Why Stress May Not Mix Well With Alcohol

One of the trends emerging at the moment is the increased consumption of alcohol. Maybe you’re working from home and homeschooling your kiddos, maybe you’re working 12 hour days and can’t catch a break, or maybe you’re just trying to make ends meet—wherever you are in life right now, things can get stressful and you might find yourself reaching for that glass of wine at the end of the day more often to help relax and shake the day off. 

Reaching for that first drink may leave you initially feeling stimulated or euphoric (fun!), however, after a few more drinks, those feelings may soon wear off leaving you feeling drowsy or sedated (which can feel like a bummer, and not always what you originally intended). That is because alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. Now you may be thinking that sounds like the perfect recipe for a good night of sleep! Unfortunately, if you imbibe in more than the recommended one to two drinks (see below), alcohol may make it harder for you to fall asleep, may reduce the quality of your sleep, and could leave you feeling much less productive the next day. 

In addition to the impact on your sleep and mood, alcohol may also undermine your weight loss goals, weaken your immune system, and lower your alertness. In the long run, consistent heavy drinking can cause serious damage to your organs and is associated with many cancers. It’s understandable to be feeling overwhelmed, sad, or stressed right now, but practicing moderation and learning healthier ways to cope with your emotions are the best  bet for your physical and mental well-being. 

What Do the Drinking Guidelines Recommend?

The Dietary Guidelines suggest that if alcohol is consumed, then moderation is key. So what does moderation look like? 

Up to two standard drinks a dayUp to one standard drink a day

Get your measuring cup out this week and see for yourself how your pour stacks up to a standard drink. Wondering what’s considered a standard drink?

One standard drink equals:

  • 12 ounces of beer (approximately 5% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine, (approximately 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounce shot of a spirit, (approximately 40% alcohol)

You can find ounces and percent alcohol on the label

If you want a yummy alternative, try swapping for a mocktail instead…

Here are a few simple ideas to inspire you:

  • White grape juice + sparkling water + sprig of mint + ice
  • Fresh lime juice and a few thin slices + sparkling water + honey or stevia + ice
  • Shrubs + seltzer water + sprig of rosemary + ice (Pro tip: Purchase shrubs of all flavors online or try this easy homemade recipe!)

If you feel like you may be consuming more alcohol than the Dietary Guidelines recommend, or that your alcohol consumption may be causing you to experience stress or sleeping issues, you can always reach out to your primary care provider for some added support. If you’re in the US, you can connect virtually with a doctor from PlushCare directly through the Fitbit App. You can also call the National Helpline through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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