It’s a well-known fact that many people react to stress with alcohol. What is less well known is that alcohol exacerbates stress. Drinking alcohol can have a domino effect on the life of the drinker and those around them. Alcohol, when habitually used to relieve stress, leaves missed opportunities to embrace positive coping skills, may hurt one’s ability to deal with the situation causing the distress and has other more short-term negative side effects than expected.
Here are a few short-term side effects that most people don’t consider:
Sleep. Alcohol interferes with quality of sleep. The more one drinks and the closer to bedtime, the more it negatively impacts sleep.
Mental Health. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals and processes of the brain, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions. A glass of wine after a hard day may help one relax at first, but can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, making stress harder to deal with.
Decision Making. Alcohol decreases activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps you think clearly and rationally. It changes the way you think, feel, act and can hamper the ability to make good decisions.
Extreme Emotions. Drinking alcohol can lower the serotonin levels in the brain, which can take away the body’s natural ability to regulate moods. Situations may get out of hand faster than they would if not drinking.
Accidents. Alcohol increases unintentional injuries such as car accidents, falls, burns and other damage.
Using alcohol to escape from the pressure of a problem is a risky behavior that can turn into a conditioned response, building a habit that can turn into a major dependence on alcohol. It’s important to have coping strategies that don’t involve drinking.