How To Manage Your Drinking This Election Season

By Mark Zauss, BC-TMC, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC, and therapist on the Monument platform

The election is fast-approaching, which can naturally cause anxiety given the uncertainty it brings. Take a moment and ask yourself, how am I doing? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your anxiety level in the past few weeks? For many, that number is higher than they’d like it to be, and it’s understandable. We’re living in an unpredictable time, and with that comes fear. We’re also living amidst a lot of tragedy, which can result in trauma and grieving. Wherever your feelings are coming from, they are valid, and you are not alone. You are not alone in feeling anxious, and you are not alone if you want to drink. The good news is you don’t have to. By learning about why this anxiety exists, we can practice ways to manage it without alcohol.

Why you’re feeling anxious and want to drink

Election-related anxiety can have a similar effect: we’re left feeling helpless, and our healthy coping mechanisms don’t seem to do the trick for this unique brand of stress.

Let’s break it down physiologically. When anxious thoughts occur, they trigger a gland inside the brain called the hypothalamus. This is known as the “fight or flight” gland. If you have ever watched a horror movie, you may have noticed yourself getting nervous about the person in the film. That’s because the hypothalamus can’t tell if you are in the film or watching it. Your hypothalamus cannot discern reality and perceived reality. In turn, our bodies release adrenaline and trigger a stress response. It’s completely normal to feel the urge to drink to self-soothe the stress. However, if you continue to drink to cope with stress, the hypothalamus gland ‘learns’ that you need alcohol to manage stress, which creates dependency. And then it feels even harder to manage stress without it.

Similar to that movie, real-life election suspense, and the possibility of what’s on the other side, can create anxiety that feels inescapable. It can be tempting to fall into the cycle of alcohol dependency and escapism, but there are healthier coping mechanisms that will help you keep that anxiety at bay.

How to manage election-related stress

1. Give yourself a boundary.

 

2. Find engaging content alternatives to balance your schedule.

And if you’re feeling the urge to drink, you can always join a virtual therapist-moderated support group or sign up for alcohol therapy with a therapist specialized in helping people change their relationship with alcohol. I moderate “Navigating relationship challenges while managing your drinking,” “Moderation in the time of Coronavirus,” and “Navigating sobriety or moderation for men.” I’m always impressed and inspired by the supportive environment, and actionable tips shared by our members.

Moderation in the time of Coronavirus

The global pandemic is affecting our behaviors in many ways, including our alcohol consumption. Join the discussion about assessing your own drinking behaviors and creating healthier habits through moderation.
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3. Shake and stir an alcohol-free beverage.

Need some inspiration? Check out Monument’s Delish AF for some fun non-alcoholic cocktail ideas.

4. Focus on what you can control.

5. Try, right now, to take one deep breath, and exhale.

An anxiety cycle can quite literally be interrupted by breathing. Oxygen dilutes the number of neurotransmitters in the prefrontal cortex, where anxiety dwells. The reduction of neurotransmitters sends a message over to the hypothalamus: You are not in danger right now. This reset can create the clarity you need to focus on self-care and take steps forward.

Of course, elections significantly impact our lives — as both individuals and as a society at large. You have every right to feel anxious, particularly in the context of our current political climate. Whatever you are feeling is valid.

I hope the above tips are helpful in interrupting cycles of anxiety and focusing on what’s in your control. You can do this!

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Mark ZaussMark is a licensed mental health counselor in Florida with over 12 years of experience. He is a board-certified clinical mental health counselor by the NBCC — (National Board for Certified Counselors), a nationally certified counselor by the NBCC as well as a Board Certified Telehealth provider for online counseling. Mark is also a qualified supervisor. He graduated with honors from Rollins College which is recognized as one of the highest-rated colleges in the U.S. for mental health counseling. His specialties include treating anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, fear of being in a public place, social anxiety, relationship issues, career problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance abuse and addiction issues. Mark also specializes in helping others cope with new and difficult situations while having to adjust to a new way of life-related to the pandemic.
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