Are we drinking too much alcohol? Here are some healthier alternatives

Could women be drinking too much? And if so, what can we do? Here are some healthier alternatives for three of the most common reasons why we drink.

The rate at which women consume alcohol in America has been steadily increasing over the past decade. 67% of American women drink regularly (more than once a week), up from 45% in 2002, according to a CDC study.

They also discovered that the female body structure and chemistry makes it so women take longer to metabolise alcohol, meaning that they are more vulnerable than men when it comes to the long-term health effects of alcohol.

After just a few drinks a week, your odds of developing breast and other cancers begins to rise, as does your risk of serious injury. Anything beyond eight drinks a week can increase the risk of heart disease, depression, sleep disorders, and other issues.

(Each extra daily drink increases your risk of breast cancer by roughly 7%, according to a 2002 study published in British Journal of Cancer.)

So, what is the reason behind this alarming and unhealthy trend? In this article, we’ve broken down a few of the reasons why women might have an affinity towards alcohol, and we offer some healthier alternatives. 

The problem: feeling the pressure to “relax”

Research has shown that women are far more likely to be stressed than men. 

Being a woman can prove to be a bit challenging in today’s society; a few of those challenges being sexual harassment, feeling of powerlessness, feeling inferior in their personal lives or careers, perpetual self-doubt and perfectionism.

“Women today are under incredible pressure in the workplace and at home—perhaps more so than at any other time in history. With added pressure comes an added desire to self-medicate,” says Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., the regional clinical vice president of Caron Treatment Centers of New York City. 

Some people might use alcohol as a way to cope with their stress. But while drinking alcohol may help temporarily focus your attention elsewhere, the problems will remain well after your hangover wears off. 

The alternative to alcohol

As states across the country have legalised cannabis, the medical uses of CBD have become increasingly more interesting to doctors and scientists, especially when it comes to maintaining stress, and improving women’s mental health. 

While the scientific evidence for CBD’s ability to quell anxiety and lift the mood is patchy at the moment, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is optimistic: “CBD has shown therapeutic efficacy in a range of animal models of anxiety and stress, reducing both behavioral and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety.

While CBD is proven to be safe and non-toxic, it’s important to consult your doctor before adding something new to your routine. 

The problem: feeling like you need to drink to fit In

Heavy drinking is not only culturally acceptable – often it’s expected. Today alcohol is available everywhere you look, and aggressively promoted through TV shows like Sex & the City. It all makes drinking heavily seem, well, totally normal. 

“I thought drinking was shorthand for being a socially liberated female. Like many women, I felt like I had value when I could throw back drinks and keep up with the boys.” says Sarah Hepola, the Dallas-based author of the best-selling book Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.

The pressure to drink if you’re out with your friends on a Friday night can be suffocating. However, if you surround yourself with people who are respectful of your own choices, you might be surprised how much more fun your life will be. Or, try to shift your social circle so it no longer revolves around heavy drinking. 

The truth is that sobriety, like drinking alcohol, is just another personal choice.

The alternative to alcohol

With the wave of health-conscious millennials, a new trend is being ushered in. Say “Hi” to the mocktail. 

If you’re going out this weekend, and want to drink something a little more fun than soda water, Google the bars or restaurants in your area advertising a mocktail menu, you will NOT be disappointed. Often, the mocktail version of a drink will taste even better than the alcoholic version. 

“Consumers don’t want to sacrifice flavor and quality of ingredients,” said Amanda Topper, Mintel’s associate director of foodservice research. “They want to have a great experience, but perhaps without alcohol. We’re seeing a lot more restaurants and bars offering more high-caliber options.”

If you’re feeling adventurous, try ordering one of these mocktails next time you’re out on the town.

The problem: drinking to unwind

Dinner isn’t made yet, the sink is somehow already filled with a pile of dishes, there are bills to pay, and your work phone is buzzing. Sound familiar? It’s natural to reach for a bottle of your favourite wine, pour a generous glass and try to ‘hit pause’ at the end of a long day. 

“Drinking makes many women feel like we can do the heavy lifting in an ever evolving, complex world,” says Ann Dowsett Johnston, the Toronto-based author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. “There’s this feeling of ‘I’m doing it all – why shouldn’t I have something for myself?’”

However, an increasing number of us ladies are over-imbibing. Drinking problems have increased in every generation of women born after World War II, including boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials,” says Katherine M. Keyes, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. 

Although alcohol can potentially make you feel a little sleepy, and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, the quality of sleep is often poor. Alcohol is also a depressant, so feelings of anxiety may get worse by drinking and causing someone to feel more stressed.

The alternative to alcohol

Many people are turning to yoga as an alternative for alcohol to aid in better sleep. 

Yoga is a gentle and restorative way to wind down your day without the use of alcohol. A National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that over 55% of people who practiced yoga had  better sleep habits, and over 85% said yoga also helped them reduce stress.

Alcohol dependency can cause you to feel out of balance in every sense of the word. Yoga is another great alcohol alternative, which can help you take your mind off of drinks, and instead can make you feel relaxed and centered. This form of gentle exercise has been designed to help you make a mind-body connection, and get in tune with your body to prepare for sleep.

There are SO many different types of Yoga, such as slower-paced Hatha yoga or Power yoga. You could even introduce yoga to your kids and get them to practice yoga with you before bedtime. 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema