Stress directly affects the amount of progesterone our body makes. The more stressed we are, the less progesterone we are able to make. This can lead to some unwanted side effects such as weight gain, mood swings, irregular menstrual cycle (and in some cases, even lack of a period) and breast tenderness.
It is not uncommon for patients to tell me that to help cope with stress, they have a glass of wine, or another alcoholic drink. While alcohol can help us unwind, we know that too much alcohol can have detrimental effects (and not just the next day!!)
So, what other things can we do instead of having a drink?
Set yourself a drink limit and count your drinks
The National Health and Medical Research Council has specific guidelines for the consumption of alcohol. It’s a good idea to set yourself a limit in accordance with these guidelines, which is no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 in a single drinking session. Set yourself a similar limit and your body will feel better for it the next day!
Have a few alcohol-free days each week.
Having a few alcohol-free days each week will help you stay healthy and break any bad habits, such as reaching for a drink each day after work. Take the opportunity to adopt some other healthy behaviours, such as eating well and exercising. A break from alcohol, even for a day, will give your liver a chance to recover and work on some other vital process in the body.
Swap to low or no alcohol alternatives.
Low and no alcohol products are a good alternative for people who want to reduce their drinking – they have the same or similar taste but contain less alcohol. There are more and more options available at many retailers.
Keep up your water and food intake.
If you’re thirsty, reach for water instead of alcohol. Also make sure to alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks. A glass of water, soda water or juice will do the trick.
Drinking on an empty stomach will increase the rate that alcohol is absorbed. Eating before or while you drink alcohol will help it be absorbed into the bloodstream at a lower rate.
Limit how much alcohol you keep in the house.
If I buy chocolate, it will get eaten fairly quickly! The simple solution for me is not to buy it and then, there’s none for me to eat. It can work the same way with alcohol – If it’s not there, you can’t drink it!
If you’re not quite ready to make your house totally alcohol-free, try reducing the amount that you keep at home. Often, the more we have at home, the more likely we are to consume it sooner than intended.
Keep non-alcoholic options at home.
Try a non-alcoholic beer or wine. You can also keep a range of teas (many of which can be served chilled) and sparkling water (try adding some fruit to infuse the flavour into it!).
Change your “after work routine”.
Its easy to get into a routine of arriving home and reaching for a glass of wine or beer to help de-stress from the day. Try to find another activity to do instead. This could be:
- Going for a walk, run or bike ride
- Taking up a new hobby that doesn’t involve alcohol
- Learning a new skill – painting, drawing, yoga or gardening
Drink only with dinner.
Instead of having a few pre-dinner drinks, wait until dinner is served, then limit to one drink with dinner.
Reduce your alcohol consumption while you’re out by:
- Limit how much alcohol you take with you, if you’re going to a friend’s house and make sure you have non-alcoholic alternatives.
- Avoid drinking in rounds. This can result in drinking more than you had planned.
- Be the designated driver!
- Find social alternatives that don’t involve alcohol. For example, pick a location to catch up with a friend where alcohol isn’t easily available, such as at the beach, a picnic or the movies.
Make a plan.
Whatever you decide to do, put it in writing and keep referring back to it. Include reasons why you want to reduce your alcohol intake, by how much, over what period of time, etc. Making a clear plan can help you work toward your goals.
Keep an alcohol diary.
For 2 to 3 weeks, keep track of all the alcoholic drinks that you consume. Include where you were and what you drank, as well as how much. Also include your feeling before and after drinking. Use this diary to compare to your plan and goals.
Watch out for peer pressure.
Practice saying “no”. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you will be surprised how quickly you and others get used to it. Some ways to say “no” include:
- “I’m pacing myself.”
- “I’m cutting back.”
- “I’m on a health kick.”
Think about your friends who don’t drink often. Arrange social outings with them.
Get others on board and ask for support.
Getting others on board can help you to be accountable. You can also enjoy the benefits of less alcohol together! If you can’t get anyone to join you, ask for their support in your journey. If you feel you need more support, talk to your health care practitioner.
Did you know that AMC has a psychologist who can help to support you? Call us on 1300 883 405 to arrange an appointment. If you feel like to need help straight away, phone LifeLine on 13 11 14.
- Alcohol Think Again, 2021, ‘Tips to reduce drinking’, Government of Western Australia, viewed on 23 June 2021 https://alcoholthinkagain.com.au/alcohol-your-health/tips-to-reduce-drinking/
- Harvard Health Medical School, 2020, ’11 ways to curb your drinking’, Harvard Health Medical School, viewed on 28 June 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/11-ways-to-curb-your-drinking