The Stress Management Society

Do you instinctively reach for the bottle after a stressful day?

Earlier on in the year we sent out a lifestyle survey to our database. Results show that 12.1% of people drink alcohol as a way to combat stress.

The other choices for this particular question in the survey were: exercising, meditating, eating unhealthy, smoking and engaging in a hobby. So why do so many people turn to alcohol when stressed?

The most common assumption is that alcohol is a depressant and so people drink to unwind, relax and slow down. This is only partly true however; alcohol actually produces biphasic effects of both stimulation and sedation.

So what happens once you drink that glass of red wine after a long day?

The first phase is to feel stimulated, excited, and euphoric. This is where people will get a buzz after their first drink. However, the liver can only break down a certain amount of alcohol per hour, which for an average person is around one standard drink. When blood alcohol consumption exceeds this limit (0.05%), any positive effect diminishes. The next phase consists of depressant effects, such as slowed down body processes and depressed feelings. Though alcohol acts like a depressant in our minds and bodies, alcohol in its chemical form is the complete opposite. The brain relies on a balance of chemicals and processes, and once this gets affected by alcohol – our thoughts, feelings and actions are disrupted making us feel down and negative.

Therefore, reaching for a drink won’t always have the effect you’re after. In addition to that, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health.

Did you know?

Anxiety and depression are more common in heavy drinkers – heavy drinking is more common in those with anxiety and depression

So why cut down?

  • Deeper sleep
  • Brighter mood
  • More energy
  • Better concentration
  • Better skin
  • Slimmer waistline
  • A happier stomach
  • More time and money
  • Better long-term health

Top Tips to Reduce your Alcohol Intake:

  • Make it a small – swap your large glasses for smaller ones when you’re out and when at home aim to only have one glass with your dinner
  • Make changes – change the places you go to socialise in; why not swap the pub for a juice bar?
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water during the day and in between any alcoholic drinks
  • Take breaks – plan to have alcohol free days during the week
  • Treat yourself differently – if you have a drink to celebrate, find something else to treat yourself with that will positively impact your wellbeing
  • If you find yourself reaching for a drink when stressed – try going for a walk, taking some deep breaths or practicing mindfulness
  • If in a social settings opt for none alcoholic beverages that look like alcoholic equivalents to prevent peer pressure – sparkling water in a tall glass to look like a Gin and Tonic, or have a non-alcoholic beer in a pint glass!

Need advice to help your personal journey from distress to de-stress?

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