Alcohol is almost the default way to unwind after a hard day of work. Happy hours encourage us to shed the stress of the day by having a few reasonably priced drinks with our coworkers. A few drinks can help you relax and turn down the volume on your worrying. However, alcohol is not a healthy way to deal with stress. Here’s why.

Alcohol brings fleeting relief.

Perhaps the most compelling reason not to use alcohol to relieve stress is that it’s effects are very short lived. If you only a have a few drinks to unwind after work, you might feel the stress coming back even before you’re ready for bed. Often, stress and anxiety return with even greater force. You may wake up in the middle of the night, or wake up feeling anxious the next morning.

Alcohol disrupts sleep.

Even moderate drinking can significantly impair sleep, preventing you from entering the deep, restorative phases of REM sleep. Your blood sugar may drop, causing you to have disturbing dreams and wake up sweating and anxious. These effects are unpleasant in themselves, but they also increase your anxiety levels overall. Many studies have found that lack of sleep, even missing a couple of hours over several nights, can significantly increase levels of anxiety. If you’re already feeling stressed, the last thing you want is higher baseline anxiety levels from lack of sleep.

Alcohol is addictive.

Using alcohol in response to stress is a dangerous pattern. You essentially train yourself to reach for a drink when you feel stressed. Eventually, this becomes automatic. An automatic response isn’t in itself an addiction, but it could easily become one. Alcohol is is both addictive and easy to get and frequent drinking can lead to dependence quickly. Once you’ve developed a dependence, you need to drink just to feel normal. If you don’t drink, you are likely to feel anxious and agitated, which will only make your stress more intolerable.

Alcohol impairs judgment.

Excessive drinking can lead to a cascade of bad decisions. Drinking at work can lead to more mistakes, possibly serious mistakes that might cost you your job. Drinking after work can lead to more arguments and accidents, which only multiplies your problems. And if you get a DUI or get arrested for fighting, your legal problems will massively increase your stress.

Other means are more effective.

Most importantly, there are healthier and more effective ways to reduce stress and alcohol mostly interferes with these other methods. Regular exercise is perhaps the best way. It reduces blood pressure, resting heart rate, cortisol levels and other physiological signs of stress, while increasing levels of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which improve your mood. Spending time socializing with friends and family is another effective stress buster. Engaging hobbies, especially hobbies that get you into a flow state are excellent for reducing stress too.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.