People, places, times can all be triggers to drinking to excess. Understanding your personal triggers can help you break those associations so you can change your behaviour to fit your lifestyle.
If you’re regularly drinking more than the low risk guidelines (not regularly drinking 14 units a week for both men and women) it could be time to think about the reasons for it and what you can do to cut down.
See if you recognise yourself often making any of these excuses.
I’m going to have a few drinks because...
Using alcohol to cope with stress is common. However, while the immediate effects of drinking can make you feel more relaxed, if you regularly drink more than the lower risk guidelines, your stress levels could soar.
That’s because alcohol is a depressant and can interfere with the brain's function, causing low moods and anxiety. Even a few drinks, alcohol can interrupt your sleep pattern so you wake up feeling tired – which will only add to your stress levels the following day.
Instead of reaching for the bottle after a tough day at the office, why not take a trip to the gym? Exercise is an effective way to reduce signs of stress in both the body and the mind, and can boost confidence.
For some people, a drink or two after clocking off for the weekend or for a holiday marks the start of the fun and relaxation. People vary in whether they get hangover – some spoil their precious time off in that way.
Alcohol can leave you feeling anxious and stressed. Drink too much and you could come back from your break in more need of time off than when you left!
If you want to toast your time off, set yourself a sensible limit and drink plenty of soft drinks when you’re out – that way you get to stay sober and you're more likely to wake up hangover-free and ready to get on with your day.
You can find tips for preventing a hangover here.
In the UK we like to celebrate those occasional rare days of sunshine in the UK. If you choose to drink alcohol in the sun, staying hydrated is vital. Alcohol dehydrates your body so drink plenty of water. Legally, pubs in England and Wales now have to give you tap water for free. And a jug of water at a barbecue will help keep everyone properly hydrated and avoid any nasty incidents.
A night out with friends might risk ending up as a heavy drinking session, especially if you are all buying rounds.
Rounds often force you to drink quicker because everyone is under pressure to knock back the booze at the same rate as the fastest drinker.
Having a soft drink for some rounds will keep you sharp. And while opting out of buying rounds may feel like going against the grain, your mates may thank you for it if they’re also feeling the pressure.
Because of the way alcohol affects the brain, you might find yourself less inhibited and more confident after a couple of drinks. But alcohol can make you do or say things that you wouldn’t when you’re sober. What’s worse than waking up the next day to that that dreaded “What did I do/say last night?” feeling?
If you find social situations difficult without a drink, try having a night out somewhere with more on offer than just alcohol. Going to the cinema or to see a band means it’s likely there’ll be less pressure to drink than if you base your entire evening around the pub.
When you’re entertaining friends at home, it can be all too easy to drink more than usual.
When your wine glass is constantly being topped up or you’re pouring generous home measures, it’s difficult to know just how much you and everyone else is drinking.
It’s good to have water and soft drinks available so your friends know that it’s not just alcohol on offer. Or you could try being more adventurous and make no- or low-alcohol cocktails.
For many people, 5pm on pay day is the perfect time to go out with work mates and have a drink. But drinking right after work can be dangerous because it’s often the case that you and your work mates haven’t eaten since lunchtime. That means there’s nothing to slow down the absorption of alcohol, so you feel the effects of alcohol faster and increase your risk of doing or saying something you’ll regret the next morning.
Why not go to a restaurant rather than the pub? That way you can have something to eat and make sure that that the evening revolves around food rather than alcohol. You could even save money by looking out for a two-for-one or 50% off deal.