If you’ve been thinking recently, “maybe I should try to cut back and drink a little less” I have good news for you. You are not alone. Most of us women have questioned, at one point or another, whether or not we are drinking too much.
If you’d like to cut back, it may seem like the first logical step is to do just that, cut back. However, I think the best approach is to take an extended break from alcohol so that you can come to a decision fully empowered, knowing everything you can about how alcohol makes you feel.
Here are three reasons why taking an extended alcohol break (at least 30 days) can help if your goal is moderation.
Experience Better Sleep
First, when you take an extended break from alcohol your sleep will reset. Every single person is different but the trend I see with my clients is that sleep resets around 2 weeks. Even one or two drinks a night hugely disrupts your sleep and the alcohol means you aren’t able to get the proper REM (the deep, restorative sleep where your brain heals, rests and restores itself) sleep that you really need.
The disrupted sleep you’ve been getting during your drinking days causes you to get into a circadian rhythm of bad sleep, so even if you stop drinking- it may take a week or two (or sometimes even longer) for you to start to get a true, deep, healthy sleep pattern back.
For me personally, when I stopped drinking the first few days I got insanely deep sleep. I think my body was just totally exhausted from not sleeping for, well, a decade?! More? After the first few days my sleep went back to being totally disrupted because my body had created a bad pattern over the years. It took a couple of weeks of feeling out of sorts and fatigued to finally start getting 8 hours of incredible sleep. Now I wake up rested and refreshed each day. I am so glad I pushed through those weeks of reset and healing so that I could experience what proper sleep felt like again.
If your desire is to cut back from drinking, you have to experience all of the benefits of not drinking so that you can make that fully empowered and educated choice of what that nightly wine is doing to your sleep. In order to really understand the sleep disruption, you have to get the good sleep, to see the difference between the good sleep and the bad sleep, and experience how the good sleep contributes to your overall energy levels.
If, like me, you hadn’t slept properly in years, then getting a proper nights rest will be a total and complete game changer for you- and something that you should feel and experience so you can make your choice when you go back to moderating your drinks.
Experience True Joy & A Better Mood
Second, when you take a break from drinking the chemical reactions in your brain that have made you anxious and depressed will fully clear your system. As you may have read here in another post, when we drink our body releases a chemical called dynorphin. This chemical is released in our brain to counteract the artificial dopamine hit that we get in our brain. It’s a reaction that is meant to keep us safe and bring us back to homeostasis. The problem is that when we are drinking our bodies regularly release dynorphin, so that we can’t experience normal levels of dopamine (the feel good pleasure and learning chemical) in the same way. Moral of the story- drinking lowers our baseline mood over time, so that we have trouble getting happy or feeling joy in the same way.
When we take a break from alcohol the dynorphin leaves your body and you are able to feel happiness in a way that you may have not felt in a long time. Drinking also increases our levels of adrenaline and cortisol which cause stress, so if you’re anxious- having these chemicals leave your body can help you feel better. So again, if you’re trying to cut back, I recommend trying an extended break from alcohol first so you can make your drinking decisions with open eyes about the effect it has on your emotions and mental health.
Figure Out If The Drinking Is Really Giving You Want You Want From It
Finally, one of the most important questions I ask my clients is “why do you like to drink?” I can tell you that the reasons are very similar for most of us women. We drink to connect, to have fun, to cope, to parent, to grieve, to numb, to celebrate, because we like the taste, because we think it makes us glamorous or because we need it to date. (There are others, but those are recurring ones that I have found in my clients and myself.) In order to approach your drinking from a truly educated and empowered place we have to figure out if these reasons are 100% true.
For example, if you believe you need alcohol to have fun, in order to figure out if this is really true or not you have to experience being and having fun without alcohol. Trust me, I thought having fun without alcohol was impossible. And yes, the first few times I was at a social event and not drinking it was awkward because I wasn’t used to it. Like everything in life, I had to practice it to feel confident.
If you don’t examine your beliefs about why you think you like to drink, you may continue to believe that drinking brings you tons of benefits, that in reality, it may not.
So if you’re thinking “hey, I feel like maybe I would feel better if I drank a little less”- then why not start by getting really curious and figuring out if alcohol is holding up to its end up the bargain and giving you everything you’re looking for.
It’s a Cost/Benefit Analysis
I recommend seeing how a break from alcohol can affect your sleep, your mental health, your mood, your energy levels and so much more. Then after you have experienced the differences in your own life, you can make an fully educated and empowered choice on when and how much you want to drink again.
If a 30 day break seems scary and overwhelming, I get it. I’ve been there. But instead of the goal being “to cut back” or “not drink for 30 days” try reframing your goal as simply “I want to feel better.” Push off from there and see where that takes you.
If you’re curious on learning more and would like help and guidance with a 30 day alcohol break so you can start to feel better, then I’d love to meet you in a FREE 30 minute discovery call. You can book that by clicking here.