There is nothing wrong with the odd glass of wine, but if it’s the only way you know to unwind at the end of a day, it can become problematic. If you want to reduce your reliance on drinking wine or learn other ways to manage stress, including parenting stress, these are the strategies I recommend to people in my clinic.
Deal with the causes of stress
Sit down and look at what is that is bothering you about work, routines or parenting. Is it something you can address or change? Are there skills you can learn or behaviors you can change that will stop the stress cycle happening? Do you need a break? Do you need to change the way you think about a situation or end the worry trap? Reducing the expectations you place on yourself to handle parenting without feeling angry, frustrated or bored are often key for parents
Finding other ways to reward yourself. Many people tell me that they see their wine as the reward at the end of the day. With any habit we are trying to change, we need to find a replacement for its function. Consider doing an activity you enjoy, playing soothing music, nice food, reading a book, having a bath, massaging your hands as an alternative reward.
Make limits It is helpful to put limits on your drinking. For example, you may commit to only drinking alcohol socially but refraining from using alcohol as a way to manage work/ parenting stress and frustration.
Learn how to breathe to calm your physical stress symptoms.
Your body responds to stress physically. While you may have no need to run away or fight off your daily stressors, your body will respond as if it does. Your heart rate increases, your breathing gets shorter and shifts into the chest and your muscles tense just to name a few. Reversing this reaction with a slow breathing technique shifts you out of the stress response and into the calm part of your nervous system.
Ground yourself in the present moment.
When you are stressed you may experience an overload of feelings and thoughts, sometimes called racing thoughts. This can feel very overwhelming, and you may not be able to determine which thought to focus on at that moment. Instead, ground yourself in your environment. Find 5 things you can see, notice what you can hear, and then what you can smell, taste and touch. Or find one thing like the pattern of your granddad or the moving leaves of a tree and focus your attention on that.
Mindfulness is proven to increase feelings of calm if practiced regularly. Mindfulness teaches you how to focus your mind on one thing, such as your breath or the present moment rather than on the content of your thoughts. Mindfulness helps increase connectivity between your thinking, feeling and survival parts of the brain. This is good news because when there is greater connectivity between these parts of the brain, people are less reactive and more mentally well.
It’s important to remember a factor that often keeps people tied to wine is that the physical effects are experienced rapidly. The strategies I suggest work, but the feeling of relaxation will be different and may take longer than the warm dulling that alcohol creates as it enters your bloodstream. You will need to repeatedly practice these strategies and accept a new feeling of calm.
If you are worried about your drinking these are some of the signs that it is time to address it:
• You are unhappy with your drinking
• You are regularly unable to drive your children because you would be over the DUI limit
• You have tried to stop or decrease your drinking and find that after a few days you can’t
• You say things you regret to your children and/ or partner when you are drinking
• You feel tired all the time
• You don’t want to attend events where there is no alcohol
• You get drunk every time you drink
• You drink to fall asleep
• Your partner or your children complain about your drinking or your behavior when you drink.
For more information or help to reduce drinking, see your doctor or go to the Alcoholics Anonymous website.