Having a drink or two after a stressful day can help you relax. But people need to be aware that drinking more can have the opposite result. Here’s why.
It’s been a challenging and difficult week, every day seemed to be busier than the next. During the day you feel the tension build and by the end of the day your shoulders are up to your ears and your neck is so tight it cracks when you turn your head to check for traffic before pulling out of the office parking lot. Work was round after round of increasingly unrealistic deadlines and the children’s activities and needs eat seem to eat up the evening. When you’re day is finally through your first reaction is to reach for that beer or glass of wine in the effort to reduce the stress and tension of your day.
What’s the Harm in Just a Couple More?
There does appear to be some truth that enjoying a drink or two can, in fact, act as an aide to reduce levels of tension and stress. Some research indicates that exposure to low doses of alcohol may lower the response to stressors in both animals and humans. This is why having that drink after a stressful day can seem to ease tension and make one feel more relaxed. Where people run into problems and can begin to misuse or abuse alcohol is when alcohol becomes the main, or only, means used to cope with stress. In this case, becoming dependent on alcohol is a very real risk.
Drinking More than One or Two Can Backfire
This is why making becoming familiar and aware of the potential risks of utilizing alcohol as a way to cope with stress is so important. consistently drinking more than the daily limit as per national health recommendations places the drinker at risk because heavy alcohol use actually damages the neurotransmitters responsible for managing stress. This is why having a couple small drinks can lift your mood, whereas heavy drinking can lead to feeling more stressed, as well as depressed. If one is not aware of this, the tendency is to consume even more alcohol in the attempt to feel the same sense of relaxation that came with the first drink.
Put Down that Glass and Relax
There are ways to enjoy the stress relief that staying within the recommended drink of two per day – as well as other techniques to reduce and cope with stress. For one, delaying partaking in that drink until the evening meal rather than on the way home, or the minute you get home, from work reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in the evening. If you have one drink with your meal, and then one after your meal, you remain within a healthy limit.
Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress. Instead of having a drink first thing after work, substituting physical exercise can greatly reduce stress by releasing hormones that naturally lift mood. This does not have to be strenuous, a brisk ten minute walk can do the trick. Additionally, meditation or prayer has been shown to have the capacity to reduce stress and encourage a relaxation response. Again, you don’t need to become a Zen master to meditate. Even taking 10 minutes to put your feet up in a quiet space can be much more relaxing than that glass of wine or pint of beer.