By Caroline Shannon-Karasik - InStyle
The following contains excerpts of a recent InStyle Sober October article.
The correlation between mental health conditions and alcohol use can become a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation because they often exist together.
Regardless, experts know there is a connection. In fact, a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that adults — especially women — who gave up alcohol saw a boost in their overall mental well-being.
It makes sense: "Alcohol is a central nervous depressant and, by definition, a mood-altering substance,” says Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D., an Ohio licensed professional clinical counselor and Talkspace therapist.
Sober October can also help improve both your sleep and your emotional coping skills. That's because while drinking may help you doze off faster and sleep deeper initially, it interferes with your sleep cycle and deep REM sleep. When you can't get the restful sleep you need and wake up feeling tired, this can impact your overall mood and functioning, O'Neill explains.
Plus, many people use alcohol (and other substances) in order to ease social anxiety, which can actually hinder your natural ability to self-regulate difficult emotions, like anxiety and sadness, O'Neill explains. By taking a break from alcohol, it encourages you to find other ways to cope.
“Sober breaks are a great invitation to focus on other self-care skills," O'Neill says. For example, instead of having a glass of wine after a stressful workday, try taking a stress-relieving long walk outside instead, she suggests.
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