Stress awareness month in a global pandemic
Drinkaware discusses the pandemic, its potential toll on us all and how drinking to relax can make stress harder to deal with.
The global pandemic has loomed large in our lives for over a year now. It has touched our lives in so many ways and may be raising our stress levels without us even noticing. Even if some of the more serious issues have not directly affected you, they can still leave a mark.
Pandemic aside, stress can come in many forms. From the slight panic that you get when you are running late, to overwhelming feelings of being out of control or in over your head, which can sometimes feel all consuming.
There is no medical definition for stress, and it is a topic that is widely discussed with differing opinions on whether stress causes health issues or is a symptom of them. But what we do know is that if you are stressed, drinking alcohol to relax may feel like a short-term solution but it won’t help in the long run.
What you may not know is that alcohol, although culturally associated with celebration, is a chemical depressant. It disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals and processes in your brain, affecting your thoughts, feelings and actions– and sometimes your long-term mental health.
In fact over time, regularly drinking to deal with feelings of stress can interfere with what your brain needs for good mental health as well as disrupt your sleep, making stress harder to deal with.
With this in mind, after the year we have all had, if you have been feeling stressed or are currently suffering from bouts of stress, know that you are not alone. And there are a number of ways that you can reduce these feelings without reaching for a drink.
Here are some of our tips on how you can reduce stress and as you aim to make things feel more manageable while being alcohol free:
- Try doing some exercise. By changing your scenery and going for a brisk walk or help clear your head of the day's worries.
- Relaxation methods, such as meditation or yoga, breathing techniques or a warm bath can all be helpful when you feel worried or anxious.
- Do something that makes you happy, such as playing your favourite music or watching some comedy.
- Writing down your thoughts and feelings or talking to somebody you know about how you’re feeling is also a positive thing to do. Our alcohol support services page has useful links and phone numbers that you can use.
 Sari, Y. (2017). Commentary: Targeting NMDA receptor and serotonin transporter for the treatment of comorbid alcohol dependence and depression. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 41(2), 275.
 Anthenelli, R.M. (2012). Overview: stress and alcohol use disorders revisited. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 34(4), 386.