Are You in a Vicious Cycle of Drinking and Anxiety?

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Every night around dinner time, after I’d finished work for the day and was starting to wind down, that anxious feeling would start to nag at me. My stomach would tie up in knots, even though I had nothing to worry about. I would start to get that uncomfortable, jittery feeling and I’d reach for a drink, knowing I’d start to calm down in a few minutes. 

I don’t think I’m alone. Having a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail during happy hour is widely accepted. I don’t think I necessarily had a problem by having one or two drinks a few times a week. The problem was that once I had a few sips, I’d start to finally relax. My stomach would settle, and the anxious feeling would be replaced by a sense of calm and silliness. What’s the problem then? However, the next day, those anxious feelings would return with a vengeance. On the weekend nights when I had several drinks, the next day I’d start feeling depressed, especially if I wasn’t feeling well. 

I call it my vicious cycle. I think that most people with anxiety can relate. A drink can help you forget about your anxious feelings for a while and give you a little boost, especially in social situations. But study after study shows that drinking alcohol on a regular basis can cause anxiety and even depression. 

Think about it. Alcohol alters your brain, which can give you a feeling of euphoria for a while, but eventually, that feeling has to fade. Your ‘up’ quickly goes ‘down.' Hangovers, even slight ones, can cause symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and shakiness, similar to symptoms of anxiety. 

So, I decided I would give myself a challenge. 30 days without alcohol, no matter what the situation. I wanted to see if my anxiety would lessen if my health would improve and if my skin would look better. As I write this, I’m almost done with my challenge, on the evening of day 26. I must say, I don’t know if my skin or health improved much in such a short period of time, but I can say my anxiety has lessened quite a bit. Even during times of stress, I didn’t get panic attacks or feel too anxious. I went to a concert and even went out to bars, sans alcohol, and felt great. I didn’t have to worry about waking up the next day feeling even slightly uncomfortable. 

When my 30 days is up, I’ll be honest; I will probably have a drink. But my hope is to lessen my drinking and remember how I’ve felt this month. Sometimes the social pressure and the fun, few hours of drinking just aren’t worth the days of anxiety that follow. 

Remember, if you do drink, please be responsible. Never drink and drive. When you do drink, make sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated and never drink with medications that say to avoid alcohol. 

I’m curious, what are your thoughts on anxiety and alcohol? Do you drink regularly or have you embraced a sober lifestyle? 

Written by Lauren Stewart