It is not as uncommon as we might think that women who experience anxiety turn to alcohol to try to alleviate it. Alcohol is, unfortunately, an anxiety reducer. How many times have you heard yourself, or someone else say, “I want a glass of wine,” or “a mojito”, to relax, or to unwind?
This is not to say that each of us who periodically drink alcohol is an alcohol abuser, or an alcoholic. It just may mean that we may want to explore what our motivation for drinking is, and whether alcohol is the main way, or the only way, that we choose to reduce our anxiety.
Unfortunately, women are prone to suffer from anxiety more so than men. In a recent study published in the June issue of the journal Brain and Behavior, researchers reported that women were nearly twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder.
Women Want to be the Ultimate Multi-Tasker
There are many personal, or individual, reasons women might begin to develop a problem in dealing with anxiety. Many women react to stress differently than men, and may use different coping mechanisms. Although in a culture where women’s roles continue to expand and increase, an added pressure comes along with each new role and responsibility.
Women strive to be successful in each role as mother, wife, employee etc. We desire to be considered successful at home, and in our career, all the while maintaining an impeccable appearance to meet society’s expectations. It’s a lot of pressure and most women don’t want to admit that we can’t always do it all.
No One Likes Feeling Anxious
Anxiety produces a physical, and often unpleasant response in our bodies. Our instinct is often to alleviate that distress as quickly as possible to return to a state of relaxation and well-being.
What sometimes happens is that we may feel anxious, or stressed out, and we have a drink and notice that we are suddenly feeling less anxious. This immediate relief then gives us the message that alcohol reduces and medicates our anxiety.
Downing Some Liquid Courage
Having a drink or two to relax is usually considered socially acceptable. Just one glass of wine might turn into two, or three until it requires an increasing amount of alcohol to achieve the same alleviation…until we might not be able to find the relief we seek at all. The comfortable relaxation we used to acquire becomes elusive, but we may continue to seek it since we may not know any other way to lessen our anxiety.
If we begin to require more than that to get through the next event, meeting—day, we don’t usually feel comfortable admitting this dependence. We may feel very alone in our internal struggle.
We Are Not Alone
I have spent my entire life telling other peoples’ stories. This one is my own, and is incredibly personal: the burden and loneliness of the secret drinker.
Journalist, and 20/20 Anchor, Elizabeth Vargas has recently opened up about her experience in dealing with anxiety in her memoir entitled, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction.
She shares her personal story of how anxiety has ruled much of her life and resulted in her battle with alcoholism. She emphasizes that alcohol did not ultimately relieve her anxiety; it merely provided her with new problems to content with.
Finding Other Emotionally Healthy Solutions
It is important to ask ourselves what might be some emotionally healthy ways of relieving and releasing our anxiety. We must each determine what works best to alleviate our anxiety.
A few methods include:
- Talking with an emotionally safe person instead of letting our anxiety build up inside.
- Learning to restructure our anxiety producing thoughts through techniques like, thought-stopping.
- Working towards accepting that we can’t control everything and try to put the situation in perspective.
- Trying to get enough sleep.
- Limiting caffeine consumption.
- Listening to music.
Intentional Movement Can Be Beneficial
If you just exercise it doesn’t release anxiety in the same way if there isn’t an intentional mental connection. We must consider that we are doing this to release and relieve anxiety. If we create a mind and body connection in that moment, the movement will work to release the anxiety.
We must first think to ourselves, “I’m feeling anxious, let me move and release it.”
Shake it Off
Shaking can energetically and physiologically shift how we feel.
- Stand and completely shake your entire body, including hands and feet. Stomp for 30-40 seconds until you feel like stopping. Notice how you feel before, and then notice how you feel afterwards.
Experiment with Different Kinds of Movement
What kind of movement resonates for you?
- Exercise - walking, running or bicycling.
- Tai Chi.
- Your personal preference.
Alcohol Seems Like a Quick Fix, but it Can lead to Long-Term Problems
Unfortunately for some of us, having a drink feels like a quick fix for the anxiety as opposed to really searching and using strategies that might take some time, energy and thought. Pouring another drink doesn’t require any work at all.
Regrettably, what may happen is that a real problem with alcohol may develop. Alcohol could begin to interfere with our relationships, work, family and friends.
The dependence upon alcohol can sneak up on us slowly without us realizing it until it becomes problematic. Then not only are we struggling with anxiety, we are now struggling with an alcohol problem.
Let Us Help You Find a Long-Term Solution
If you struggle with seeking an emotionally healthy method to relieve your anxiety and stress, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance & Counseling located on Long Island can help alleviate that burden. Our licensed therapists have helped many people reduce their anxiety and stress so they can enjoy each day to the fullest.