Men’s Health Week 2018: Alcohol and Mental Health

Men’s Health Week 2018: Alcohol and Mental Health

  posted on

Men’s Health Week 2018 takes place from 11th to 17th June and we are delighted to support this important initiative, which aims to:

  • Heighten awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages.
  • Support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyle choices / activities.
  • Encourage the early detection and treatment of health difficulties in males.

We are proud to join the call to ask men one simple question: What’s your small step to improve your health and wellbeing going to be? There are many positive steps you could take but we are encouraging men to reduce their weekly alcohol consumption. Throughout Men’s Health Week, we will be empowering men across the country to take small steps to drink less alcohol by highlighting some of the different impacts alcohol can have and the positive changes you can make.

Alcohol and Mental Health

The impact of alcohol on your mental health is more significant than you might think. Alcohol can contribute to the development of mental health problems including depression and anxiety, as well as making existing problems worse. In fact, drinking when you’re anxious or stressed to improve your mood can have the opposite effect.

Alcohol is a depressant, which disrupts how the brain functions and affect our thoughts, feelings and actions. Alcohol affects the levels chemicals or neurotransmitters in our brain, for example, serotonin, which regulates happiness. This change to the brain processes causes the relaxed feeling you may get after your first drink but this change is also responsible for feelings of anxiety or depression you may experience the next day. Regular, heavy drinking interferes with these chemicals in our brains that are needed for strong, balanced mental health.

Tips for good mental health

  • Make time for family and friends: Good relationships are important for your mental health. It’s important that we feel connected and part of something. Spending time and sharing how you are feeling with family, friends and your community has been shown to have a positive impact on your mood and ability to deal with problems. Is there someone you have been meaning to reach out to? Why not get in touch this week?

  • Keep active and rest well: Regular exercise and being active release chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body. This helps to lift your mood, reduce stress and anxiety and increases energy. Alcohol, even just a few drinks, can affect how well you sleep which can lead to a bad night’s rest. This means you will have less energy the following day and may be less motivated to keep active. You might consider joining a local walking group or why not ask friends to form a team to help keep you motivated?

  • Focus on the positives: Our thoughts are often affected by things that are happening in our lives such as stress at work, relationships and financial burden. While it may not always seem true, we can control our thoughts. Try to think about each thought you have, is it helpful or unhelpful? Focussing on unhelpful negative thoughts can drain energy and stop you from moving forward. More helpful, positive thoughts broaden a sense of possibility and opens up your mind to more options.

  • Eat well: A balanced nutritious diet is just as important for mental health as it is for physical health. Junk food, fizzy drinks and foods high in sugar can give a short-term energy boost, but this may lead to a sharp drop in blood sugar later, leading to low mood and anxiety. Drinking alcohol can lead to unhealthy eating habits while you are drinking and into the following day. Try to plan ahead by cooking extra meals or in larger quantities to freeze so you can eat healthily even when you don’t feel like cooking.

Think about your drinking

Think honestly about your drinking habits and ask yourself some questions. How much do you drink in a regular week or month? Maybe you have noticed you are drinking alone more often than before or you are finding more reasons to drink alcohol. Has your drinking started to affect your work? Perhaps you haven’t worked out as much lately due to alcohol. Now ask yourself if you could drink less. You are not alone – 1 in 3 men in Ireland would like to drink less alcohol. The good news is that this is easier than you might think and small changes to how you drink can make a big difference.

Order our free Get the Facts information pack

Know the guidelines

Are you drinking within the HSE low-risk guidelines for alcohol consumption? Less than 3% of Irish adults can correctly identify the guidelines but they are important to know and can help you to see how much you are really drinking over the week. Remember, these are guidelines - not a target.

  • 17 standard drinks (170g pure alcohol) spread out over the week for men, with at least two alcohol-free days

Common examples of one standard drink are a half pint of lager/stout/cider, a 100ml glass of wine or pub measure (35.5ml) of spirits. This means a man’s weekly guidelines is roughly eight pints of beer, which is less than many people think. On average, it takes one hour for the body to process one standard drink and there's no quick fix - only time.

Try our Drinks Calculator to see if you are drinking within the guidelines

Make small changes to drink less

Stuck for ideas? Here are some small steps you could take to drink less alcohol. Remember, everyone’s motivation for drinking less is different so it’s important to choose small steps that work for you.

  • Stay out of rounds – you may end up drinking far more than you intended as you are more likely to drink at the pace of the fastest person in the group.
  • Set yourself a limit on a night out. If you usually go for an after-work drink on a Friday, why not set a limit on the number of drinks you will have in advance? Keeping this number in mind will help you to keep track and stick to it.
  • Alternate each drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydration associated with alcohol. Keep a jug of water on the table to make this easier.
  • Always use a standard drink measure: never free-pour spirits or wine. Order one for free
  • Never top up your wine glass – always finish one glass before refilling. Topping up your glass makes it harder to track how much you’re drinking.
  • Take advantage of the increasingly available lower or no-alcohol beer or wine and swap out your usual drink.
  • Break your habits at home. This can seem like a nice way to unwind after a long day but it can often result in drinking more than usual. If your normal night in includes a drink in front of the TV, consider doing something different like going for a walk or try not to keep alcohol in the house.
  • If you would like to stop drinking completely, we have some advice to help.

Find out more about Men's Health Week