Alcohol: Stress Reducer or Stress Inducer?

By: Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN

Whether you’re bored, stressed or anxious, you may reach for an alcoholic drink to cope. While some people have a healthy relationship with alcohol, stressful conditions can make even the most disciplined person fall into alcohol abuse patterns.

What’s worse is that American culture portrays alcohol as a means of relaxation. Think of all the movies that show a businessman drinking alcohol after a stressful workday!

We’ve been groomed to think that alcohol is a way to relieve stress. In this post, we’re going to talk about how alcohol is not a “stress reducer” but a “stress inducer.”

 

Alcohol Won’t Help you Cope with COVID-19

 In fact, you may be worse off.

Relying on alcohol to calm you will only lead to more pain. Here’s why:

  1. Alcohol Lowers Immunity

Alcohol has been shown to decrease the body’s ability to fight infection. It also can damage organs, further decreasing your body’s ability to function properly. If you’re already sick, stressed or injured, alcohol hinders your ability to heal (1).

  1. Alcohol Ruins Sleep

Alcohol before bed decreases sleep quality. It can make you fall asleep faster, but you’ll lose sleep quality with tossing, turning, and waking (whether you remember it or not).

  1. Alcohol is a Depressant

While you may feel happy-go-lucky while drinking, alcohol can increase depression or mood swings in the days after.

Monitoring depression, anxiety, mood, and stress levels is extremely important during this very scary time.

  1. Alcohol Makes you Forget

 That’s why many people turn to alcohol. But, drinking alcohol can make you forget about lots of important things:

  • You forget about healthy eating
  • You forget about weight loss goals
  • You forget to wash your hands
  • You forget to not touch your face

Forgetting all these things can lead to weight gain, illness and potentially contraction of COVID-19.

  1. Alcohol Can Lead to Malnourishment

Alcoholism in itself can put someone at higher risk of thiamin deficiency (2). However, alcohol may also cause you to eat less healthy foods and more unhealthy foods.

Many people choose to “drink their calories” with alcohol, which can also lead to malnourishment.

 

Alcohol Recommendations during COVID-19

If you have a history of mental disorders or alcohol abuse, consider abstaining from alcohol during this time.

 

Daily Recommended Limits What is considered 1 drink?
·         1 drink per day for women

·         2 drinks per day for men

·         5oz wine

·         12oz beer

·         1.5oz spirits & liquors

Now, if you like to save drinking for the weekend… listen up. If you don’t drink during the week, the limits still remain for the weekend. For example: If you don’t drink Monday-Thursday, you aren’t following recommendations if you have 3+ drinks on a weekend night.

When you drink large amounts of alcohol in 1 night, it affects you negatively. Think about it: How do you feel when you drink 1 glass of wine for 5 nights versus 5 glasses of wine in 1 night? You can feel the difference.

For better coping mechanisms, see Stressed Out? Prevent COVID Weight Gain.