Most of us drink alcohol to be sociable or/& to relieve stress.
Stress gives us muscle tension & headaches, jaw clenching & teeth grinding, irritability, impatience & negative thinking. It makes us feel tired, like we have low energy. We may feel unable to relax.
Stress may cause indigestion, acid reflux, or nausea. When we are stressed, we may find ourselves sighing a lot or breathing shallowly.
Stress can present with sleep problems, distractibility, & inability to focus. It’s difficult to concentrate when we are stressed. Stress makes us feel scattered. Some of us may notice changes in our eating habits – too much, i.e. binge eating, or too little, a loss of appetite.
In addition, high levels of stress may reduce our brain’s normal response to alcohol, specifically the dopamine response in the brain’s reward center.
Here’s the rub. Drinking alcohol makes all of these signs & symptoms of stress WORSE.
First alcohol lowers your inhibitions. Drinking alcohol acutely produces drowsiness, slurred speech, distorted vision and unclear thinking. Later it causes vomiting, upset stomach, & headaches.
More frequent alcohol use leads to trouble concentrating, loss of critical judgement, dulled perceptions, & mood swings.
In the long run, alcohol has a serious impact on our mental health & can contribute to feelings of depression & anxiety.
Alcohol changes the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in our brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Anxiety induced by alcohol use can last for several hours, or for a day, after drinking.
Drinking alcohol makes it HARDER for us to deal with stress. This is the paradox. We drink to relieve stress, but the drinking makes our symptoms worse.
Confession: I’ve been there before – stressed at work, stressed with three kids, marriage out of kilter, & drinking too much. Drinking didn’t help, and it just made everything worse, and me feel worse. When I began to identify the issues that were causing my stress, and to do the work necessary to modify those, then I began to feel better. When I felt better, I found myself drinking less. Drinking less made my symptoms improve, in a noticeable way.
Please think about this when you pour up that glass of wine to settle your nerves, to unwind, or to try to relax. Sometimes, wine is just not worth it.