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Person declining bottle of wine

3 Jun 2019

EAP Focus: Is alcohol impacting your mental health?

Many of us enjoy a drink – with a meal, on an evening out, or during celebrations such as birthdays and weddings – but overdoing it can have a negative impact on our mood.

There are a significant number of benefits to reducing alcohol consumption as part of healthy routines that include regular exercise, eating well and cultivating good sleep habits. But one of the major benefits to drinking less is the positive effect on mental health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation:

“The reason we drink and the consequences of excessive drinking are linked with our mental health. Mental health problems not only result from drinking too much alcohol, they can also cause people to drink too much.

“Put very simply, a major reason for drinking alcohol is to change our mood – or our mental state. Alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression and people often use it a form of ‘self-medication’ in an attempt to cheer themselves up or sometimes help with sleep. Drinking to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental illness is sometimes called ‘self-medication’ by people in the mental health field. This is often why people with mental health problems drink. But it can make existing mental health problems worse.”

Philip Sampson, Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner for Rehab Works, highlights the following improvements in mental and social wellbeing we can see as a result of cutting down:

  • Reduce anxiety  It is quite common for people to use alcohol to manage their own anxiety, especially social situations. While this may be effective, it is when the effects of alcohol wear off that anxiety comes back stronger. This is commonly known as ‘beer fear’.
  • Form and maintain better relationships – Even though alcohol is used to improve social experiences, alcohol has been known to impact marriages and relationships with friends and family.
  • Sleep better – Some may think that alcohol helps us to sleep. This is not true. It can help you get to sleep but it is the quality of sleep that is affected. Using alcohol to sleep will not give you the natural and more restful night you are looking for.

If you are planning to reduce your alcohol intake, Drinkaware has a number of practical tips to help, including opting out of rounds, drinking smaller measures and spacing out alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

For further advice and support on reducing alcohol intake, take a look at the NHS Live Well webpages or the EAP website (using code ‘lborowell’).

The Employee Assistance Programme is an initiative that is part of the University’s commitment to providing support for staff wellbeing, which complements the University’s existing staff counselling and occupational health services.

The service is available 24 hours a day and can be accessed online or by ringing 0800 111 6387.