At the end of a long, stressful day of work, you crave that singular moment—the sound of a beer can snapping open, or perhaps an ice cube plinking into an empty glass tumbler before being doused in liquor, or the pop of a wine cork and splash of liquid into a glass. If you associate these moments with the idea of stress relief, you’re not alone. A 2018 study found that 60 percent of adults drink alcohol to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
For many, the ritual of pouring the first drink of the day, and the sensation of worries and fears falling away into the recesses of the mind elicits the calm needed to prepare emotionally for another day of work, family responsibilities, financial pressures, and social anxieties. Over time, however, such a habit can become a dangerous dependency that could result in severely unhealthy consequences. If you’re ready to find healthier ways to cope with stress, continue reading. We’ve compiled a list of five ways to reduce stress, without taking a single sip.
Five Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress
- Eat Well and Drink [Water]. The key here is to stick to healthy choices. Regular consumption of caffeinated, sugary, carb-heavy foods that don’t offer nutritional benefits can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety. When you feel the pressure of daily life starting to build, drink a full glass of water, and treat yourself to a healthy meal or snack filled with lean protein and whole grains.
- Meditate. Forget what you thought you knew about meditation. You don’t have to become an expert at quieting your mind for hours at a time. Your goal should be to sit quietly and focus on your breathing, even if only for a few minutes. The practice of focusing on your physical form and quieting the voices in your mind that aggressively tell you to do more and work harder can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve emotional health, and reduce addictive cravings.
- Take a Walk. Sometimes the best way to stop obsessing over a problem is to put space between you and whatever is causing you stress. Going for a walk outdoors (weather permitting), can help improve your mood and give you the time and space to practice mindfulness. Walking also promotes heart and lung health, can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, and produce stronger bones and better balance (bonus).
- Pour Your Energy into Something Productive. If part of what motivates you to drink is a feeling of restless boredom, find a creative outlet, or establish a daily routine to give your energy a beneficial purpose. For example, use evening time in which you previously would drink to prepare for the next day, or adopt a new hobby or volunteer opportunity to help you fill time in your day with purposeful activities.
- Put it Down on Paper. Journaling is a powerful technique to help you cope with life factors causing stress and anxiety. The simple act of putting your fears on paper (digital or tangible), and reading them back, can give you the perspective to fairly assess what are rational, and what are irrational fears. After ridding your body and mind of the feelings that are bottling up inside, you can turn your attention to the people and things in your life that bring you joy and strength, like your family, friends, faith, and hobbies.
As you make positive steps toward adopting healthy habits in your life, accept that what is best is not always what is easy. It takes time to change habits, and it can often feel more comfortable doing what is familiar. Stay the course and continue to test different outlets for your anxiety. In time, reaching for a bottle of alcohol will be the last thing on your mind when times get tough.