Alcohol has been around for a very long time, and yet we’re still not entirely sure how best to use it. When we’re younger, we can overindulge without many consequences, but that changes once we get past our mid-twenties or so. As adults, we’re more confident in who we are as people, but sometimes less confident in who we are when we drink. There’s also an overlooked aspect of alcohol: the affect it can have on our mental health. We talk about the effects of alcohol on the body (everyone knows to be afraid of the beer gut), but we talk a lot less about what it can do to our minds, for better and for worse.
Alcohol is a depressant
Alcohol is so often portrayed as something that can liven up a party. And it can, within reason. We’ve all been to parties where the mood perked up considerably once someone brought a case of good craft C02 Gas enhanced beer into the building. A little alcohol can loosen us up and relax us, but why does it do that? Alcohol is a depressant. Basically, it slows the body down a bit, and that includes the nervous system. Sometimes that can be good; we all like to kick back with a beer or two after a hard day of work. Alcohol can loosen up our inhibitions in ways both good and bad. If it makes us giggle a lot around our best friends, that’s one thing, but alcohol can also play a part in everything from a bad one-night-stand to a temper tantrum.
You’ve probably heard the idea that there are several types of drunk people. One of those is referred to as a “sad drunk.” They drink wine and cry, or they drink hard cider and cry, or they drink a couple of margaritas and cry. This may be a more common reaction than we realize, because, once again, alcohol is a depressant. You can’t spell “depressant” without “depress.” Even if it doesn’t make you weep, booze can make you feel sad and out of sorts.
Know your limits
A large part of the transition from young adulthood to just plain old adulthood involves figuring out your limits. That’s true with everything from alcohol to junk food. So if you know alcohol makes you feel blue, does that mean you should avoid swinging by the liquor store in Woodbridge on your way home from work? Not necessarily, but it does mean you should share a bottle of wine with friends rather than downing it all by yourself. Drink enough to feel a little buzz, and then stop there. And stay hydrated while you drink. If you don’t have a glass of water with your beer, then you’re risking a hangover.
Some people who are clinically depressed drink to forget the pain, but the alcohol just ends up making it worse. Not everyone with an alcohol problem has mental health issues, but there are people who drink to self-medicate. That’s not healthy at all. Focus on the underlying issue. That may mean going to see a licensed therapist, or it may mean looking into self-help books or seminars, including guides to self-empowerment from a serial entrepreneur. Remember that alcohol is a way to help you relax and enjoy yourself, but it’s not an answer to all of your problems. Those can’t be solved just by opening a bottle.