Many of the clients that I meet with for burnout express that they find it difficult to sleep. Many have shared they have used alcohol as a coping mechanism for their burnout to knock themselves out at night, in desperation.
Some of my clients have shared that they believe alcohol helps them to sleep. And while it might seem like they are able to fall asleep after a few drinks, many do not realize that the alcohol in their systems actually disrupts their natural sleep patterns. If natural brain wave patterns are disrupted during sleep, it prevents us from achieving any level of restorative sleep, the kind of sleep that people suffering from burnout are in most need of.
Drinking alcohol for the purpose of self-medicating, however, can further compound the problem and fails to address the real issues. Alcohol is a depressant in itself. When considering the 12-Stage Burnout Symptom Cycle, it is important to think about what adding yet another ‘depressant’ to the circumstances might do.
During counselling, I try to identify how alcohol is affecting a client’s condition by asking them to monitor their consumption. A red flag is raised when a client shares that they are drinking more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week. When this is the case, I encourage my clients to try to get as close to complete abstinence with their alcohol consumption as they can. The degree of success they achieve in this attempt will indicate if they have a bigger problem than they had realized, or not.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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