Many of us enjoy a cold beer or a tall glass of wine every now and again. It helps to “take the edge off,” to calm us down after a long week. But what we often fail to realize is that alcohol affects each one of us differently—and as tempting it may be to stop by the bar or open that bottle when you’re feeling stressed or upset, doing so isn’t a great idea when we’re at our most vulnerable.
The Boomerang Effect
Good intentions don’t always make for responsible actions or justify unhealthy behavior. For example, you may intend to unwind with a glass of wine or whiskey after a stressful day at work—but if the end result is a drunken depressed you, seven shots deep, those original intentions don’t mean much. Here’s the thing: alcohol can be enjoyed in a healthy and safe manner, but it makes for a slippery slope when it comes to depression. Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, explains why:
“It is a lot easier to run away to drugs and alcohol than face the real problems of life. And when we are talking about depression, we are talking about an individual who is facing those problems all the time. Many times, depressed individuals have conveyed how absolutely overwhelmed they feel. Some are more social, others feel the need to stay shut in, watch TV from under the covers, and avoid interacting with people as much as possible.
Drugs and alcohol can potentially cause or worsen the condition, while making it seem like it is making it better. The happiness and the contentment which drugs and alcohol offer is a kind of ‘unearned wisdom.’ Because of that, you need to watch out. What I mean to say is that when someone gets into drugs and alcohol, their ‘happy hormones’ like dopamine sky rocket. But the thing is, after every high there is a low. And for someone who is depressed, the low could be seriously lower than average.
This is the part where the addictive aspect of these substances kick in. Drugs and alcohol are used by many people, every day. Some of them can handle it, and others are simply sucked in by it. A depressed individual may have nothing else to look forward to, which is why these highly addictive substances should be monitored and regulated closely. When the substance wears off, there is a void which is left. A deep chasm. And so, that depressed individual will want to do anything to fill that void again.”
Fill the Void Without Filling the Glass
Turning to alcohol or drugs might be the easy answer, but doing so only hurts you in the long run. So, let’s set down the glass and find something else to lean on. Here are a few healthier behaviors and activities that’ll help to relieve you of stress, anxiety, and depressive feelings:
1) Sweat it out. When I feel stressed out, upset, or even just a little “off,” I tighten my laces and go for a run. I sweat out all of my problems and feel so incredibly relieved afterward. I used to think I was lucky to reap such rewards from working out, but exercising is actually a scientifically proven remedy for anxiety, stress, and other negative feelings. Which means it can work for you too. So find a form of exercise you enjoy, and get to work!
2) Put pen to paper. Another scientifically proven approach to dealing with difficult feelings is journaling. Not only does it force you to confront those feelings and help to clarify them, but it provides you with a lot of comfort along the way. Ultimately, picking up a pen and writing really whatever you feel like can help to reduce the stress you’re experiencing and make you feel a whole lot happier.
3) Be a do-gooder. That’s right, simply being kind to others can benefit you too. Multiple studies have found that performing acts of kindness—such as volunteering at the local animal shelter or handing out compliments to strangers on the street—can make you feel happier and maybe even add a few years on to your life. So the next time you feel tempted to pour a drink, go help out a neighbor in need instead.
4) Phone a friend. And lastly, spending quality time with friends is a great replacement behavior for drinking. It probably isn’t smart to reach out to the friends of yours that spend most of their time at the bar, as this will only tempt you to fall back into those harmful habits. But connecting with others—perhaps those with common interests—can give you a mood boost, reduce stress, help to build your self-esteem, and increase your perception of purpose. Now, if you need to talk to a professional, that is okay too—in fact, if you’re dealing with symptoms of depression you should meet with a depression counselor. They will help you manage all that comes with depression, including your over-drinking.