Your social life can have a big effect on your health – both physical and mental. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like most things in life, being prepared, practicing moderation and ensuring you’re doing things safely means you can balance your health with an active social life. Here are some of the most common problems people experience from an over-active social life and how you can get them under control:
Alcohol and drug problems
Most health experts agree that drinking in moderation is fine. In the US, “moderation” is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “one drink per day for women and two for men.” Examples of a single drink are one 12-ounce beer with 5 percent alcohol content and one 5-ounce glass of wine with 12 percent alcohol content.
For drugs, on the other hand, the picture is far less clear. There are no official guidelines on which illicit drugs, if any, can be consumed safely in moderation, and if so, what level of consumption counts as “moderate.” However, several studies show that long-term use of many illicit drugs can lead to mental and physical health problems – and the same is true of excessive alcohol intake.
In the short term, consuming excess alcohol and drugs can impair functions such asjudgment and equilibrium – a dangerous cocktail that leads to a highnumber of accidents, including fatal car crashes.
How to fix it
Drink in moderation, try to avoid taking recreational drugs, and leave your car at home if possible. But if you find you’re struggling with alcohol or drug problems, contact the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or the National Institute on Drug Abuse –they will be able to discuss your options.
For many, a great night out wouldn’t be complete without a hook-up – health-wise, that only becomes a problem when sex is practiced unsafely. Possible results include unwanted pregnancy (rates are high but are falling) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which are at a record high.
How to fix it
Practice safe sex. If you are worried you may have contracted a disease, STD testing is available at health testing centers.
Lack of sleep
While the traditional wisdom of getting eight hours of sleep a night has been challenged in recent years, the fact remains that very few people can function well on less than fivehours’ sleep per night.
If you’re out late all weekend and a few nights during the week, it’s likely you’re building up a sleep deficit. That deficit can have serious long and short-term effects, such asincreased fatigue and increased risk of contracting certain illnesses and ailments long-term, including obesity, mood disorders, diabetes and heart disease.
In the short-term, fatigue from sleeplessness not only affects performance at work, it can also affect your reaction times while driving. That puts you at a greater risk of having a car accident – the CDC’s most recent figures estimate around 6,000 fatal crashes may be caused by drowsy drivers every year.
How to fix it
Figure out what time you need to be up the next day to meet all your usual obligations (like work). Work your social curfew back from that time and stick to it by setting an alarm. If you’re feeling drowsy, ditch your car and pick it up the next day or take a power nap. Better still, leave your car at home and get public transport or a taxi.
Going out multiple times per week can have a serious effect on your wallet. Once you’ve accounted for drinks, food, tips and transport, you may find little money left for rent, bills and groceries. That kind of financial strain can have a detrimental effect on your mental wellbeing.
How to fix it
Draw up a budget prioritizing housing costs (like rent or mortgage payments), groceries, bills (like phone and utilities), work-related expenses (like public transport tickets or car costs), and debts (such ascredit cards).
There should be enough left to ensure you’re saving at least a little for a rainy day. Whatever is remaining is your disposable income – this should cover all remaining spending, including going out.
So figure out what percentage of that money you can put towards going out with friends each month and make sure you don’t exceed that figure. Keep track of your spending – there are a number of phone apps available that can help with budgeting.