Alcohol use disorders continue to be a public health concern in the U.S., and statistics have shown that this has become an increasingly prevalent issue among women. According to the CDC, roughly 8% of women ages 18 to 25 have alcohol use disorders, and 18% of women who report binge drinking are of child-bearing age, from 18 to 44.
Excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking can quickly lead to an alcohol use disorder. Using alcohol as an emotional crutch can also progress to chemical dependence and compulsive drinking. It all depends on the motivation or reasons behind alcohol use.
Women are also at higher risk of negative health effects of alcohol abuse and addiction, including liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and brain damage. There are a number of valid reasons to be wary of crossing the fine line between social drinking in moderation and drinking for the sake of coping or self-medicating.
For women who have concerns about their drinking, here are 11 ways to mitigate the risk of becoming dependent on alcohol and developing unhealthy drinking habits.
- Track Alcohol Intake
If you find yourself unable to quantify the number of drinks you have on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis, tracking your intake in a journal or digital tracker can give you a baseline idea. This can help you know whether you’re within the healthy range.
The Department of Health and Human Services defines moderate drinking as one or fewer drinks per day for women. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as four or more alcoholic drinks every two hours for the average woman.
- Exercise More Often
When stress levels increase, it is common to crave things that will take the edge off, such as alcohol. Yet alcohol can have counterproductive and hazardous effects when used too frequently and to excess.
Physical exercise is a natural mood enhancer and stress reliever, as opposed to the depressing effects of alcohol. Replacing happy hours with exercise sessions is an effective strategy for swapping out alcohol for a healthier alternative.
- Ask For Support
It can be challenging to cut back or abstain from alcohol, especially when doing it alone or attempting to do it discreetly. Letting a few close family members and friends know about your new health goals can make a huge difference to your success.
They might even want to try doing it with you. You can suggest doing a fun sober holiday, or collectively committing to a month of abstinence such as Dry January (P.S., you can do this any month of the year!).
- Explore Therapy
If you are going through a stressful time and feeling challenged by emotions, it’s natural to reach for the nearest thing that provides temporary relief like alcohol. Confronting your emotions instead of numbing them is much more effective, especially when done with the therapeutic support of a mental health professional.
- Do A Health Cleanse
Doing a cleanse is a refreshing way to reboot the body’s system by flushing out all the toxins that have built up from unhealthy eating and drinking habits. A cleanse can be a good reason to abstain from alcohol and experience the benefits of having a clean system and a clear mind.
- Avoid Triggering Situations
Everyone has emotional triggers, big or small, that cause them to resort back to coping strategies that may be temporarily effective but unsustainable. If you’re trying to abstain from alcohol or cut down your intake, staying clear of triggers that can increase your cravings can benefit your abstinence goals.
- Try Sober Hobbies
People often drink out of boredom or loneliness. Staying busy with interesting activities that engage your curiosity and stimulate creativity can take your mind off of alcohol and help reduce cravings.
- Practice Self Care
Self-care activities such as enjoying long baths, listening to music, or getting a massage are simple yet effective ways of unwinding and soothing stress without the need for alcohol. Money normally spent on alcohol can be allocated toward things that indulge your senses and make you feel balanced and refreshed.
- Make Home Alcohol-Free
Try removing alcohol from your home to put it out of sight and mind. An alcohol-free living environment can be more conducive to a healthy lifestyle, even if it’s just temporary.
You can try restocking your fridge with your favorite non-alcoholic beverages, or experiment with making your own healthy alternatives. Invest in a sparkling water machine or smoothie kit to explore new tastes and creative alcohol-free recipes.
- Find Support Groups
You may be surprised to find out that there are many other women wanting to moderate their alcohol intake or try out abstinence. Even if you’re just looking for groups of women who enjoy sober social activities, there are plenty of online sobriety support groups.
- Try Health Apps
There are plenty of health apps you can download on your phone that can steer you away from alcohol if you’re trying to avoid it. Apps that help you set and track daily hydration, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, and meditation goals are a fun way of adapting to a healthier and alcohol-free lifestyle.
Even if you are not quite sure if you have a problem with alcohol, there is nothing at all wrong with wanting to take a break from it from time to time. Trying out moderation or abstinence is a great opportunity to explore new interests and social outlets that do not involve alcohol. It can also incentivize you to invest in your mental and physical health, and learn some new strategies for coping with stress.