How To Not Let Stress Dictate Your Alcohol Consumption And What To Do When It Does

From day-to-day stressors like traffic jams and work deadlines to upsetting headline news, it's no wonder many people feel like they are immensely stressed. It seems like tension is at an all-time high no matter who you are. For many, the pressure of this time in our lives is enough of an excuse to turn to alcohol to self-medicate. However, experts recommend doing the opposite. Instead, try to seek out relief in healthy ways. Seeking out alcohol can seem like a solution that dulls the pain and takes the edge off in the short term, but it's actually possible that it's making your stress worse (via Self). 

It's easy to see how alcohol could be an easy stress fix. Not only is drinking a common activity for many once they are home after a long day but its use is also embedded into our work lives. Happy hours, client luncheons, and business dinners all seem to involve a stiff drink (via Drink Aware). This truth may be hard to swallow, but there are healthy alternatives to ending with a nightcap that can effectively help to ease the toll stress takes on our lives.

Alcohol actually makes stress worse

It is no secret that drinking to relieve stress isn't a favorable solution. Occasionally allowing alcohol to take the edge off is okay if your doctor approves, but continually turning to this type of self-medication is dangerous (via Self). Alcohol is a sedative that acts like antianxiety meds (via Healthline). However, long-term use of alcohol can cause physical ailments such as headaches, blackouts, and vomiting. When people begin turning to alcohol for relief, they often build up a tolerance, making their bodies feel like they need even more alcohol than in the past.

Alcohol throws the chemical processes of our brains into disorder. This affects our mental health by disrupting our feelings, actions, and emotions (via Drink Aware). Turning to the occasional drink isn't something that should cause alarm, but it is a slippery slope. The more we "need a drink" the more dependent we become on addictive substances. According to Healthline, serotonin levels in the brain can be altered by alcohol consumption, too. Although we don't have control over the circumstances causing our stress, if we have a healthy relationship with alcohol, we do have control over how we respond to stressful situations in our lives (via Psychology Today). Consider some different activities that will help you break the cycle of alcohol consumption.

What to do instead of drinking your stress away

One of the best ways to deal with stress is to work out. You'll get your serotonin levels up and take the edge off of the day. Your workout doesn't need to be high-impact for it to relieve you from upsetting headlines. Consider going for a walk, doing some yoga, or taking your bicycle on a trail (via Drink Aware). Not only is this a healthy substitution for placing your order at the bar, but it will also benefit your body in the long term. Once you make the decision to move your body, you'll be so glad you did.

Another alternative to deal with stress in a healthy way is to meditate. We know how good sitting in silence and breathing is for our brains and our bodies, but the world is so loud and busy that we rarely make time for it. Even five minutes of quiet breathing starts to benefit your brain (via Healthline). In addition, be honest with your intake of news (via Self). Put down the phone, turn off the news, and give yourself a break from the headlines.

Drinking in moderation is understood as consuming one drink or less a day. If you find that it is difficult to stop drinking, seek help. There are many resources locally or nationally that you can visit to gain control, and there are checkpoints you can utilize to determine if you are developing a dependence upon alcohol (via Self).

Right now, life is especially stressful, but seeking out alcohol is quite often detrimental to our physical and emotional well-being. If you find yourself over-stressed, turn off the TV, take a moment to breathe, call a friend, and get active. Your body and your mental health will thank you.