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Finding a balance: Navigating student life and the drinking culture

Date

Written by
Orla Walsh

Student life is an exciting new journey full of new experiences and friendships. It's a time of self-discovery, and in some cultures, it may also be the start of an introduction to the drinking culture for the first time. Alcohol can bring about feelings of relaxation, confidence, and happiness. However, it’s important to tread carefully when it comes to alcohol and be aware of the potential side effects.

A young person sitting solemnly on a wooden bench

Let’s explore the positive effects of alcohol:

While alcohol can have negative effects, it is important to recognise that it can also be enjoyed in moderation. For many, moderate alcohol consumption can provide moments of relaxation, social bonding, and a temporary lift in mood.  The key is to recognise when these positive effects may become a more serious issue.

What are the negative health effects?

• Lack of sleep: Excessive drinking can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and decreased overall well-being. If you would like to learn more about how alcohol can disrupt your sleep, visit our Sleep Hygiene course on the UoL Wellbeing Hub

• Anxiety and depression: While alcohol may offer temporary relief, it can also exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression in the long run. If you are struggling, as an online, distance and flexible learner you can access, TalkCampus, our 24/7 free mental health support app to connect with a caring student or volunteer for support.

• Overall health impact: From liver damage to reduced immune function, chronic alcohol consumption can take a toll on your body's health. Find out more about the health risk on the NHS and TalktoFrank.  

How to spot when drinking becomes a problem: 

In the tapestry of student life, it’s important to notice indicators that your relationship with alcohol may need to be examined more closely. Here are some signals to be aware of: 

  • Increased tolerance: If you require more drinks to feel the effects, this might indicate that your alcohol usage is increasing.
  • Constant preoccupation: Do thoughts of drinking consume your mind? It's worth thinking about if you're having trouble enjoying activities without alcohol. 
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: If you find yourself falling behind on academic or personal commitments as a result of alcohol consumption. 
  • Using alcohol as a coping mechanism: Using alcohol to cope with stress or unpleasant emotions may suggest a dependency that needs to be addressed.
  • Social isolation: If alcohol is causing you to withdraw from social activities or strain relationships, consider it a signal to pause and reassess.
  • Frequent blackouts: If you find yourself experiencing memory lapses or blackouts related to drinking this can be a source of concern and should not be taken lightly.

Being aware of these signs is a positive step towards a healthier and more balanced student experience. If you resonate with any of these warning signals or have concerns about your drinking habits, reaching out for support from friends, family or a professional organisations can help. Alcoholics Anonymous is a leading organisation that can help provide support and it is available worldwide.  Remember, acknowledging the signs is a strength, and taking action is a positive and empowering choice.

Tips for cutting down on alcohol:

• Set limits and goals: Establish clear limits for yourself regarding the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption and set achievable goals to gradually reduce your intake over time.

• Alternate with water: Hydration is key; alternate alcoholic beverages with water to slow down your drinking pace and stay hydrated.

• Mindful drinking: Be aware of the reasons behind your drinking. Why not ask yourself, are you doing it out of habit, peer pressure, or genuine enjoyment?

• Explore alcohol-free options: Many social settings offer non-alcoholic alternatives, try to experiment with mocktails and other alcohol-free beverages.

Tips for enjoying yourself sober:

• Discover alternative social activities: Engage in events and activities that don't revolve around alcohol. Join clubs, attend workshops, or explore outdoor activities.

• Build a supportive social circle: Surround yourself with friends who respect your choices and embrace a variety of social activities.

• Focus on the experience: Whether it's a concert, a dinner, or you’re watching the football, shift your focus from what's in your glass to the experience itself.

• Embrace self-care: Prioritise your mental and physical well-being. Exercise, meditation, and adequate sleep contribute to a more fulfilling and balanced life.

In the dynamic world of student life, finding a balance with alcohol is a personal and ongoing journey. By being mindful of the potential risks, setting boundaries, and exploring the richness of sober experiences, you can create a university experience that is not only memorable but also beneficial to your long-term health and wellbeing.