Did you know that one alcoholic beverage per day (five ounces—yes, that’s right, not even the size of a measuring cup) is considered “moderate drinking” for women?
We didn’t either.
Is cocktail hour coming a little early—like noon? Does “Momma social club” always offer drink options? Regular morning cocktails with brunch? Nightly wine (in that oversized glass) and Netflix?
Maybe you can relate.
Are Women Drinking More These Days?
Recent statistics show women are reaching for the bottle more than ever.1 According to researchers, in the last year, women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41%.2 But the increase hasn’t just been since the pandemic. Since the early 2000s, the number of women and moms drinking has increased dramatically.3 Respectable women with real responsibilities and heavy loads to carry are drinking excessively in order to cope.
Why Are We Looking to Alcohol for Comfort?
All we have to do is look around at the world, and we have a perfectly justifiable reason to drink. And we’re not talking about sipping wine with dinner; we’re talking about drinking a lot. Quantities equaling keg stands at a frat party. Jell-O Shot Night at the local bar. “Ladies Drink for Free” Tuesdays. Moms Gone Wild. Waking up with a pounding headache in the morning or in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Heart racing with anxiety and mind in a fog to start the daily routine. That kind of drinking.
If you are anything like us, you get it. We all have a lot to be stressed about these days. So much keeps us up at night. We worry about our health, our children, our jobs, our future. Wars. Famines. Pandemics. Politics. Climate disasters. Violence. Trauma. We could get into specifics, but we don’t need to fill in the blanks for you.
We are all facing difficult times in the world, and along with that many women are under the microscope for perfection within our homes, at work, and in our communities. We are carrying a tremendous mental load, as has every generation before us, but with the added intensity and scrutiny of social media. We are being influenced, peer pressured, and shamed on every outlet, every screen, all the time.
Some suggest the additional stress women shoulder, due to care-giving, work, and all the responsibilities, has caused an increasing reliance on alcohol. Others point to the way marketers have targeted women and mothers in their campaigns to sell more booze.4 Or maybe it’s the woman next door who seems to functionally drink margaritas all day long. Maybe we just need to take a good, long look in the mirror.
It’s Not Just a Line on a Graph Trending Upward
Whatever the reason behind the sharp increase in alcohol consumption among women, the reality is clear. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increased alcohol use among women has also led to an increase in alcohol-related health issues like heart damage, breast cancer, liver disease, cognitive decline, and even death.5 It can have a dangerous and uncomfortable impact on our sleep6, and for the vain ladies like us, it makes our skin age and sag and can cause permanent scarring or skin lesions from inflamed pores.7
Healthy Coping Strategies for Women
Whatever or whomever is to blame, we would like to share some good news. For women, there are practical ways that we can rise above this. When we are feeling stressed and desperately need a way to cope, there are healthy alternatives to drinking.
Here are eight ways to unwind and recharge that are proven to work:
1. Focus on Physical Health
We all know that physical exercise and eating right are good for our bodies. But did you know they’re also good for our minds? Exercise can release the same feel-good hormones that a glass of Chardonnay does but without all the negative side effects. Try making a playlist of your favorite songs or listen to a book or podcast while moving your body. Eating healthy and getting 7-9 hours of rest per night are also healthy ways to cope with stress. In order to cope with stress in a healthy way, we can go back to the basics.
2. Talk About It
You might be the kind of extroverted woman who has the gift of gab. Or you might be more of an introvert. Whatever your style, talking about feelings with trusted friends or family can relieve stress in a healthy way. If you don’t want to burden those around you with your concerns, think about what you would say to a dear friend if they were struggling—you’d want them to reach out and talk about it! (You may also want to read this article by Dr. Zoe on how to find a good therapist!)
3. Start a Gratitude Practice
Thankfulness doesn’t have to be something we only talk about in November. It’s incredible how even a little bit of gratitude can boost the mood after a stressful day. Try keeping a gratitude journal to jot down something you’re thankful for whenever it comes to mind. Practicing gratitude is also fun when you do it with others. You could have a gratitude circle around the dinner table, sharing a couple things you are each thankful for from the day. You could also start a group text with a few friends to share three things you’re grateful for each day.
These points of gratitude can be as simple as your morning cup of coffee or much deeper things on your heart. Having a specific place to share positive thoughts can help set your mind in the right direction.
4. Stay in the Present Moment
Some days when stress levels are off the charts, our worry and anxiety can start to impact more than just our state of mind. In order to stay away from worst-case-scenario-thinking, we can say a prayer or do a grounding exercise to remind us that the only time is right now. Instead of worrying about “what if” something happens, it might be more helpful to think about “what if it doesn’t” happen and to focus on the here and now.
5. Seek Deeper Connection Outside of Your Normal Circles
Mom, church, or work groups can be comforting and nurture a sense of community, relaxation, and stress relief. However, some find that one-on-one conversation can provide a deeper expression of release than making small talk in a larger group.
Find a friend to have coffee with or reach out to an acquaintance you know enjoys exercising or browsing thrift stores. Make plans to do something together. Those moments can lend to hearing new ideas and fresh perspectives. Try making an extra effort to reach out to one person from within a current group to connect deeper. They could be a breath of fresh air with invigorating ideas and new topics of conversation. Shrinking down our large communities can provide great comfort.
6. Create Time For Morning Meditation
Skipping the drinks and getting quality sleep will leave you eager to jump out of bed. That might be a slight exaggeration, but your chances are sure better than they are when you’re hitting the wine bottle at night. Set aside 20 minutes to practice self-care in the morning. You can set your intentions for the day, check-in on your goals, read a short daily devotional or passage of Scripture, or write a few lines in a journal. Starting your day from a place of offense (not already playing defense) and preparing your soul for what lies ahead can allow you to gain footing and not feel flustered, reactionary, or over-stressed.
7. Ask For Help
Maybe you have been concerned that your drinking is evolving from something minor into a problem. As two women in addiction recovery ourselves, we can say that the single best thing we did to start the journey was ask for help.
There are tons of resources out there that can guide you to get the support you need whether you know you have a problem with alcohol or you aren’t quite sure. From faith-based recovery groups to traditional 12-step meetings or other treatment options, the choices are far and wide. You can get free, confidential information about support options by contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration here.
8. Create a Game Plan
These points listed are healthy alternatives to coping with stress, but it’s not necessary to adjust every avenue of your life and no longer enjoy your old happy hour groups. If you’re meeting your girls for “drinks” but want to skip the alcohol, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t join the party! Be prepared with your non-alcoholic game plan.
Check the online menu of the restaurant or bar where you’re headed to see if they have mocktail or non-alcoholic options. If not, get creative in ordering something festive and fun with ingredients they offer. Invite a supportive and/or sober friend to be on your team. Being prepared ahead of time can alleviate the worry of feeling like the odd man out in a drinking crowd.
We Can Find Healthy Ways to Cope and Enjoy Life to the Fullest
Ladies, we don’t have to be another statistic. We don’t have to play the part of the overwhelmed woman whose only way to cope is reaching for the oversized wine glass. While there might be complicated, unsettling things everywhere we turn, there are healthy ways to cope. Even though times might be tough, there is also good in the world. There is love. There is real connection. We can open our eyes to this truth when we are healthy women—strong and resilient and sober women—who show up for ourselves and for the ones we love. That presence is invaluable.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Lindsey Encinias recently joined This Grit and Grace Life podcast to share her own struggle with alcoholism and current commitment to sobriety: Behind Her Struggle With Alcohol With Lindsey Encinias – 161