Work Stress and Drinking: 3 Signs That Your Job Is Driving You to Drink
As necessary as it may be, holding down a job can take a toll on your overall quality of life when the demands of the job become overwhelming. These demands can take different forms from overwork to ongoing anxiety over job security.
While that after work drink may seem more than justified considering the circumstances, an ongoing pattern of work stress and drinking can actually cause more harm than good over time. Knowing what signs to look for can help you take steps to prevent an out-of-control drinking problem from taking hold.
Stress can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the context. At mild to moderate levels, stress can actually act as a motivation.
Problems tend to develop when stress levels start to feel overwhelming. According to Harvard Gazette, 44 percent of people who view their jobs as stressful also experience adverse effects in other areas of their lives.
Life areas most impacted include:
- Dietary habits
- Sleep patterns
Considering alcohol’s overall relaxing effects, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of drinking after a stressful day’s work. Over time, work stress and drinking can breed harmful effects while the risk of developing an alcohol addiction increases along the way.
3 Signs of Work Stress and Drinking Patterns
1. Drinking Larger Amounts
While your intention may be to have one or two drinks, alcohol’s effects tend to weaken when consumed on a regular basis. Over time, the brain cells that interact with alcohol become less and less sensitive to its effects, according to the University of Rochester.
As this happens, larger amounts must be consumed in order to experience the same stress-relieving effects. Combine these developments with hard work days and work stress and drinking can soon turn into an alcohol abuse problem.
2. Can’t Relax Without Alcohol
Alcohol acts as a depressant that stimulates GABA neurotransmitter production in the brain. Large amounts of GABA slow down the brain’s electrical activity, producing feelings of calm.
As the brain comes to tolerate alcohol, it becomes more dependent on its effects to maintain normal GABA chemical levels. When this happens, a person reaches a point where he or she can’t relax without alcohol’s effects.
3. Using Alcohol to Cope
Considering how quickly alcohol can bring on a sense of calm and relaxation, day after day of drinking when stressed can actually retrain the brain on both a physical and psychological level. In effect, the chemicals that regulate the brain’s stress center come to depend on alcohol to manage stress levels.
Likewise, the brain’s reward system comes to view alcohol as “the” solution for coping with daily life pressures. Once alcohol becomes a primary means for coping with daily responsibilities, the makings of an addiction are at work.
As harmless as it may seem, a pattern of work stress and drinking can set off a chain reaction of physical and psychological dysfunction without a person’s even knowing it. For these reasons, it’s important to consider the role alcohol plays in your daily life.