Feel like drinking or taking other drugs is stopping you from feeling focused, fit or happy? Cutting back or taking a break from these substances can make a massive difference on your mood and overall health.
Science shows that cutting back on drugs (including alcohol) can improve your confidence, boost your mood and sharpen your mind.
But sometimes when we’re stuck in a habit or a rut, it sometimes doesn’t seem that easy. If quitting is something you’ve decided you want to try, here are some tips to help make it easier.
Hang in there
You might be surprised at how quickly quitting can improve your headspace – a lot of people see a big changes in just a month. But no one’s denying that it can be difficult at first – especially if you’re feeling restless, moody, sore or sick. So it’s important to take things day-by-day, or even moment-by-moment.
When you’re going off alcohol or another drug, Professor Yvonne Bonomo, an expert in substance use in young people, says “It’s really important to be patient with yourself. It might take a few days to get on an even keel.”
It pays to pay attention to your feelings and your thoughts. When we’re changing a habit, it’s normal to sometimes feel uncomfortable – that’s a sign we’re breaking through. Try sitting with these feelings rather than reacting to them. The more we practice that, the faster we progress, and the less intense the urges become.
Build up other habits
One of the great things about cutting out an unhelpful habit is all the time and energy (and even cash!) it can open up. Growing other parts of your life can also support the change you’re making. Some of these could include:
- Focusing on your favourite hobby, or trying a new one
- Spending time with friends who put you in a good mood
- Giving yourself time to relax before bed
- Thinking about how other changes (like what you’re eating or what exercise you’re getting) can also help improve your mood
Prepare for stressful situations
There are times in life that are more intense than others – whether it’s because of work, exams, or challenging stuff happening in other parts of life. When we’re more stressed, it can be easy to fall back into patterns of using alcohol and other drugs in ways that don’t help us.
Likewise, you might have some settings or situations (like a regular Saturday sesh or hanging out with a particular group of mates) where you know you’ll be surrounded by alcohol or other drugs, and less likely to stick to your plans.
Because it’s harder to think as clearly in times like these, it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll support yourself beforehand – this makes it a lot easier to stick to your intentions.
Don’t beat yourself up
When we’re reducing or ending a damaging pattern of behaviour, we often don’t get it right the first time. A “lapse” is a small or short-term return to using alcohol or other drugs when we might not want to and a “relapse” is when you find yourself returning to the same old cycles.
This is a normal part of a lot of people’s journeys. The most important thing is not to be harsh on yourself, and don’t get disheartened! It doesn’t mean that change isn’t possible, and it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it.
Every experience of trying to cut back can teach you things. Ask yourself what you learnt this time and put support in place to stop it happening again. Then remember how much clearer your head can be sober, and start again.