Alcohol and Stress
Studies reveal that more and more people are drinking to cope with the stress of today’s on-the-go lifestyle. Stress can stem from various facets of life: relationships, work, finances, health, trauma, everyday etc. When we find ourselves stressed, we may feel overwhelmed, depressed, worried, anxious, annoyed or upset. No matter the reason for stress, all of these feelings can lead to an innate need to cope with what is going on.
Often times, we (or perhaps someone you know) will turn to a drink or two to unwind and “calm the nerves.” Having a drink here or there can be enjoyable and safe, but it is important to keep in mind that there is a fine line we walk with alcohol consumption. Over time, a daily drink can grow to two drinks, three drinks or even more. Long-term excessive drinking can interfere with neurotransmitters in our brains that are necessary for normal mental health. So alongside the hangover or headache, we may notice an inability to sleep through the night, irritability and sluggishness the next day. There can also be the need to drink more consistently.
The longer one’s coping with alcohol lasts, the more difficult it can become to develop healthy ways to deal with the stress. So, it’s critical to notice the feelings of stress early on to learn and develop healthy lifestyle habits that can serve as ways to process and handle the things that are going on.
Here are 5 steps and tricks to overcome and kick the blurred habit for you and those you love.
STEP 1: Determine the source of your stress.
To understand that you have stress, you must first acknowledge where the stressors lie. As soon as you feel stressed (overwhelmed, anxious, annoyed, etc.), STOP and THINK. What made you feel this way? Is it a person, place, event, etc.? Whatever it is, jot it down in a log or journal that you keep for 1-2 weeks. Once you have logged your stressors, you may have identified your trigger of excessive alcohol.
STEP 2: Define your priorities.
Staying focused on the things that matter most to you in life can ensure your eye stays on the prize (without possibly blurred vision). Take time to write down your personal beliefs and values, people that matter most to you and why, motivators to remain stress-free and healthy, benefits of choosing healthy lifestyle techniques to manage your stress, etc.
STEP 3: Avoid alcohol and other triggers.
Perhaps this is too obvious, but just like if your goal was to no longer eat fast food, you might avoid driving by your favorite fast-food place on your way home and have meals planned in advance as a substitute. Avoiding the bar, the alcohol aisle at the grocery market or the liquor store is critical to successfully removing alcohol from your normal regimen. Try subbing your drink with flavored water or juice.
STEP 4: Adopt healthy habits and hobbies.
When stress is high, having a hobby or activity to occupy your time can be the key to your success. Try being active! Physical activity produces endorphins that make you feel good. Cardiovascular exercise like walking, jogging, swimming, dancing or cycling are great ways to increase that happy hormone release that will keep you distracted from the day’s stress.
STEP 5: Create a positive social circle (non-alcoholic).
Keeping yourself in a positive mind-frame and having social support to maintain a stress-free life is a huge asset to finding new ways to manage your stress. Choose friends that enjoy similar healthy hobbies that you can share with one another. If you find certain people draining your energy or constantly adding to your stress, simply avoid the person if you can. If not, limit the amount of time you may be around the individual and build in time to recharge afterwards.
To learn more tips and tricks on how to limit your alcohol intake, check out my blog. If you or a loved one may be seeking treatment or support around alcoholism and/or alcohol related conditions contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services toll-free at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You may also find similar helpful resources at https://www.ncadd.org.
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC