As discussed in Part 1 of this Mental Health & Alcohol series, it is important to remember, alcohol is not a superhero. While some people may be tempted to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for the pressures of day-to-day life, it is important to realise that this is not a long-term solution and it may in fact make the situation worse.

According to a recent Alcohol&Me survey. 53% of respondents reported that they drank to relax and unwind. This is consistent with the previous year’s surveys, making it the number one reported reason why people drink.

Alcohol alters your perceptions. The relaxed feeling you get when you have your first drink is because alcohol depresses the part of the brain associated with inhibition. This why you may feel less anxious and more confident after a drink or two. However, the more you drink, the longer it will take to reach this same relaxed, un-wound feeling and so the vicious cycle begins.

Breaking bad habits and creating new ones can be tough in all aspects of life. Drinking habits are no different but if you are looking for ways to reduce your drinking, here are some alternative ways you might like to try and relax and unwind at the end of a stressful day or week:

  • Do some exercise – this could be a gym class, a game of sport or simply a brisk walk. Even better do it with some mates so that you can still get the sociability piece without the alcohol.
  • Cook – many people find chopping, slicing, and cooking relaxing. Try a new recipe and make time to create your favourite meal as this is a great distraction from what might usually be “wine o’clock”.
  • Play with your kids or pets – they can be a great circuit breaker at the end of the day, and they will never tire of the extra attention.
  • Hunt out some fun new mocktail recipes – having a special drink tricks your brain into thinking it’s getting its end of day/week reward without the negative effects of the alcohol.
  • Listen to some calming music.
  • Talk to a good friend – this can be a great way to release difficult feelings whilst also providing some connection and support. A problem shared is often a problem halved.
  • Mow your lawns, weed the garden – the fresh air is an added bonus when connecting with nature.
  • Practice yoga, meditation, or simple stretching – the deep breathing will help you unwind.
  • Have a relaxing bath or spa. Using essential oils (bath only), candles and bubbles will help to stimulate all your senses.
  • Pick up a new hobby – maybe it’s a musical instrument, crocheting, dancing or darts. Whatever it is, it will give you something else to do with your hands and because it’s new it will require your full, undivided concentration!

What else might you add to this list? What are some realistic changes you could try to help you relax without a drink in your hand?

We know not all of these will work for everyone and some may take a bit more practice than others, but we encourage you not to dismiss any of them too quickly. On average, it takes 66 days before a new behaviour or ritual becomes automatic so be patient and compassionate with yourself in the process. Remember your mind and body will thank you for this!

Talking to people you trust about your plans can also be a great way to help you stay strong and keep persevering. They can encourage you along the way and keep you company if you’re using exercise etc to help you cope but more than anything, they’ll be less likely to pressure you into drinking.

Cutting back on your drinking and/or finding new and different ways to relax doesn’t have to come at the expense of being social. If you usually socialise in the pub, the choice in great tasting alcohol-free beverages is growing or think about other activities you could enjoy with friends e.g. going to the movies, watching some live sport, doing an activity together or trying an evening class.

If you need help

If you ever find yourself using alcohol to help you cope with challenges in your life, it is Ok to ask for help so please reach out for professional advice and support:

  • If it is an emergency, call 111
  • Contact your local GP or healthcare professional
  • Reach out to the friendly trained counsellors at the Alcohol&Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797. They are available 24/7 and can provided everything from self help tips, to counselling contacts and treatment options
  • Free Text or call 1737 anytime

For more information you might like to check out –


The Alcohol&Me Team