If you’ve ever reached for a beer or a glass of wine after a long and stressful day, you aren’t the only one; however, this doesn’t make the habit any safer. Using alcohol to manage stress is a negative coping mechanism that many, unfortunately, turn to. You can even say it’s been normalized through television shows, movies, and most social settings. As a rehab in Boca Raton, something we see all too often is stress drinking escalating to alcohol dependence. While drinking to relax isn’t a crime, it can have a horrible impact on your physical and mental health. If you’ve caught yourself becoming more reliant on drinking to relax, we’re sharing some tips on how to stop stress drinking that can help.
Stress is defined as anything that challenges the body to function in its usual way or makes it difficult to function in its usual way. Stress can be both physical and emotional. Physical factors like injury, illness, and exposure to extreme temperatures can all cause stress. Emotionally, a person may feel stressed as a result of depression, fear, and grief. Homeostasis is the body’s need to achieve and maintain a state of equilibrium. Our bodies utilize this function to manage stress. When you experience or perceive stress, your body goes into a self-regulating process in which a variety of functions are implemented to ensure “survival.”
So, why do people drink when they’re stressed? The endocrine system is mainly responsible for stress regulation, which includes the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland. This system is responsible for producing a fight-or-flight response when we’re in stressful situations. Drinking alcohol for stress relief can affect this system by shifting the hormonal balance and changing the way the body perceives and responds to stress. Specifically, alcohol increases cortisol levels, resetting the body.
Cortisol is the main reason why stress and alcohol dependence are linked. Cortisol interacts with the brain’s reward systems, reinforcing drinking behaviors. As time goes on, heavy drinkers have to increase the amount of alcohol they drink to achieve the same effect. Cortisol is also addictive, promoting habit-based learning and increasing your risk of alcoholism. Moreover, alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant when consumed in large amounts, producing relaxation, sedation, and euphoria, a feeling otherwise referred to as a “buzz.” This buzz is what many people wish to achieve when drinking to relax, which can also contribute to a dangerous drinking habit. Those who become dependent on alcohol often struggle to quit on their own and require the expertise of programs like our Florida alcohol rehab programs to get sober.
If you’ve become reliant on drinking alcohol to relax or even struggle with alcoholism, it can be difficult to stop drinking and retract your steps. Below are some simple and realistic ways to stop stress drinking.
Many people who drink to alleviate stress may immediately text their friends or coworkers about happy hour or find a glass of wine or beer the moment they feel stressed. This can become such an ingrained habit that you may find yourself reaching for your phone or that drink whenever you’re having a rough day. Instead, what you can do is go for a walk. While this may seem like a basic tip from most self-help books, there’s no denying the benefits of going out for a walk whenever you feel stressed. A great way to reduce stress and prevent yourself from reaching for a drink is to separate yourself from the situation and give yourself space to relax on your own. You can then reapproach the situation in a new headspace.
Spending time with animals is also a common form of therapy for people who struggle with their mental health. We’ve seen the benefits of animal therapy at Banyan Boca, so much so that we even offer equine-assisted therapy to our patients. If you don’t have a pet, but you have the time and means to care for one, adopt or buy one. Caring for them will become a responsibility that will keep you accountable. If you already have a pet, spend more time with them. Pets are known to decrease cortisol levels, which can help you relax and wind down without alcohol. Additionally, having an animal friend you’re committed to can motivate you to come home after work and avoid long nights of drinking.
Another great way to avoid stress drinking is by reading or watching TV to relax instead. Distracting yourself with a movie or a book is an effective way to keep your mind engaged and active. Although watching TV is more passive, it can also help you unwind and dive into a plot without having to think, which are definitely bonuses if you’ve had a long day at work. These activities are safe escapes from reality.
It’s important for people who are recovering from addiction or cutting out drugs and alcohol to replace their old habits with new ones. If you were one to go out for drinks after work, then you should replace your boozy post-work plans with some form of physical activity. Exercise is a natural mood booster that reduces the stress hormones in your body, such as cortisol and adrenaline, while also producing endorphins. Even brief amounts of physical activity can have a huge positive impact on your stress and overall mental health. We aren’t saying you have to become a bodybuilder, but even going out for a daily walk, taking up yoga, or following an exercise regimen can help.
It’s normal for sober people to be hesitant about making plans with friends or family. They may be fearful of how they’ll react in certain places where alcohol may be present, or they may not want to confront their sobriety in front of others. However, just because you’ve cut alcohol out of your plans doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time at a sober happy hour, especially when you’re surrounded by the right people. Instead of having a drink when you feel stressed, spend time with loved ones.
A common contributing factor to both addiction and relapse is isolation, which can result from feeling disconnected from loved ones. In turn, this can be stressful, causing you to turn to drink and creating a vicious cycle that’ll keep going around until it’s stopped. A more impactful way to manage your stress is to spend time with the people you care about and the people who will encourage your sobriety.
Whether it’s stress, grief, or simply to feel good, anyone can become dependent or addicted to alcohol. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, which is why it’s important to evaluate your behavior if you find yourself turning to the bottle more often than not. If you believe that you have a drinking problem, we can help. Call Banyan Treatment Centers Boca today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment and other substance abuse services.