In the midst of a stressful situation, no matter whether positive or negative, reaching for alcohol, as a stress-reducing outlet is very common.
Consuming alcohol is viewed as an instant coping strategy, through feelings and responses linked to stress. However, through stress-related drinking, short-term benefits will only be encountered.
Recognised as a depressant, alcohol offers short-term relief through relaxing the central nervous system. Relaxation is of course strived for through high-stress situations, helping individuals calm down, think logically and digest stressors.
However, depressants also cause long-term problems with processing emotions, with truly working through stress, with aggravating mental health and with increasing addiction possibilities.
Tipping the internal scale, causing an imbalance of chemical responses, stress-related drinking is therefore illogical, not only increasing the intensity of primary symptoms, but also the risk of dual diagnosis.
As stress can be a cause for addiction, mental health vulnerabilities and many health concerns, knowing how to deal with it positively, without the presence of alcohol will be encouraged.
Here are 5 steps to reducing stress-related drinking if you’re misusing such an outlet. At Cassiobury Court, we can help you put these steps into action with practical, specialist support.
The relationship between stress and alcohol
You may find that reaching for alcohol, after a stressful working week or a pressurised commitment may resonate with you. Alcohol may be your personal way to relax, reduce anxiety and suppress the results of stress.
Please be reassured that it’s normal and understandable to see alcohol as a relaxation or stress management technique, as it’s a depressant. You’ll more than likely encounter short-term benefits from alcohol exposure, helping you unwind and forget the cause and symptoms of stress.
However, there is a complex, long-term relationship between stress and alcohol which you’ll want to avoid, down to its place as a depressant.
Alcohol impacts the central nervous system, by disrupting its organic processes, by wavering natural chemicals, and by distorting emotional responses and outlooks.
Through using alcohol as a regular stress reliever, those impacts can be ongoing, in fact, found to aggravate primary symptoms, increase risks of chronic stress, and also impact the likelihood of dual diagnosis.
A dual diagnosis is where mental health issues, alongside substance use disorders fuel and intensify one another. By already encountering stress, a feeling placed within the spectrum of mental health vulnerabilities, by relying on alcohol, risks of addiction and further conditions are rife.
Stress-related drinking can therefore be damaging, even if it offers support within the moment of stressful situations or responses. Here are 5 steps to reducing stress-related drinking, to help you digest your symptoms of stress easier, while also detaching from alcohol as a coping strategy.
5 steps to reducing stress-related drinking
As alcohol can in fact aggravate your stress, resulting in the rebound effect, finding alternative ways to work through stress without drinking will be wise. This is the best way to secure your mental health, reduce risks of addiction, and also disable the consequences of stress-related drinking.
1. Find a healthy coping strategy
The first of our 5 steps to reducing stress-related drinking is to try and find a healthy coping strategy. We understand that this may be easier said than done and may take some trial and error. Yet this is the best way to personally deter the relationship between stress and alcohol.
Exercise, mindfulness, connecting with loved ones, being at one with nature, meditation and self-care are some common stress-relieving coping strategies. It’s important to find what works for you, to reduce stress-related drinking as a primary supporter.
Again, it may take some time, but you’ll soon be able to find an outlet, inducing happy chemicals, similarly, to drinking, yet without negative reinforcers.
2. Work through stress management techniques
Stress is a normal response to life. With this in mind, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be exposed to stress throughout your life, either through positive or negative encounters.
However, with the capability to reduce the impact of stress in the first place, you’ll then require less focus on managing your symptoms. There are a wealth of stress management techniques out there, which can help you process stress easier, from deep breathing exercises to control your response to stressors.
Reducing the need for stress-related drinking, or any coping strategy will then be the case. Yet, as we’ve shared above, as stress can sometimes be engulfing, developing personal ways of coping through stress will be wise, as a backup plan.
3. Look at your lifestyle choices
Your lifestyle may be increasing your risks of stress and of stress-related drinking. While you can work to reduce both through strategies, it’s vital to also consider how your choices can reverse your efforts.
The environments that you’re exposed to, your nutrition, your activity levels, your sleep quality, your work-life balance, your relationship with yourself, your mental health and your relationships with others can all trigger stressful situations.
All can also increase the need to partake in stress-related drinking, unknowingly fuelling your need to escape. By looking internally and working backwards, you’ll be able to reduce exposure to stress, while also strengthening yourself to combat such symptoms, without alcohol.
4. Relax through positive means
Another of our 5 steps to reducing stress-related drinking focuses on relaxation techniques. As a nation, we are pretty bad at relaxing and unwinding. However, we cannot use this as an excuse. There are positive means of relaxing, which you can tap into, without relying on alcohol.
Yoga, meditating, aromatherapy, deep breathing, music therapy, journaling, connecting with positive people and movement are all outlets of relaxation, without the presence of alcohol.
Armed with such techniques, if your stress levels are high, you can avoid stress-related drinking, working through and suppressing the weight of your symptoms.
5. Set boundaries with drinking
Setting boundaries with drinking will benefit you comprehensively. Not only will your wellbeing and mental health be better off, but you’ll be less likely to feel stressed, and more prepared in the event of symptoms.
It’s extremely healthy to have personal boundaries when considering alcohol consumption, as such boundaries can protect you from seeing alcohol as a coping strategy, rather than a ‘nice to have’ treat. Boundaries will also help you reduce the risk of addiction, as you’ll be aware of your personal tolerance for drinking alcohol.
Overcoming stress related drinking
We hope that our 5 steps to reducing stress-related drinking, all noted above, will assist you throughout your encounters of stress. Yet it’s understandable that you may already be struggling with your response to stress, where alcohol use problems may be present.
In the event that you’re already misusing alcohol as a stress reliever, at Cassiobury Court, we’re here for you. Equipped to help you understand and manage stress, mental health concerns and drinking problems, we can confidentially assist with your recovery process.
Find a healthy balance through stress management and relaxation techniques, to deter stress-related drinking as an ongoing response. You’ll witness physical and psychological benefits by doing so.