There are several reasons why people drink alcohol. For some, it is considered to be a social drinker’s best buddy and a safe, accessible way to have fun. For others, alcohol is a stress reliever that, when consumed moderately, induces feelings of relaxation and pleasure. It also temporarily reduces anxiety and stress, which is why some people turn to alcohol as a way to cope with difficult emotions.
Knowing that alcohol can make us feel happy, relaxed, and even euphoric, it is important to be mindful of its potential risks. Alcohol, when taken too much, can have a severe impact on both physical and mental health. It can lead to liver damage and an increased risk of certain cancers. Drinking alcohol also affects cortisol levels, which increases the risk of stress-related health issues like anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.
Here you’ll find information and resources about the relationship between alcohol and cortisol relate and how drinking works to relieve stress. We will also explore the different types of stress and healthy ways to manage it.
Last but not least, we will give you some tips on how to drink responsibly and reduce the negative effects of alcohol on your health. Learn more about how we can help you or a loved one at Discovery Institute in Marlboro, New Jersey.
What is Stress?
Stress is any kind of change that puts physical, mental, or psychological strain on a person. It is your body’s reaction to anything that demands attention or action. Everyone goes through periods of stress. Yet, how you handle it makes a big difference to your overall well-being. Stress involves the release of a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol has several important functions in the body. It helps to increase blood sugar levels, suppress the immune system, and mobilize energy stores. These effects can help the body cope with stress and provide the energy needed for a physical response to a stressful situation. Other physiological effects caused by cortisol include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased production of mucus
- Increased production of sweat
Maintaining a healthy cortisol balance and learning effective stress management techniques are essential to avoiding the harmful health effects of prolonged stress. Get the best treatment planning at Discovery Institute, NJ!
Most Common Type of Stress
There are several types of stress and knowing what kind you are dealing with will help you identify appropriate healthy coping mechanisms. The most common include the following:
This type of stress is short-term and is usually caused by a specific event, such as a job interview, a near-miss car accident, or a sudden illness. Acute stress typically goes away once the stressful event is over.
This type of stress is ongoing and long-term, and it is typically caused by ongoing issues such as financial problems, work-related stress, or relationship difficulties. Chronic stress can have negative effects on physical and mental health if left untreated.
This type of stress is caused by physical stressors such as injury, illness, or surgery. It can be acute or chronic and can be accompanied by emotional stress.
This type of stress is caused by emotional stressors such as anxiety, depression, or grief. Emotional stress can have a significant impact on mental health and can lead to physical health problems as well.
This type of stress is caused by factors in the environment such as noise, pollution, or natural disasters. Environmental stress can be acute or chronic and can have negative effects on physical and mental health.
This type of stress is caused by social stressors such as peer pressure, social rejection, or discrimination. Social stress can have a significant impact on mental health and can lead to physical health problems as well.
The Link Between Alcohol and Cortisol
The relationship between alcohol and cortisol is very complex, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Cortisol levels can be affected by alcohol consumption in both the short and long terms.
In the short-term, alcohol can cause a decrease in cortisol levels. This is because drinking alcohol may have calming effects on the body. It lessens the body’s response to stress by reducing the release of cortisol. This may contribute to the pleasure and feelings of relaxation that some drinkers experience.
However, in the long term, heavy alcohol consumption can cause cortisol levels to increase. It can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate cortisol levels, which results in elevated levels of cortisol over time. Prolonged alcohol use can also damage the liver and other organs.
Long-term alcohol consumption may also affect the body’s capacity to react to stress. It can increase the stress response and raise cortisol levels. As a result, there may be a higher risk of experiencing stress-related health issues like anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.
If you’re trying to manage your stress levels, it’s important to be aware of the role alcohol can play.
Stress and Alcohol Use Disorder
Stress can contribute to the development of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many people turn to alcohol to cope with stress or difficult emotions, which can lead to an unhealthy dependence on alcohol over time.
Chronic stress can also lead to changes in the brain that make it more difficult to control alcohol use. Stress can increase the release of cortisol, which can interfere with the brain’s reward system and make alcohol use more rewarding. This can create a cycle of dependence on alcohol as a way to cope with stress.
In addition, people with AUD often experience high levels of stress and anxiety, which can make it difficult to quit drinking or stay sober. This can create a vicious cycle in which alcohol use contributes to stress and anxiety, and stress and anxiety contribute to alcohol use.
It’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, mindfulness, or seeking professional help, rather than relying on alcohol as a coping mechanism. If you are battling with AUD and stress, a treatment program may be what you need.
Managing Stress and Cortisol Spikes
Alcohol is a stress reliever, but it can also increase cortisol levels. For some of us, consuming alcohol in moderation can be a healthy way to relieve stress. But for others, alcohol can lead to cortisol spikes, which can have negative effects on our health. Undoubtedly, it can be difficult to break the habit of drinking to cope with stress, but not if you know how to stop doing it! Here are some useful suggestions for managing stress and cortisol spikes.
7 Healthy Stress Management Techniques
Although stress is a natural part of life, it can occasionally be too much to handle. There are, however, a variety of ways to enhance your overall stress management and lessen the bad consequences of it, including stress drinking. Below are some of them:
- Identify your stressors. Take some time to identify the things that trigger your stress. Once you know your stressors, you can work on finding ways to manage them.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, and improve your overall health. Find an exercise routine that works for you, such as walking, yoga, or weight lifting, and stick with it.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress, lower cortisol levels and promote relaxation. Mindfulness techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can also help stay focused on the present moment and reduced anxiety.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can increase cortisol levels and make it more difficult to manage stress. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet can help reduce stress and prevent cortisol spikes. Focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Seek support. Join a support group, talk to a therapist, or confide in a trusted friend or family member. Having a support system can help you manage stress and stay motivated to avoid alcohol.
- Discover healthy ways to deal with stress. Try journaling, listening to music, taking a relaxing bath, or doing other stress-relieving activities rather than drinking alcohol.
4 Effective Cortisol Management Techniques
If you’re like most people, I’m sure you know the connection between alcohol and cortisol. Alcohol can increase cortisol levels, and when it does, it makes us feel sleepy, relaxed, short, and sedated. Cortisol can be managed better in several ways, some of which are included below:
- Drink in moderation. If you’re trying to decrease or avoid cortisol levels, don’t overdo it. Drinking in moderation can help you feel more in control and avoid any negative consequences.
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Drinking on an empty stomach can increase cortisol levels as it increases the stress hormones that are released. If you’re trying to work out the next day, drinking on an empty stomach can also decrease your performance, as it leads to a decrease in energy and stamina.
- Avoid drinking before bed. Drinking alcohol before bed can disrupt your sleep and lead to further cortisol problems in the morning.
- Drink plenty of water. Not only will drinking plenty of water help you avoid dehydration, but it will also help you manage your stress levels and cortisol levels.
Keep in mind that managing stress or breaking a habit, like drinking alcohol, is a continuous effort. It may take time to find what works best for you. Be patient and kind to yourself as you work on improving your stress management skills. Seek help from your family and loved ones, or better yet, seek professional help if you are struggling. The key is to set realistic goals! It can help you feel more in control of your life and reduce stress when you have doable goals.
Recover From Alcohol Addiction at Discovery Institute
Remember that breaking any habit takes time and effort, and making mistakes along the way is okay. Discovery Institute offers comprehensive detox and the substance abuse treatment program you or a loved one will need. Contact us today and learn how to stop stress drinking and healthily manage stress.
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.