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Alcoholism increased my job stress

Many people choose to drink after work as a way to relax and find relief from the pressures of their job. However, some people can take this too far and instead of simply being a moderate, ‘social’ drinker, can develop a problem with alcohol addiction. Some of the most common signs and symptoms that a destructive alcohol addiction may be present include:

  • Denial that you have a problem
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Social withdrawal
  • Always feeling and looking exhausted
  • Always drinking to cope with difficulties, or to relax
  • Neglecting your responsibilities at home and at work

If you are or have experienced any of these alcoholism symptoms, like thousands of other people across the UK, you may try to justify your heavy drinking by telling yourself that you have a demanding job, and without hitting the bottle from time to time, you simply wouldn’t be able to cope with the pressure. Drinking is your escape; your way of coping with all the work-related stress. But you’re actually doing yourself more harm than good.

Stress – what is it?

In a nutshell - pressure. Some of us thrive under it, while most of us may try to avoid it. If you belong in the latter group, then the kind of pressure you try to steer clear from can be mental, emotional or physical – it’s all about controlling your stress levels.

According to leading mental health experts worldwide, one of the best things any human being can learn (as early as possible in adulthood) is to know one’s limits. This involves understanding how much pressure you can take, to know your stress limit, and to live your life aware of that limitation. This can help you to avoid potentially high pressure situations and environments, to protect both your physical and mental health.

Your mind and your body aren’t two separate entities - they are intertwined. Both are constantly interacting, even when you sleep. Stress can affect how you feel, in every way. The stress you are under – and the way you are reacting to and coping (or struggling to cope) with it – can also have a huge impact on those around you.

Stress can wreak so much havoc because it:

  • Causes certain hormones in the body to surge
  • Increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure
  • Suppresses digestion
  • Interrupts and weakens the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness
  • Over-stimulates the body (stress hormones are released in practically unmanageable quantities, causing physical and psychological disturbances)

This is why attempting to relax and self-medicate with alcohol can cause a whole host of additional problems and in the long-term, can make your stress even more unmanageable.

If you arrive for work having drunk heavily the night before, you will be more susceptible to stress if an issue in the workplace crops up. While your colleagues – assuming they are non-drinkers or moderate drinkers – are able to cope reasonably well with pressurised situations, you may find yourself struggling overall, as your body and your brain continues to reel from the previous night’s drinking, and from a sense of overall instability.

Charlotte* learnt all this while tackling her own drinking problem. “Seeking professional help for alcoholism was the best decision I’ve ever made. Prior to going into rehab, I was drinking heavily to cope with my ever-increasing workload. My alcohol consumption level rose concurrently with my increasing caseload. In the end, it all got too much and I simply rang into work one morning and said I couldn’t continue.

“At rehab, I learnt that certain toxins in alcohol increase stress hormones. Pretty much any substance that disturbs your emotions should be avoided. Drinking definitely made me hypersensitive at work.

“Now I’ve made a full recovery, I’m doing well at work again and I’m much better equipped to handle any stresses.”

*All names have been changed.

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