After a challenging day, it's common for people to reach for a drink to help them relax. After all, it's called "happy hour," right?
But alcohol isn't a great way to cope with stress. It can actually make anxiety and depression worse. And sometimes one drink leads to another … and another.
Have you found yourself drinking more lately? Do you wonder if maybe you're drinking too much?
Just what is "too much"?
Canadian health experts suggest that if you drink, the key is to keep it at a low to moderate level. That means::
- If you're a man, have no more than 3 standard drinks a day on most days and no more than 15 drinks a week.
- If you're a woman, have no more than 2 standard drinks a day on most days and no more than 10 drinks a week.
On special occasions every now and then, it's okay to have 1 extra drink.
If you choose to drink, keep the amount of alcohol you drink within the recommended limits. Drinking at the upper limits should only happen once in a while, not every day or week. Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
And a standard drink is smaller than many people realize: It's a 341 mL (12 fl oz) can of beer, a 142 mL (5 fl oz) glass of wine, or a mixed drink with 43 mL (1.5 fl oz) of liquor.
But there's more to it than numbers. Alcohol can affect your emotions and your judgment. Even though you may drink to relax, some people find that it makes them more short-tempered. They may say or do things they regret later. And while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it can cause you to wake up in the night or sleep poorly, so you may feel more tired and stressed the next day.
For some people, no amount of alcohol is safe.
Is it time to cut back?
To help you decide if you're drinking more than you want to, ask yourself:
- Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, it might be time to think about cutting back.
If you do decide to drink less, there are lots of ways to do it. For example, substitute a no-alcohol drink that you enjoy, like flavoured seltzer water or tonic with a lemon wedge. Or have a large glass of water with each drink.
You may also want to explore healthier ways to cope with stress, like walking, yoga, or meditation. These are strategies you can use now or anytime your stress level goes up.
If it's harder to cut back than you expected, reach out for help. Call your doctor or therapist, or look for an online support group.
Current as of:
February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine
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