When it comes to stress, people often use coffee, alcohol and nicotine as coping mechanisms. They are a double edged sword as although people use them to manage their stress, all three actually contribute to increased stress levels.
1. Coffee. Although it is thought of as the norm now days to drink coffee, caffeine containing drink stimulates the nervous system and contributes to feelings of stress and anxiety. As it is an addictive substance, people will initially feel good after a cup of coffee and it does help to improve mood and feelings of happiness. However, when you are drinking in excess of 3 cups a day it has a negative effect on the body, increasing cortisol production and therefore heightening the stress response. For people that suffer from extreme anxiety coffee should be avoided completely but otherwise 1-2 cups a day should be a maximum. I recommend swapping any other cups of coffee for herbal teas such as dandelion tea if you want something that resembles coffee, or chamomile or peppermint for a more relaxing alternative.
2. Alcohol. Often after a stressful day all you feel like doing is relaxing at home with a glass of wine. Well, if it’s one glass of wine and it’s not every day then I won’t tell you to stop. However, alcohol is another one of those things that people use to reduce stress but in actual fact will contribute to an increased stress level. Alcohol acts as both a stimulant and a depressant wiring your nervous system while resulting in a depressed mood. If you feel that you need alcohol regularly in order to relax then there may be a deeper issue that needs addressing. If you tend to drink excessively then what I recommend is to alternate between a glass of alcohol and a glass of water. This way you will stay hydrated as well as halving the amount of alcohol consumed.
3. Nicotine. It is often people who are under a great deal of pressure that you find smoking. And to make matters worse when trying to give up smoking, the feeling of stress is often so heightened that people find it near impossible to quit. The immediate result of smoking is relaxation, however, this is only temporary. The withdrawal symptoms of nicotine mimic those of anxiety and will persist until the individual has their next cigarette. Studies have actually found that smokers report more irritability, stress and depression than non-smokers. Talk to your health professional to help create a plan for quitting.