Alcohol and Stress: Does It Help Or Hinder?

We’ve all been there. An exceptionally awful day at work, a horrific breakup, or troubling family situations pop up out of nowhere, leaving you blindsided with how difficult it is to work through problems such as those. Sometimes the first thing you want to do to take your mind off your troubles it to have a nice, tall cold one. And for many situations, it does help. But can alcohol always be a reliever for stress, or is it all in our minds? Can using alcohol to ease the pain of a hurtful or stressful situation ever be a bad thing? Learn the answers to these questions and more below.

First off, what is stress- what does it mean? Generally, people use the term “stress” or “stressed out” to mean they’re overloaded emotionally or even physically and that coping with the pressures of whatever situation made us feel that way is going to be extremely difficult. Anything that can challenge or take away someone’s well-being is a stress. That’s not to say that all stress is a bad thing. Without some form of stress in our lives, we’d most likely be very bored. But when stress affects your mental, physical, or emotional well-being, it’s a form of stress that’s bad for you.

When bad-for-you stress comes along, like the examples above, can alcohol help reduce the stress or increase it? Surprisingly, studies show that alcohol might just prolong your stress and not relieve it as widely believed. The study’s corresponding author, Emma Childs, had this to say regarding alcohol and stress: “Alcohol can change the way that the body deals with stress: it can decrease the hormone cortisol, which the body releases to respond to stress, and it can prolong the feelings of tension produced by the stress. Stress can also change how alcohol makes a person feel: it can reduce the pleasant effects of alcohol or increase craving for more alcohol.”

Childs also added that altering the way our bodies respond to stress by drinking alcohol could increase the risk of developing stress-related diseases, including alcohol addiction. So what are some more effective ways to deal with stress? Exercise, for starters, is a great way to de-stress and keep yourself healthy. A short walk every day can keep your head clear and focused. Just don’t combine heavy exercise with drinking, and you should be fine.

It’s also important not to avoid the issue. Talk to a friend, colleague, or anyone you’re close to about what’s bothering you. It’ll make you confront the issue head on, feel better overall, and maybe come up with some viable solutions. If you do decide that the only thing to make your day better is to have a drink, have a glass of wine, for example, with dinner. It’s better to have a glass or two at a suitable time than to drink your night away without realizing.

For more information on alcohol and how it affects us, contact The Wilder Firm today.