Drinking And Stress: A Dangerous Combination
Do you have a glass of wine to unwind in the evening after work? Do you reach for a cocktail after a stressful situation? Do you start to look forward to your evening drink earlier in the day when you’re feeling stressed? If you can say yes to any of these questions you are probably using alcohol to cope with stress. Drinking can make you feel momentarily looser, calmer and more relaxed, which is why many people use it to unwind. Doing so is a dangerous habit, though. You can make your stress worse by drinking and even risk becoming dependent on it.
Alcohol As Stress Relief
Many people turn to drinking to relax and ease the everyday stresses of modern life. Most of us are busier than ever. We have demanding jobs, and in a rough economy, holding onto those jobs becomes crucial. We often sleep poorly and get too little exercise. Our diets are not always the best. On top of all this you may have other stresses in your life: troubled relationships, financial problems, trauma, a death in the family, etc.
Why wouldn’t you want to drink to feel better? Hanging out with friends at the bar and having a few cocktails or beers are fun activities. It’s no wonder many of us engage in drinking to diffuse stress. In the short term it can make you feel better, especially when you add in the socializing time with friends. In the long term, however, drinking can send your stress levels spiraling upward.
The Stress-Drinking Cycle
Researchers have shown that stress and drinking effect each other and result in a cycle of interaction that leads to worsening stress. One study found that alcohol changes how the body copes with stress. Drinking can actually reduce the stress hormones your body produces in difficult situations, but it also prolongs the tension that you feel associated with stress.
On the flipside, stress changes the way alcohol impacts your mood. When you are stressed and you drink you will crave more alcohol. You will also find that the positive feelings you normally get from alcohol are reduced. This interaction between stress and alcohol that goes on inside your body means that drinking actually worsens your stress. As your stress gets more intense, you may drink more and the cycle continues. Drinking will never cure you of chronic stress.
If you continue to use alcohol as a means of relaxation and stress relief you run the risk of falling into the stress-alcohol cycle. And if you land in that cycle you could end up becoming dependent on alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease and it takes a serious toll on both the mind and the body. Becoming an alcoholic means more stress in addition to physical health problems.
Healthy Stress Relief
One of the ways in which friends can be good for your mental health is when you interact in a social group. Having good social support can make you more resilient in the face of stress. Hanging out with friends and family, talking, laughing and having a good time helps to relieve stress that you already have. If you can keep the social engagements, but take out the alcohol, or at least reduce it significantly, you will have a powerful prescription for managing your stress. Add to your social interactions a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, downtime engaging in fun activities and you have a healthy stress relief plan and no need for that next drink.
Do You Find Yourself Drinking More And More To Relieve Stress? Call Us Now For Help!