Steps to Reduce Stress-Related Drinking

Steps to Reduce Stress-Related Drinking

Stress-related drinking isn’t a new issue.  But, in the past year, the number of people using alcohol has shown a significant increase.

In today’s uncertain times, it seems more people have turned to alcohol as a way to relieve stress.  Yet, rather than solve their problems, alcohol makes them worse in most cases.  This misguided attempt to avoid stress can lead to alcohol dependence or alcoholism.  So, their problems may continue to worsen.  

As Americans struggle to find a sense of normalcy during the pandemic, alcohol use is often used as a coping tool.  A recent KFF survey of 1,000 participants shows these surprising results:

  • 55% of participants increased their alcohol use.
  • 37% increased marijuana use.
  • 36% admitted to increasing illicit drug use.
  • 15% admitted to increasing their opioid use.
  • 11% had increased their use of benzodiazepines such as Xanax.
  • 10% had upped their stimulant use, such as Adderall.

So, according to the survey, alcohol use is at the top of the list when it comes to substance abuse during stressful times.

Why Do People Use Alcohol to Relieve Stress?

Alcohol acts as a sedative and depressant.  It works on the central nervous system and helps a person feel relaxed.  It’s not uncommon for some people to use alcohol to unwind from a stressful day at work.  A stiff martini or a glass or two of wine are popular choices.  For the individuals who can control their drinking, this isn’t a terrible solution.  But, many individuals begin to rely on alcohol for happiness or pleasure.  This behavior has negative impacts on their lives in multiple ways.

In the same survey mentioned above, researchers asked participants why they increased their substance use.  About 53% said they used alcohol to deal with stress related to the pandemic.  More than 39% said the lockdowns were boring.  And, 32% were coping with mental health symptoms besides the stress and boredom.

Why Should We Worry About Stress-Related Drinking?

Stress-related drinking doesn’t help a person deal with their problems in a productive manner.  All it does is help them avoid facing and addressing the issues.  When the effects of the alcohol wear off, the problems are still there, unsolved, and possibly getting worse.

If you or someone you love is drinking more these days, there are many reasons to worry. Prolonged or heavy drinking can cause a range of short and long-term side effects.  Some of the side effects can be permanent and life-threatening.  

Things You Should Know About the Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The physical consequences of alcohol abuse can range from mild to severe, depending on the person and the extent of their alcohol use.  A person’s physical and emotional health suffers equally.  With this complication in mind, professional alcohol treatment programs such as Design for Change Recovery include a multi-modality approach that addresses both aspects of the addiction.  

The side effects of alcohol abuse will help you understand why you should worry about stress-related drinking:

Short-term effects of alcohol abuse:

  • Distorted vision
  • Impaired judgment
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor coordination
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Weight changes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blackouts, unconsciousness
  • Coma

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse:

  • Aggression, violence
  • Injuries from falls or other accidents
  • Automobile accidents
  • Family dysfunction
  • Broken relationships
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Memory problems, cognitive decline
  • Job loss, financial ruin
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Kidney or liver damage or disease
  • Throat and mouth cancer
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure, heart problems, stroke

You can avoid these side effects by finding healthier remedies for stress reduction.

Tips for Reducing Stress Without Alcohol

We’re living in challenging times today, and everyone finds solace in different ways.  Some individuals find new hobbies or activities to take their minds off the stressful issues.  But, others aren’t quite as creative.  Instead, they take the easy route and rely on addictive substances to ease their troubled minds.

Everyone is struggling with pent-up emotions due to the virus pandemic.  Fear of the unknown can take a toll even on the strongest person.  That’s why it’s important to keep your mind and body in good condition so you can better withstand any difficulties that arise.

If you’re looking for healthy ways to reduce stress, these suggestions may prove helpful.  

  1. Engage with friends or family on social media.  Many of our social venues are closed so, social media can help you keep in touch with others.  But, be careful, too much of this activity can become problematic for some people.
  2. Get outside.  A change of environment can do wonders for your troubled soul.  Fresh air and sunshine help you clear your mind and spirit.  Simply sit on the porch, take up gardening, plant flowers, mow the yard, go for a walk, have a picnic.  All these are great ways to unwind and get exercise at the same time.
  3. Try yoga or meditation.  Both of these mindful practices help you relax and find inner harmony. 
  4. Use aromatherapy.  Aromatherapy is a proven method for relaxation and stress relief.  Some of the essential oils, such as lavender, can also help you sleep well.
  5. Listen to music.  The power of music to affect our mood is undeniable.  Soothing music helps you relax and let go of anxiety or anger.  But, if you’re more adventurous, play some rock music and dance your cares away!  It’s good exercise, lots of fun, and will lift your mood as well.

Of course, you’ll find even more suggestions for reducing stress online.  The key is to choose the ones that you feel comfortable with and use them often.

Overcome Alcohol Addiction in Our Safe, Compassionate Environment

At Design for Change Recovery, we understand the complex physical and emotional aspects of alcohol addiction.  We offer a comprehensive program that can adapt to each client’s unique needs.  Our compassionate staff and comforting environment will help you feel nourished and safe during your time in our facility. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, contact us at our Lancaster, CA facility to learn more about our programs.

Sources: 

  • jamanetwork.com/ – Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US
  • kff.org/health-reform/ – The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use
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