Alcohol: a cure for stress?
If you regularly turn to alcohol to help you cope with a hard day, it could be doing you far more harm than good.
Do you instinctively reach for the bottle after a stressful day? While alcohol can seem to make you more relaxed, if you're regularly drinking more than the government's daily unit guidelines, you could end up exacerbating stress.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the brain and the central nervous system's processes.
Eva Cyhlarova from The Mental Health Foundation says: "Over time, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health. So while alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feeling of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with.
Don't avoid the issue
Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Lancaster, says that getting drunk is basically an avoidance strategy. "You're not properly confronting the issues that make you feel stressed in the first place," he says.
"The best way to deal with stress is to choose a trusted friend or colleague and tell them what's worrying you. Then, together you can come up with some solutions. That's often all people need to start feeling better."
Tips to help you relax
Whatever stress you're facing, there are more effective ways to cope with it than drinking too much alcohol:
- Exercise is a great way to de-stress: even a brisk walk can help clear your head of the day's worries.
- A hot bath or some gentle stretches will relieve tension from your body.
- If you do decide to have a drink, wait and have a small glass of something with your meal rather than as soon as you get through the door. Saving any alcohol you decide to have until later means you're not giving yourself the entire evening to drink.
Are you drinking too much?
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Page updated: June 2013
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