Is It Ok To Drink When You’re Stressed?

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When you’re stressed out, is the first thing that comes to your mind, “I need a drink.”?

Don’t worry, that doesn’t automatically qualify you as an alcoholic. In fact, a lot of people turn to liquor and alcohol to cope with stress. But while you might think drinking is “taking the edge off,” the reality is it’s likely doing the exact opposite.

So is it ok to drink when you’re stressed?

The short answer is no.

But let’s dive into why drinking and stress don’t mix.

Here are seven reasons why it’s not ok to rely on alcohol when you’re stressed out, and some healthy alternatives you can use to cope with stress instead.

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1. Drinking Alcohol Can Increase Stress

Drinking a little bit of red wine occasionally does help some people relieve a little stress. However, there have been plenty of recorded cases when alcohol has actually made people more stressed out.

Alcohol alters your judgement, usually in a bad way.

If you can’t handle stress sober, just imagine what adding alcohol will do. Just think of the last time you drank too much. Did you calmly fall asleep or act totally out of character?

The next morning is usually filled with regret, a horrible hangover and you feel much worse than you did the day before. Does that sound like stress relief to you?

2. You’ll Build a Tolerance

Just like prescription medication, drugs or any other substance, eventually, your body builds up a tolerance to alcohol you need more of it to feel the effects.

Sure, alcohol might reduce the body’s physiological stress responses, but it just means that the next time you turn to the drink, you are going to need more to get the release you’re seeking.

Now instead of vomiting after a couple drinks, you need four or five just to start to feel buzzed.

You also have to remember that alcoholic beverages aren’t metabolized like other foods and drinks. In fact, they require more energy to metabolize and when the body utilizes a large amount of energy to metabolize that alcohol, it is only going to stress you out even more.

Even if you feel more relaxed, when it is all said and done, you are going to end up more stressed out.

3. Alcohol is Addictive

Do you like coming home at the end of the day and drinking a glass or two of wine to unwind? Does it make you feel more relaxed and melt the stress away? Sure, it probably does, but that could be the very problem.

You might do it and enjoy it too much, which could eventually lead you to become dependent on it. In fact, if you drink long enough, you might not even be able to come home and relax without having a drink or two.

When you combine this with the tolerance that you are building up, you are truly looking at one explosive situation that could erupt at the drop of a hat.

According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 15 million adults have alcohol use disorder. Avoid using alcohol to cope with stress if you don’t want to be part of that statistic.

4. Drinking Changes Your Behavior

Have you ever been around someone who changes when they drink? Well, it is due to the fact alcohol has adverse reactions on the brain and body. It blocks receptors and makes people act differently than they normally would.

For instance, you might be a totally relaxed and carefree person. But get a few drinks in you and you completely turn violent. This can be a scary situation. When you factor in the stress level, it just makes the rage and intensity even worse.

5. Stress Might Make You Drink More

There is nothing worse than consuming too much alcohol. You will probably not only remember nothing from the night before, but you will wake up with a huge hangover that only intensifies the stress and makes you feel worse than you already did.

]Recent studies and research have shown that stress can actually change the effect that alcohol has on the body. This is why stress and alcohol often times go hand in hand.

As mentioned before, alcohol isn’t exactly metabolized like regular food and drink. The body has to consume much more energy burning alcohol. Well, it has been scientifically proven that stress diminishes the energy boost as well.

What this basically means is, the relaxing and sedative effect that you get from alcohol diminishes when you’re stressed out. When you are stressed and consume alcohol to relieve that stress, you will literally have to drink more to get that relaxing and sedative effect that you are seeking.

When you throw in tolerance and dependency issues, this just makes the whole situation more threatening.

6. Excessive Drinking Damages Your Liver

The liver is one of the most important organs in your body. In fact, its main purpose is to help your body metabolize everything that you eat and drink. Since alcohol is so much harder to metabolize, the liver has to put in twice as much work to transform it.

This not only makes it wear out faster, but it opens it up to various diseases and other conditions. You only get one liver and you don’t want to destroy it by consuming too many alcoholic beverages.

7. You’ll Make Bad Decisions

Have you ever wondered why so many individuals end up in drunken disputes or drunk driving accidents? Well, it’s because alcohol impairs your mind and makes you brave enough to do things that you normally wouldn’t do.

You could easily be talked into doing something that you might otherwise find offensive or adverse. When you are drinking to relieve stress you might not think twice about getting drunk and stepping behind the wheel.

The stress will only make the situation even that much worse, so you are truly looking at one volatile situation when you combine both of these negative factors.

Alternatives to Drinking to Relieve Stress

Sure, stress is hard and it is even harder to deal with in a variety of different situations. This is why you have to find a healthy way to deal with the situation. Thankfully, there are tons of different healthy activities and practices that you can partake in to help relieve your stress.

Here are some alternatives to drinking to relieve stress:

Confront the Issue Head On

Most people get stressed out by an issue and just put it off. A late bill or divorce papers are perfect examples. Sure, shoving them to the side and forgetting about them might seem easier, but it doesn’t make them go away does it?

No, it only makes the situation come back worse.

This is why it imperative to learn to confront the issue head-on as soon as it arrives at your doorstep. This will not only lessen the overall stress in your life, but it will increase your problem-solving skills.

Turn To Peaceful Meditation Or Yoga

Meditation and yoga are two of the most popular stress relievers out there.

In fact, scientific studies have proven that practicing meditation and yoga not only clears the mind, but it can have a variety of other positive effects on the body. It’s one of the reasons pregnancy yoga has become so popular!

When the mind is clear the stress will simply melt away and everything else will just seem mundane.

Learn To Talk To Someone

It doesn’t matter what type of stressful situation you are in. There is a good chance that you know someone that has already been there, done that. Right now, you might think that there is no one that knows what you are going through, but that simply just isn’t true.

In fact, your parents or grandparents are a wealth of knowledge and might be able to provide you with the knowledge that you need to overcome certain adverse situations.

You can also reach out to a friend that’s willing to listen. Just don’t hold it in and try to handle all your stressors alone.

Walk Away And Clear Your Mind

The more you sit and stew in a negative situation, the more negative it becomes. You probably just sit there and think about the negative and how it is going to negatively impact your life. Dwelling on stressful events in your life doesn’t help anything.

This is why you need to learn to walk away from the situation, clear your head, and approach it from a different thought perspective. Go sit somewhere quiet where you can just relax and be left with your thoughts.

When you’re clear-headed, you’d be surprised how much easier it becomes to solve certain situations.

Additional Resources

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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