It’s been a long day. In fact, it’s been a long week. Maybe you were overworked and your boss was too demanding, or your kids have been acting up and you’ve been called into school a few times. Your responsibilities start piling up, and the bags under your eyes look like they could carry the week’s groceries.

You need to unwind on Friday before the hectic schedule of family, life admin, work, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life – or as it’s known among the youngsters these days, “adulting” – resumes, leaving you tired and blinking in its wake. Millions of Australians will be defaulting, even now, to reach for a cold beer, glass of wine, or something stronger.

Alcohol, a depressant, stimulates your body’s production of serotonin, a happy little chemical that acts like a mood thermostat. When your serotonin levels increase, you’re happier, more engaged, loosened-tie and hair-let-down relaxed. As serotonin levels decrease, you experience anxiety, irritability, and as that number gets lower, even depression.

It won’t surprise you to learn that alcohol gives you a quick serotonin boost. However, that boost will leave you as quickly as it arrives. In fact, once that initial rush of serotonin fades, your levels actually fall lower than they were before you started drinking. And the more frequently you use alcohol to “relax”, the more extreme this post-drink dip will be. So if your weekly glass of wine becomes a daily glass, you’re going to be feeling more and more stressed, anxious and irritable as the week goes by. Little things that don’t normally bother you will get under your skin, and if you’re not paying attention to your habits, you might reach for yet another glass.

The longer this goes on, the lower your serotonin will dip. That’s not exactly what any of us have in mind when we think of unwinding with a drink at the end of a long week, is it? You might even be causing the very stress your drink was meant to be soothing!

SMART Recovery Australia is not an organisation that advocates for total abstinence from any substance or behaviour. We do, however, wholeheartedly encourage Australians to be mindful of their behaviour and feelings around substance consumption. Part of this is being aware of your own habits – if you’re drinking habitually to “relax”, and the opposite is occurring, how much good is that drink really doing for you?

As the week eases into the weekend, we encourage everyone to remain mindful of their behaviour, stay safe, and relax another way. Maybe start that book you’ve been eyeing off, get into a new hobby, or binge watch your latest Netflix obsession.