Alcohol, boundaries, and balance – A student take

Alcohol Balance

Author: Katherine Young, mindhamok wellness coach

In a recent podcast (Fresher’s this one’s for you), mindhamok’s student ambassadors, all second-year university students, offered insights on what they found most challenging during their first year, as well as how they managed and grew from the challenges they faced. One ambassador spoke to the difficulty making boundaries around alcohol, given that it “can impact so many different things at university” and be so important “for so many people.” In this post, we want to hold up her experience as a way for you to explore your own.

Our ambassador found drinking to be excessive at university and in her experience, a lot of socializing revolved around alcohol and drink. She explained the difficulty of saying no to drinking, particularly in your first year when you are trying to make friends and build relationships. She found the pressures around drinking communicated by comments like, “oh you’re boring, why aren’t you drinking tonight? Or C’mon, don’t be dull.” In a new environment, when you are trying to connect and find your social groups, this kind of pressure can provoke stress and anxiety.

Let’s turn the lens back to you now.

How have you and your friends experienced the culture around drinking at uni so far? And how would you describe how you are you handling it?

Let’s imagine for a moment that there is a spectrum of drinking habits. At one end of the spectrum are those who don’t drink at all and are clear in their choices. At the other end are those who rarely if ever say no to a drink, they consume regularly and a lot. Outside of the clarity of choosing no consumption, or the problematic excess in the second example, are those of you in between. Our ambassador fits into this category – sometimes she enjoys having a drink and sometimes she doesn’t feel like it.

Back to you again. Consider your responses to these questions.

To what degree do you yourself choose when you want to consume (versus drinking when you don’t really want to but going ahead because others are, or you feel pressure to)?

How clear does your relationship to your yeses and nos around alcohol feel? How comfortable are you with other people’s choices? Have you ever used or heard people use the “oh you’re boring…” line and how does that sit with you?

In the case of our ambassador, she “got to the point where I was going to so many different things to try and make friends and be as social as possible that I felt incredibly burnt out and I wasn’t doing things for myself anymore.” Her friends were instrumental in pointing this out to her and supportive as she made changes. Over time, she learned “to be a bit more selfish with my time, and to actually say, I don’t feel like doing that this evening, I don’t feel like drinking.” She reframed the choice she was making and began to consider what she herself felt like doing and what would make her happiest. This is a significant shift from doing what you think you need to do in order to make friends and be part of a group. Our ambassador felt like she had to make a change as she was emotionally drained by going out all the time and saying yes to every invitation. She sought balance. Nowadays when an invite comes along that doesn’t fit in, she says, “I’m not feeling up for it.” She does not offer an excuse, or indicate she is too busy, and importantly, aims to not feel guilty about bowing out and saying no. She sees such decisions as a choice between her happiness or pleasing other people for an evening. And while the fear of missing out arises at times, she is aware of this and “tries not to let it drive me too much.”

Ultimately, she has tapped into a deeper self-understanding and awareness – if I don’t want to do something, I’m not going to – which leads to increased agency and self-power. This is what we at Mindhamok want for each one of you.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or need more information. We here at mindhamok are with you on your journey, supporting you as you cultivate your own unique “hamok” of well-being and growth.

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