Nature can help us cope

So the Taoiseach announces minor changes with restrictions still in force. But we can travel a little further and maybe get into nature. People are getting irritated. But at least a phased plan to get back to a new normal has been announced. The extensions to 5km means we can go a little further. So more people can visit the parks, mountains and sea side.

Missing nature

I’m missed my once a day walk outside for the last 12 days. Down to Covid testing and being told to stay indoors. I’m used to going walking every day so it’s been really tough.  I knew the daily walks was good for me, but the last 12 days made me realise just how much I need it. We’re lucky to have a green space nearby and I had made good use of it.

A dreadful week

So after a really rotten week marked with kindness and awful official cruelty (I can’t even write about what happened at this point, because this post will never get finished, as I’ll dissolve onto the floor ) I was delighted to test negative for COVID.  I just have a plain old respiratory infection treatable with antibiotics. Our new normal, delighted to have a mild respiratory infection so I can go back walking. Obviously I’ll still be doing all that physical distancing stuff.

NATURE heals

So I was really pleased to see a number of groups have put together a lovely graphic called NATURE which is full of useful tips on using nature to make this time a little less stressful. It’s really important to plan some contact with nature very day. It does n’t have to be a park, even just taking time to admire some small item in nature is proven to help reduce our stress levels. And when our stress levels are down we tend to drink less.

Nature tips

  • N-Notice
  • A-Active
  • T-Time
  • U– Understanding
  • R-Revisit
  • E– Energise

It has plenty of lovely suggestions as you can see below.

nature

So why not start using these tips to-day? It can really help. You can even take pictures and post your pictures here 

For more useful COVID content, click here.

PS

There’s an international study to look at the impact of COVID on our drinking. Be great if you could take 10 minutes to complete the survey here. I’ve done it already.

Janet Devlin opens up to her fans

A kind reader sent me a link to a very raw powerful video from Janet Devlin. The Irish  singer is just 25 years old.  She participated in X factor and while not winning, did enough to win a recording contract. It seemed the world was at her feet.

 I hate the word “alcoholic”

She opens the video with an emotional “I am an alcoholic”.  I really hate that word, because frequently when people label themselves an alcoholic, they hate themselves. And sure enough for much of the video, Janet describes how she really hated herself and the tortured life she led. She inflicted a lot of damage on herself and others. She felt so weird and empty and could only cope with her new found celebrity by drinking too much.

Does the  alcoholic label mean self hate ?

I found the video really hard to watch, because Janet is so raw and so hard on herself. She still seems to really blame herself for what she did. She has very little compassion for herself. This is so common  and we see it so often. It’s like a hamster wheel. People hate how they feel, so they drink to block the feeling. Then they hate themselves. So they drink more, to block the self hatred and  the drinking cycle continues.

Now Janet Devlin loves herself

You’d love to give Janet a big hug, tell her she’s amazing and so very brave. It’s only towards the end of the video, that Janet finally admits that she had to learn to love herself. She appeals to all her listeners to learn to love themselves too and stay away from the booze. A very inspirational young woman.

Become aware of your feelings

A key part of learning to love yourself is to become aware of your feelings. As we’ve discussed before, we’re not taught to listen to our bodies and become aware of our feelings. Until we understand what our feelings and bodies are telling us, it is very difficult to control our drinking.

The COVID crisis can  make it worse

In this COVID crisis, all of us are experiencing a range of feelings from numbness, fear, anxiety to exhaustion.

With feelings so strong, it’s no wonder many people are hitting the bottle to cope. It’s too difficult to tackle these feelings, so easier to hit the bottle. But there are alternatives to help us feel better.

A 60 second hack

One alternative is this really simple 60 second hack, I really like this tip , because it’s based on neuroscience principles and helps us cope with the current  lack of physical human contact which is such a basic human need.  The Doctors say it also boosts our immune system, which is very important at this time. We can also do it with our kids and our friends and they’ll enjoy it as well.

It’s basically a special way of hugging ourselves, which activates unique receptors in the skin. I won’t describe it here, because I can’t do it justice. Take a look at the short video which shows you how to do it.

PS

Thanks to Dr. Iolanda Tiedt, Dr. Lisa Connellan , Dr. Yvonne Hartnett of Mind the Front Line.  They’re a group of Irish Psychiatrists who’ve put together a great range of tips and tools where I found this 60 second hack. While their website is aimed at health care professionals on the front line, it’s very simple and easy to follow. Well worth your time.

Free online courses during COVID crisis

As we head towards our third week of working from home due to COVID, it’s all so easy to get sucked into drinking too much. So much stress, worry and uncertainty. However, we know alcohol increases the risk of chest infections and respiratory disease so it’s important to stay within the low risk guidelines to reduce the impact of COVID, if you do get it. It’s one area we can all control.

Low risk Drinking Guidelines


The low risk guidelines  are 11 standard drinks for women, spread over the week with 2-3 alcohol-free days per week.

For more on these guidelines and what is a standard drink check out here or the HSE site 

covid

All our courses are now free

So to help people during this difficult COVID crisis we’re making all our online courses free for the next few days. You can do them at your own pace, in your own time. It’s totally confidential.
All of our courses are kind and compassionate. They make no judgements. Sign up is easy. All that’s needed is an email address.

The courses include

Top tips to reduce alcohol harm

My drinking pro’s and cons

Stop my drinking or reduce my drinking?

Manage my alcohol cravings

I’m a social drinker

Know your safe drinking limits

So this is a really good time to try out some of our courses and manage your drinking. It will really help reduce the impact of COVID.

Don’t get locked in with Corona Virus

What a difference a week makes when Corona Virus strikes. Last week, normal life, this week all the schools and pubs are closed.

Pubs closed due to Corona virus

Initially the pubs were left open, but there was a general outcry when videos on social media showed mass gatherings in pubs and people ignoring the new social distancing rules. So, for the first time ever most pubs have closed voluntarily with the Government passing emergency laws to make sure all pubs close.

Will attitudes to alcohol change?

So will attitudes to alcohol change now? Eh no. Videos are circulating of totally empty beer shelves in supermarkets with only Corona beer sitting in isolation. Shows the power of branding, but also that people are really stocking up.
We’re seeing loads of funny videos, many praising drink.  Some countries are reporting an increase in home drinking

Don’t get locked in

The Alcohol Forum have produced some great tips on how to avoid drinking too much while stuck at home.

They include

  • Plan to have two alcohol free days a week
  • Don’t stockpile
  • Keep it late
  • Mind the children
  • Out of sight

You can see more on these below.

Corona virus

This too will pass

Alcohol is a depressant, so drinking too much alcohol will make this crisis seem even worse. This Corona virus crisis will last for a while. Life is never going to be the same again. But the most brilliant minds across the world are working on this and we will see solutions.  

I’m no fan of Fine Gael, but they do appear to be taking the right actions, developing extra healthcare systems & good communications, special welfare arrangements for people who have lost their jobs, stopping evictions and freezing rents.

So keep telling yourself, this too will pass. In the meantime as concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl says

 “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms,—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

For more tips on dealing with adversity and difficult times , click here

Banner Picture created by onlyyouqj – www.freepik.com

Memories of drinking can make you miserable

Memories of drinking may be making you miserable. At this time of the month, when the credit card bills hit, and it seems ages to the next pay day, it’s very easy to get down.  Thinking about those wonderful times when we were drinking freely seems very attractive and tempting.

Euphoric recall

It’s very tempting to start back into old habits as we remember being happier then. Padraig O Morain describes this as “euphoric recall”. It means we recall drinking as really fun and pleasurable, with the world in full colour and happy laughter everywhere. Life was a carnival.

Dying for a drink

These memories then kick off cravings for a drink. We literally feel we are dying for a drink. The trick is to remember, these memories are only one part of our drinking. The other part of our drinking is the reason, why we took action to start controlling drinking. The memories of hangovers, arguments, lost time, too much money spent, or unwanted sexual contact. If you have n’t written down  the reasons why you want to manage your drinking, it’s a good time to do it now. You’ll find help here.

Cravings

Cravings can feel like the end of the world, but they don’t last and are usually gone within 20 minutes. Knowing it’s normal to have cravings and having an action plan to deal with them really helps. You’ll find more help on this here.

Change your beliefs around alcohol

If we think people have more fun with alcohol, then we’ll feel totally miserable if we’re not drinking. Our Irish culture encourages us to believe that people who drink always have more fun and enjoy themselves more.

We’ve often written about this. We admire the people who can hold their drink and are the life and soul of the party. We rarely hear about the downsides of drinking.

So make sure your internal beliefs about alcohol reflect the reality of drinking and are not euphoric recall.

Photo by Siri from Pexels

There’s no such thing as happy new year

So after the free for all of Christmas eating and drinking, we’re into the ritual of telling each other happy new year and the annual ongoing civil war with ourselves. This year it seemed to be worse as it was the end of a decade.

A civil war with ourselves?

That’s how Marian Keyes describes the New Year in her latest video

I was really surprised to hear her talk about hating herself. That she’s achieved nothing, she’s a failure and she hates looking back. It’s why she hates the New Year’s Eve.  All those expectations to have the perfect night and to actually be perfect.

Hearing this from a very successful, much loved author, who is  kind, does lots of volunteering in unpopular causes and   who has been happily married for 24 years is incredible. It shows how often we just don’t see the good parts of ourselves and focus only on the bad parts.

Hating ourselves

 I find myself nodding in agreement as she talks about the pressure to be perfect. To lose weight, get fit, improve ourselves and for many people to drink less or not drink at all.

We start off with great intentions, with all these New Year resolutions, but end up in a cycle of lapsing, denial and hating ourselves.

There’s no such thing as Happy New Year

Marian says there’s no such thing as Happy New Year. Everyone has some pain in their life, some stone in their shoe. So it’s impossible to be happy all the time. So she never says Happy New Year, she just says happy day. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Go easy on yourself

So go easy on yourself, don’t be over ambitious or try to be perfect. Pick one small thing, that means something to you and focus on that.

If you want to reduce your drinking, start with something that you have confidence you can achieve.

If you’ve been drinking every day for the last ten years, try not drinking one day a week. You can find more advice on setting targets here.

Build in positive rewards

Make sure you have some positive rewards built into your New Year resolution. So you could put the money saved from drinking less, into a jar each week and then treat yourself to something you like at the end of each month.

So wishing us all success this year, in learning and understanding and being at peace with ourselves.

It’s well worthwhile watching the full Marian video here.

PS

Here’s Marian’s really funny takedown of those people who boast about their achievements of the last decade

MY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE LAST DECADE

I CLIMBED on a chair and found the place where Himself hides the chocolate

I LOST my temper when he moved it to another spot

 I FOUND the new one

I GAINED some heft

I GREW as a person (size-wise)

I UNDERSTOOD that chocolate is great

What are your drinking Cons?

Last week we talked about the pros of drinking, so this week we’re talking about drinking cons or disadvantages of drinking. Looking at your drinking cons can help increase your motivation to control your drinking, in this our annual peak drinking season.

Drinking Cons

  • I throw up when I drink
  • Drinking gives me a hang over
  • I am on medication which means I have to stop/reduce my drinking
  • Drinking brings back bad memories/old hurts for me
  • My Drinking is causing me to take too much sick leave
  • I cannot remember everything the next morning
  • Drinking costs a lot of money
  • My drinking is giving me a weight problem
  • My drinking leads to unwanted sexual contact
  • Drinking is bad for my health
  • I seem to get myself into trouble when drinking
  • My drinking causes problems with others
  • I have broken the law e.g. drink driving
  • I’m not drinking while I am pregnant
  • I have physical health problems as a result of my drinking
  • I’d like to get pregnant
  • I am losing the trust and respect of my co-workers because of my drinking
  • Having to lie to others about my drinking bothers me
  • I am losing the trust of people I love because of my drinking
  • Some people close to me are disappointed in me because of my drinking
  • My Drinking interferes with how I work
  • I regret texts, I send when drunk
  • I have less energy
  • I find my drinking makes me too emotional
  • I am worried I am getting too dependent on alcohol
  • Drinking interferes with my life at home
  • Some people try to avoid me when I drink
  • Drinking is affecting how I look e.g. my face is red & bloated
  • It is hard to get going in the morning
  • I get into arguments more often
  • I find I am less fit as a result of my drinking
  • I could accidentally hurt someone because of my drinking
  • Drinking makes me feel very low
  • I lose my stuff- for example- my mobile   phone when drunk
  • I wake up with injuries e.g. bruises, I do not remember happening
  • I’m worried I could have health problems in the future. E.g. too much alcohol can cause dementia
  •  I am setting a bad example for others with my drinking e.g. My children
  • Drinking interferes with my ability to parent e.g. I’m snapping at my children
  • My drinking is giving me money problems

Ring a bell with you?

So how many of these cons ring a bell with you? Maybe you have other reasons for taking more control of your drinking. Some people find it useful to make a list of their own reasons for drinking less and they put it somewhere they see it regularly. On their bathroom mirror or keeping the list in their wallet or handbag.

Use your mobile phone

Some people search for an image on the internet which helps remind them why they are not drinking. They then set this image as their mobile phone screen saver. So any time they feel tempted they can simply look at their phone. It can really help increase motivation not to drink too much.

Why do people drink too much alcohol?

As we head into peak drinking season, looking again at the reasons why people drink too much can help us stay in control as it increases our motivation to drink less.

We’ve listed some of the reasons why people drink too much below

  • I can sleep better
  • I feel less physical pain
  • It gives me a reason to go out with my friends
  •  I feel less anxious
  •  Drinking helps me to have fun and socialise
  •  Drinking helps me deal with problems
  •  I am less bored
  • Drinking makes me more of a fun person
  •  I feel less emotional pain
  •  My drinking helps give me energy and keeps me going
  •  I am more sure of myself when I am drinking
  • People seem to like me better when I am drinking
  •  I feel calmer
  •  It is very easy to buy
  •  I feel less sad
  • Drinking helps me to loosen up and express myself
  • I like myself better when I am drinking
  •  I can relax more easily
  • Without alcohol my life would be dull and boring
  • I am less troubled by shaking or feeling sick
  •  It gives me a nice warm feeling
  •  Not drinking at a social gathering would make me feel too different
  •  It is very cheap to buy in supermarkets
  •  I am more creative


Don’t worry if you’ve ticked all the reasons

Don’t worry if you feel you’re ticking all the reasons. Valerie ticked  yes to nearly every box in the list and she still managed to get her drinking under control.

There may also be other reasons not listed above why people drink too much so list these reasons as well.

Take action

Looking at your pros, think about how you can get these benefits of drinking in a less harmful way.

For example, if you think life is boring without alcohol, could you take up a new activity that interests and excites you? Skydiving maybe!  

If drinking helps you sleep, there are other ways to get a good night’s sleep without the downsides of alcohol.

If dealing with feelings make you drink more, you might find talking to someone useful and we’ve some suggestions here.

People drinking too much can help themselves

Understanding the reasons you drink too much, is a big step forward in reducing your drinking to low risk levels. So try listing your reasons for drinking as this will help you to take action to manage your drinking. In our next post we’ll look at the cons of drinking too much.

Swapping alcohol for a running high

Swapping alcohol for a running high sounds a little extreme. But this week people are talking about it as the film Brittany runs a marathon is released.

Based on a true story

Brittany is 28 years old, a heavy drinker who is overweight and does not feel good about herself. She visits her doctor hoping to get some Adderall tablets, but he tells she is unhealthy and needs to lose 55 pounds.

Self-sabotage is so common

Brittany tried to join a gym, but it’s far too expensive. She finds a pal with the same unhealthy lifestyle and they start running or is it walking! In one scene, a crowd of toddlers pass them by. Eventually they decide to run the marathon but Brittany keeps doing stuff that stops her reaching her goals. It’s called self-sabotage. This is very common amongst people who drink too much and often have low self-esteem.

A death in the family

It becomes clear that Brittany is still grieving the death of her Father. She has never come to terms with it. So it’s a major reason why she’s living such an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s often struck me that our modern fast paced lifestyle does not allow much time for grieving. We expect people to get on with it far too quickly. So people often numb grief with alcohol.

Catriona spent 10 years grieving

Jenny Valentishe describes how Caitrona Menzies-Pike saw herself as a “gin addled bookworm” who used to eye runners with suspicion as she nursed a latte and hangover. Then it struck her that she spent the 10 years grieving after the sudden death of her parents focused on distance (running away) and endurance (drinking lots). So perhaps the actual answer was running which requires the same qualities.

Swapping alcohol for running

The running helped her process her parent’s death and she started to sleep better and drink less. If there is only one thing you can do to manage your drinking, physical exercise is the one to choose. There are just so many benefits to do it as we mentioned here.

Park Runs are all round the county

You don’t have to be super fit to be a runner, or even look like a runner in all the figure hugging gear. If you go to Park Runs  available in 93 locations around the country you’ll find people of all levels of fitness and body sizes. There’s a very friendly atmosphere and park runs are free. Many people even walk the route. So why not visit a park run to see for yourself whether swapping alcohol for running works for you?

Or to get yourself in the mood, why not go see the film? The reviews are good. You can see a trailer below.