Even though alcohol is relaxing, it stimulates your body to produce stress hormones. A nasty self-feeding loop can form because of this. What do I mean? One thing that causes people to want to drink is the presence of stress hormones — the feeling of stress or tension. Alcohol relieves that feeling. It is relaxing. But the following day, the after-effect of alcohol is a higher level of stress hormones.
And if the method you use to relieve that feeling is to drink alcohol, an unending cycle has been created. You're caught in a trap.
Alcohol inhibits the body's ability to make glucose from lactate. Lactate normally flows around in the blood stream and when it reaches the liver, it is resynthesized into glucose. Alcohol slows down your liver's ability to do this, which means that lactate levels rise in the blood, causing more anxiety and feelings of stress.
Lactate has a sister compound called pyruvate. When one goes up, the other generally goes down. Your anxiety level has to do with the ratio of one to the other. Higher lactate equals more anxiety. Higher pyruvate equals more ease.
The lactate to pyruvate ratio can be increased with any of these substances: sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
So when you know someone who has a few drinks in the evening to relax, and then complains of anxiety or stress, you might want to enlighten them: They are probably worsening their feelings of anxiety and stress by drinking.
Circumstances can cause stress, of course, but your own body's reaction to the circumstances can cause more stress and anxiety than you need to put up with. And the after-effects of alcohol can cause your body to react to circumstances more stressfully, making that drink even more desirable.
For a much better way to ease stress and tension, see Peace, Love, and Oxytocin.