Health Agenda

Mental Health

How to stop the habit of drinking alcohol

Find yourself pouring a drink without giving it a moment’s thought? It might be time to knock that alcohol habit on the head.

Habit: (noun) a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

For many of us ‘alcohol and relaxation’ go together like ‘cheese and wine’ or ‘beer and a curry’… one can be hard to separate from the other. 

Recently, the impact of COVID-19 has increased at-home drinking, as people cope with financial pressures, isolation, increased responsibilities related to childcare and schooling and other factors.

One study showed that 28% of us were drinking to cope with stress and anxiety during COVID, while 34% admitted to drinking daily during social distancing.

While being in the habit of enjoying a drink every now and then sounds perfectly innocent, the addictive nature of alcohol means it doesn’t take much for that ‘habit’ to turn ‘habitual’. Because, while we often forget, alcohol is a drug that can significantly affect our health. 

It’s easy to forget about the possible negative side effects of drinking every day, while we focus on the upside – whether that’s feeling confident, energised, relaxed, sleepy or distracted. 

But, as a growing body of research has shown, even a small amount of alcohol every day can leave a lasting physiological impression on your body and brain, and put you at a higher risk of health issues, from cancer and heart disease to poor mental health.

So how do you balance a habit that you know isn’t very good for you, but still plays a role in how you relax and socialise?

How alcohol becomes a habit 

The problem with even a small drinking habit, is it becomes a mindless part of your day, with pouring a drink when you get home as automatic as kicking off your shoes.

While a glass can be a harmless way to wind down, the problem is when that glass becomes a bottle.

The stimulating effects of alcohol disrupt your sleep cycles, leaving you more tired and stressed the next day, and potentially leading to more drinking again that night to help you let off steam.

And the habit continues – and potentially grows. 

How to break an alcohol habit

Change comes more easily once you agree it’s needed, say the experts at Hello Sunday Morning, a health service encouraging healthier relationships with alcohol. 

Start small with achievable goals – and celebrate the wins along the way. Here are 3 helpful tips from Hello Sunday Morning to help you break the alcohol habit:

  • know your triggers: Reaching for a drink after a hard day at the office? Or pouring a glass of wine to help you unwind? The key to breaking a habit is to acknowledge that you have one to break. Turning to alcohol to cope with stress or a bad day could be a sign that you need to cut back. Aim for at least two days a week where you don’t drink. 
  • do something else: If the urge for alcohol kicks in as soon as you leave the office or walk through your front door, make other plans. Go for a walk with a friend, catch up on life admin or start a project – anything that requires pouring your energy into it, rather than pouring yourself a drink.
  • ask for help: Breaking a habit is hard, but it can be easier with support. Ask your partner or close friend to cut back too, or find someone who will have your back and be there to talk, whether it’s a like-minded friend or an online support network. 

Change your relationship with alcohol

Reset drinking habits with the Daybreak app*, Hello Sunday Morning’s online behaviour change program giving you access to 24/7 digital support. The program connects you anonymously with a like-minded online community trying to change their relationship with alcohol.

The Daybreak app is fully subsidised by the Australian Department of Health, which means all Australians get free access.

HCF members may also have access to additional mental health support. For more information contact HCF’s Health and Wellbeing Team at wellbeing@hcf.com.au

Download the Daybreak app on the App Store or Google Play.

Here for you

If you want to change your drinking habits, we have resources to support you taking positive steps for your health and wellbeing.  

Where to find more help for alcohol support, counselling and information:  

If you're struggling with depression or anxiety, and need to speak to someone now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Words by HCF
Updated May 2021

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