Fill your cup with self-care

Written by Annabel Stewart

My name is Annabel and I help women change their relationship with alcohol.

One question that I get asked a lot is; “How do you define a grey area drinker?”.

Well, you might be one if:
• You’re trying to cut back but struggling
• You’re googling “how do I drink less?”
• You play down to your nearest and dearest how much you drink
• You’re not sure if you or booze has the upper hand right now

I know what it’s like, because I was a grey area drinker.

I wasn’t an alcoholic. I wasn’t pouring vodka on my cornflakes and I wasn’t waking up in gutters, nor did I need or want “rehab” or “AA”.

But I was trapped in an awful cycle of getting to wine o’clock and having “just one”, which would turn into two or three or more and then I’d wake up at 3am feeling thirsty and hungover and awful.

I would lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering why I’d done it again when I’d promised myself, I would drink less this time.

When I was trapped in that awful cycle, I came across the term “grey area drinker” and realised that it described me perfectly.

I was psychologically addicted rather than physically addicted. I could stop for a night or two if I had to, if circumstances dictated that I couldn’t drink (but I wouldn’t like it).

I even gave up for nine whole months – twice!

The good news is if you think this might be you too, then there are steps you can take to take back control of your drinking, and there are some really quick fixes you can make to start.

One area commonly neglected in almost all the grey area drinkers that I coach is self-care. As women and mums, we often put everyone else first, and our own needs are right down the bottom of the priority list.

It is wonderful to be caring and nurturing, but it can also deplete us so much that we’re constantly running on empty.

And when we are tired and stressed and maxed out, our brains – specifically the limbic system, the ancient part of our brains concerned with survival – is wired to move us away from pain towards feeling better.

And when we have very little in our lives that makes us feel better, a drink is a sure-fire shortcut to getting a “lift”.

This has been programmed into our brains by years of repetitive behaviour.

Caveman brain: “Feel bad? Have a drink. Feel better. Ug.”

So, it’s almost like we’re driven to have a drink, even when we’ve decided we’re going to cut back. It’s actually a survival instinct that’s gone a bit wrong!

We need to “fill our cups” in other ways, to boost our serotonin and build a forcefield around ourselves.

When we’re fulfilled in other areas of our lives, it makes us more resilient and less likely to turn to a drink when we want to make ourselves feel better.

If you feel like you need to boost your serotonin and build your own resilience, the areas you can start with are:
• Connection
• Movement
• Boundaries
• Sleep
• Creativity
• Nature
• Food
• Stillness
• Flow
• Breath
• Touch

Taking a good look at where we need to look after ourselves a bit better, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, is a great way to take the first steps to changing our relationship with alcohol.

I love helping other women find ways of coping with wine o’clock, please do get in touch if you’d like more info. Annabel –