How I Learned to Cope With Stress When I Gave Up Alcohol

Healthier ways to take the edge off — when a glass of wine isn’t an option.

“I need a drink” has been my auto-reply to virtually all stressful occurrences in my day-to-day life for about as long as I’ve been an adult.

To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I started chasing stress with alcohol. But somewhere during the past decade, relieving college midterm stress with Bacardi Razz bled into post-awful-day-at-work happy hours and finally, morphed into my current Friday night tradition: holing up in my apartment with a bottle of wine to myself in an effort to unwind from a long work week.

And my weekly de-stressing regimen isn’t completely off base, alcohol does work as a catalyst — at least in the short term. “Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, which leads to a number of immediate, noticeable effects,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Lauren Wolfe. “It slows your heart rate and breathing, which can result in a relaxed sensation. We tend to lose our inhibitions when we drink, which decreases our worries and fears.”

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