain and reward system, as well as switching off the consequential thinking part of our brains.

Making the day after harder

What starts out as a gentle way to recover from a hard day, often becomes something that can make the next day even harder. Someone might find themselves finishing the bottle of wine in the quest to replenish those emotional resources. What follows is poor food choices, poor sleep and lower energy, making it less likely we will have the day we were hoping for.

Many members on Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak app describe this conundrum. The very understandable aim to treat themselves to a drink after a long day (self-care), balanced with the equally important need to look after their health and energy levels. The perennial question: How can I practice self-care in the way that I want, without taking away from my quality of life? I’m trying to relax and recharge after work, but I end up waking up the next day feeling awful and even further away from my wellbeing goals.

Consider the importance of rituals

Many people will describe the pleasure of coming home and pouring a glass of wine and sitting on the couch to relax. Often there are things like sound, smell, taste and even temperature that can inform the ritual and make it something that is repeated. You probably have other rituals that you do daily that have similarly grounding and comforting effects. Whether that is taking a coffee break in the sun, or the process of getting ready to go to bed in the evenings.

Perhaps we can also be a bit critical of the idea of alcohol as a form of self-care

Some questions to ask might be: Is this really helping me to recover from the day? Is this making my life better in the long run? Is this all I need to top up my emotional resources, or are there some other things that will also help?

Rituals often ground us and provide a predictable framework for us to behave. Often this is why people might start to feel relaxed when they get home and have poured a drink, even before they have had a sip. It is not the alcohol itself that is grounding and relaxing – it is the knowledge that they are home and have the next few hours just for them. Many self-care rituals are similar – we benefit both from the activity (listening to our favourite music) as well as the action (knowing that we are doing something for ourselves).

Consider what other kinds of rituals might accompany, or replace alcohol

This might look like creating a new evening ritual of having a shower as soon as you get home, and then going for a walk. Or it might involve pouring that glass of wine, but also pouring a large glass of soda water. It might involve calling a friend or family member for a chat after you put the kids to bed, so that when you get to the couch you are in a good mood. It might involve having that glass of wine, but only after you’ve done a few other things first that have calmed you down and set you up for a good evening.

Often, when we look back on the most difficult or stressful times in our lives, we can see that the rituals that give us a sense of safety and stability have often fallen over. We do need things like this to give our life structure and allow us to feel grounded and safe.

The good news is that if we can find rituals that actually work for us, we are likely to see improvements in our quality of life and wellbeing. If you are finding that alcohol is a big part of your nightly ritual, consider what kinds of small changes you can make to allow room for other things to fill some of those gaps.

Original Article written by Hello Sunday Morning Health Coach Briony and published by Ten Daily

So true. It’s easy to get into the wine after work habit.

I was, for many decades, in the ritual of the wine after work. As with most rituals, this became very habitual. What I found, as time passed, was I required to increase my consumption to achieve the relaxation I longed for. This led to numerous problems, many I was oblivious to, others were solid indications of being way out of control. Despite all good intentions of those who loved me, there came a time where peace didn’t exist until I blacked out. At one point I did acknowledge that something was desperately wrong. I had lost control and my life was a mess. That was almost three years ago. I’ve made many changes which include a host of new rituals that are healthy. Perhaps the most significant is I do not consume alcohol anymore. My choice and it works for me. I have a deep faith in God and I find true strength in prayer and meditation. I care about people and love helping others. In short, life is good.

The problem for me is that the alcohol makes me feel more motivated and invariably I get tons of jobs done that have been piling up…writing letters, emptying dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen, planning fundraisers etc. That sense of achievement from actually getting jobs done is important to me and consequently I’m struggling to reduce the alcohol! In a weird way the alcohol allows me to be the person I want to be !

Hi, alcohol free for well over 1.5 years now, can’t tell you how good that feels. Spanish holiday with everyone enjoying evening glass, I discovered alcohol free beer, looks real, tastes good and felt good to join in without next day yuck feeling. Thanks HSM.

It’s like this was written for me. I am very much noticing now the negative effects of rewarding myself most evenings with wine – the waking up in the night and feeling rough and irritable the next day. However I am really struggling to find a new ways of relaxing without the wine. I need to find a new routine. I can’t remember how I used to relax before I started drinking.

Interesting language, placing glass of wine as ‘self care’ having a drink is an indulgence, or a crutch, an easy relaxer and escape, not ‘self care’ so I agree it’s important to be critical of its use as self care..

Love my rum & coke before dinner. Shoulder muscles relax, I am less tense. I now stop at one most nights. And use a liquor measure. In the past I would make them stronger, have a couple then open a bottle of red. Took many months to manage that down, and I feel better for it – or maybe just more righteous. At least I am not half pissed through the evening and promising things I probably can’t deliver on.

Alcohol sure was part of my daily ritual – drink wine – pass out – wake at 2:am feeling dreadful as my body struggled to purge the poison. Morning time with a hangover – again. Not the ritual I would consider worth repeating – yet by 5’oclock – guess what it’s ritual time!

Meditation and self reflection are wonderful rituals to practice-3 years sober and very proud from a 45 year habit/ritual of drinking.

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