Alcohol and stress
Learn why alcohol and stress are related and how they can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression, making stress harder to deal with.
Do you instinctively reach for a beer or glass of wine after a stressful day? Turning to alcohol when stressed can seem like an easy way to relax, but it won’t help in the long run. If you're regularly drinking more than the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines, of 14 units a week for men and women, you could actually end up increasing your stress levels.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means when drinking due to stress, or at any time, 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. "People who drink heavily are more likely to suffer from mental health problems."
Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Lancaster, says that getting drunk is basically a problem solving 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.
Drinking alcohol to relieve stress doesn’t work in the long term. There are far more effective ways to deal with stressful situations and feelings of anxiety, than drinking.
Exercise is a great way to de-stress: even a brisk walk can help clear your head of the day's worries. A relaxing hot bath or some gentle stretches will relieve tension from your body. If you do decide to have a drink, stick to dinner-only drinking with 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.