The ‘stress’ of daily life seems to be even more intense these days. Sure, daily inconveniences like traffic or long lines at the bank can aggravate us, and bring us temporary stresses. Sometimes, though, we’re dealing with more—the loss of a loved one or a relationship or a job. Or, the uncertainty of what is to come in this COVID-19 world. Stress is a fact of life, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling that may tempt you to turn to alcohol to help numb the edge. Still, there are several ways to cope with stress without drinking.
Drinking Won’t Make It Better
Whether you turn to alcohol for pleasure and happiness in a confusing time or to numb the feelings of stress you’re having, drinking won’t make it better. You’re not dealing with things in your life in healthy ways. You’re also training your body and your brain to cope with life in unhealthy ways.
When you cope with stress by drinking, you’re actually increasing your body’s dependence on alcohol to deal with stress. This will also lead you to experience even more anxiety and possibly depression. Alcohol consumption can make you ruminate on negative things and dread events in your life even more.
Alcohol changes the levels of serotonin and other important feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. This can induce anxiety and exacerbate your already-elevated stress levels. Believe it or not, that glass of wine at night to wind down and de-stress most likely is doing just the opposite.
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Cope With Stress Without Drinking: Fighting the Temptation
Plain and simple, when you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol to deal with the stress. That’s often referred to as you going into ‘fight or flight’ mode, where you either feel a surge of power to battle or flee the issue quickly to protect yourself.
Alcohol increases your production of cortisol. If you’re already used to turning to alcohol for stress relief, what is really happening in your body is the craving of an overproduction of cortisol. While in the stressful ‘moment’, that rush may make your brain feel secure, but it’s temporary. It’s strong enough to be tempting to turn to alcohol again the next time life is stressing you. That can lead you to a path of addiction or into relapse if you’ve already been sober. The last thing you want to do if you’ve been sober is to go back to alcohol during stressful times.
How To Cope With Stress Without Drinking: Healthy Mental Management Options
Fortunately, there are several healthy ways for you to cope with stress without drinking. In doing so, you’ll be building healthy habits that will keep you happier in non-stressful times too.
We know it may be challenging to be motivated to exercise if you’re stressed or worried. Research shows that moving and getting endorphins running in your brain is a great way to naturally combat stress.
A good stretch, jog, or trip to the gym be can be good for battling stressful feelings as they’re happening. They can also keep your body and brain stronger for battling stress that attacks later. Consider incorporating a daily walk or run with an encouraging podcast to be a part of the structure your brain and body can depend upon.
Think about an in-person or online Yoga routine to increase your GABA activity and help reduce your stress levels overall.
Take a few minutes to think about the good things in your life. Even if some days it’s just that you’re alive and able to even write, a gratitude journal can give you a better perspective and help calm you down as you’re contemplating. When you take a couple of minutes to write your feelings, even if they’re not super grateful, you give yourself a release of emotions that don’t fill a bottle, they fill a sheet of paper.
Listen to Music
Music affects the neural connections in our brains, and in positive ways! When you’re stressed, putting on music that you find enjoyable and even sing or hum to takes your cortisol levels down and puts you feeling in control of what’s in front of you. Music keeps you less anxious and reduces stress, and is something that you can do regularly or as you need to battle stressful situations.
Practice Mindfulness and Breathwork
Focused breathing and breathing techniques specifically purposed to lower your stress levels can make you more calm and able to think more clearly about choices in front of you. There are many ways that just taking five minutes to focus on breathwork can give you a perspective that is less stressed and more rational. Practicing mindfulness and using the 5-4-3-2-1 method can help ground you in the present, and help you focus on things that are in your control. Practicing mindfulness and grounding yourself can be done anywhere, quickly, and is proven to help reduce stress.
Think about how great you’ve felt when you were in a position to help someone and you did. Research shows that altruism and service to others not only takes the focus of stress off of you but improves your mood as well. It’s a healthy habit that can help you and others at the same time.
If you’re tempted to cope with stress by turning to alcohol, you may need help battling that temptation. There’s no shame in asking for help in being your best self, and doing so is a sign of great strength and purpose.
Ocean Hills Recovery: Compassionate Care to Help You Cope With Stress Without Drinking
If the stresses of life seem to be weighing you down and tempting you to turn to alcohol to cope, Ocean Hills Recovery can help. We know that stress can take a physical and mental toll on you, and the temporary numbness alcohol may offer can be enticing. If you’re struggling to cope with stress without drinking, you don’t have to struggle alone. We’re here to help you gain full freedom in your life, even when the stressful times come. Contact us today so we can help.
Sources: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-anxiety  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266962/  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3111147/  https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/24/678232331/if-you-feel-thankful-write-it-down-its-good-for-your-health#:~:text=Live%20Sessions-,Gratitude%20Journaling%20Is%20Good%20For%20Your%20Mental%20Health%20And%20Maybe,the%20risk%20of%20heart%20disease.  https://www.technogym.com/ae/wellness/the-stressed-reducing-effect-of-music/  https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-relief-breathing-techniques#1  https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-helping-others-can-increase-happiness-3144890
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.