Your mood starts improving, you loosen up and become a bit more outgoing -- sound familiar after you've had a drink or even a few?
Doctors are saying that while alcohol may temporarily relieve your stress, in the long run, it actually makes it worse.
"If they're drinking to really just de-stress and that becomes their coping mechanism, in the long run, that's probably not a very good idea," says Ann Rost, a clinical psychologist.
Rost gets it -- who hasn't had a few drinks to blow off some steam?
"So you're stressed out, you have a glass of wine, it decreases your stress."
But she says turning to alcohol when you're stressed has the potential of becoming a problem very quickly.
"The problem is that it then increases the likelihood that the next time you're stressed, you're also going to turn to alcohol. It's a risky choice."
In psychology, they call this a negative reinforcement cycle.
"In the long run, you just begin to avoid your problems and thus avoiding your life."
On the other hand, doctors say alcohol does decrease stress -- for the moment.
"Physically what happens there is, just like an anti-anxiety medicine, it activates the same receptors in the brain as alcohol does, so it actually does decrease anxiety," says Dr. Jamie Thomas, a physician at Cox.
He says alcohol has some savory short term effects.
"There's a receptor in your brain...called a GABA receptor, and when you drink alcohol, it activates that receptor and gives you kind of a mellow or less anxious feeling."
Yet over time, all the harmful effects of alcohol may put you in a situation where you become even more stressed than you originally were.
"You have a higher heart rate, you might be more agitated, your blood pressure might be high as well."
And that's just to name a few. Rost says instead, try something other than avoidance tactics, which is what she says alcohol is.
"If people can find more adoptive ways of coping -- social support, spiritual connections, meeting problems head on, just more productive coping."
Mercy Women’s Heart Center is holding "Stress Less Classes" for women. It's a series of 3 classes that can help women learn to change their attitudes about everyday stress and learn new coping skills to reduce the effects of stressful events.
Thursdays, October 10, 17, 24
Classes meet in the Mercy Women’s Heart Center, on the first floor of Hammons Heart Institute
For more info, call 820-3666 or email email@example.com
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