Stress and alcohol are often intertwined in a vicious cycle. Many people turn to alcohol as a way of coping with stress, but in the long run, this can be detrimental to mental health and overall well-being. In recognition of Stress Awareness Month and Alcohol Awareness Month, we want to explore the connection between stress and alcohol and offer some tips for healthier ways to cope.
The Problem with Using Alcohol to Cope with Stress
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the most commonly used substance among adults in the United States. In Colorado specifically, nearly one in five adults reports binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting) at least once a month, and almost 700 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes.
Many people use alcohol as a way to cope with stress, but this can lead to a host of problems. While alcohol may initially provide some relief, in the long run, it can actually make stress worse. Alcohol disrupts the body’s natural response system and can interfere with sleep, making it harder to cope with stress in a healthy way. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a range of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Tips for Coping with Stress Without Alcohol
You might be thinking: “Okay, but what can I do instead?” Don’t worry, there are plenty of options for healthy stress relief! Here are a few tips to consider:
- Exercise: Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and boost your mood. Even just a short walk can help you feel better. If you’re not sure where to start, there are many resources available, including online fitness classes and local gyms.
- Meditation: Meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. There are many guided meditation apps available, and local community centers may offer meditation classes.
- Talk to someone: Talking to a friend, family member, or mental health professional can help you process your feelings and find healthy ways to cope with stress.
- Engage in a hobby: Hobbies can provide a sense of fulfillment and distract from stressful thoughts. Whether it’s painting, cooking, or gardening, find something you enjoy doing and make time for it regularly.
- Take care of your physical health: Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and staying hydrated can all help you feel better and better equipped to handle stress.
- Try the Dry January challenge: Dry January is a month-long break from drinking aimed at promoting healthier habits and raising awareness of the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. You can participate any month (not just January)! Learn more here: Dry January: The Month-Long Challenge with Year-Round Benefits | Jefferson Center (jcmh.org)
Colorado Resources for Help
It’s important to remember that there are many resources available in Colorado if you’re struggling with stress or alcohol use. Here are a few to consider:
- Jefferson Center offers a range of services, including counseling and addiction treatment. Call us today: 303-425-0300
- Colorado Crisis Services offers free, confidential crisis support 24/7. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained counselor.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a national helpline for people dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to speak with a trained counselor.
Using alcohol as a stress reliever can ultimately cause more harm than good. By finding healthy ways to cope with stress, you can improve your mental and physical well-being. If you’re struggling with stress or alcohol use, remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Let’s work together to prioritize our mental health and break the cycle of stress and alcohol.