Wine has become shorthand for relaxation. That well-deserved break after a long day of working and parenting, signaling the start of the last shift before bedtime.

The never-ending wine o’clock memes to escape, cope and reward oneself for the daily struggles and stressors have become synonymous with especially mothers. Announcing you need a drink when feeling stressed or exhausted is usually met with enthusiastic agreement and encouragement from fellow mothers. The opening of a bottle of wine becomes the big exhale.

But it is important to note that anyone drinking to self-medicate or develop an addiction to alcohol is a cause for concern.

Universally we know that being a mother is a significantly important job and one that doesn’t end and rarely offers a day off. The corporate world rarely acknowledges the responsibility of being a parent, increasing the levels of anxiety of not being as available as your male counterparts. Parenting is all-consuming, often done in isolation with little support, and troubled by the supermom status of being able to “do it all”.

Unfortunately, too many moms turn to a glass or bottle of wine every night to detach themselves from the stress and to take the edge off. Alcohol has become a crutch, a socially accepted coping mechanism for the daily burden.


Alcohol by numbers

Ever found yourself opening a bottle of wine at 5.30 pm whilst cooking dinner, or preparing for the next day’s work or school obligations, committing to only drinking half yet finding yourself finishing the bottle come 9pm? On recycling day, you hear the clinking of multiple bottles and wonder, did I really consume so much wine this week?

Although it happens, it’s not healthy to be ignorant of your alcohol consumption.

To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.

Weekly this means adult women without any mental health difficulties, should consume no more than 7 units of alcohol per week, and no more than 3 units on any given day. Adult males without mental health difficulties, 14 units per week, and no more than 4 on any given day. If you are suffering from mental illness then the recommendation is half of the above.

Important to note though that a glass of wine is not filled to the top!

A unit equals 125ml of wine, one 340ml beer or a single tot of spirits.


Personally, I believe that one should refrain from drinking during the week, never drink alone or to feel better. If you are concerned about your consumption complete the CAGE Assessment for a better understanding.

Does alcohol really “take the edge off” or does it make things worse?

Many people who visit my practice have some form of casual addiction or misuse of substances. Alcohol is the most common although many are addicted to self-medication such as painkillers and sleeping tablets.

The problem is that even though it might seem that a few drinks every evening relieves the tension of the day, in the medium to long term this false friend adds to your stress whether it’s work, finances or family.

Stress is sometimes an excuse as to why people abuse alcohol or other substances but, it negatively impacts your mental health, your ability to cope with daily challenges and affects your physical health. Here is how:

Sleep – Although alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it actually reduces the quality and quantity of sleep. It interrupts your sleep stages, especially REM sleep which is an essential restorative part of your sleep cycle. Sleep is your first line of defense for mental health issues and overall physical health. Changes in your sleeping patterns such as waking up at 2am or suffering from insomnia, along with morning headaches and fogginess, increased anxiety and depression, and low motivation are all signs that alcohol is impacting your sleep.

Physical health – alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds and the flu; cause inflammation; lower your libido; spike blood sugar levels; and damage your central nervous system and heart health. If you regularly wake up with a hangover you will also be less likely to exercise.

Mental health – Alcohol is a depressant and can affect your thoughts, feelings, moods, and actions. Many people become angry, violent, aggressive, anxious, or depressed when they consume alcohol. Alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and makes stress harder to deal with. It affects memory and concentration, increases tension and conflict in romantic and family relationships, affects your mood, and increases levels of anxiety and irritability. It also causes people to lose their inhibition, act impulsively, and could lead to actions that they would not have considered such as suicide and self-harm.

How to break the cycle

  • Get real about your drinking. Bring attention to your habit by making a note of each drink you consume over the course of a week. Rate your level of sleep, mood, and overall physical health daily.
  • Find alternatives to winding down. Have several drink-free days each week and rather enjoy a non-alcoholic drink, read a book, go for a walk, phone a friend or go to bed early.
  • Always avoid binge drinking
  • Take a break. Diminish the importance of alcohol in your life by taking a break of at least a month. By not drinking you come to understand how alcohol is affecting your life and how unnecessarily you have become dependent thereon.

Although many people can naturally moderate their alcohol consumption, drinking consistently will eventually lead to the need to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol. There is no shame in wanting to slow down or stop. Seek help if you fear the loss of alcohol in your life by contacting Alcoholics Anonymous, go to therapy to uncover your reliance on alcohol, and to find healthier coping skills.