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Pandemic Parenting Stress Causes Increased Alcohol Abuse

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Pandemic parenting: it hasn’t been for the faint of heart. The pandemic is taking a toll on parents, and their stress is showing up in the form of increased alcohol abuse.

Since the beginning of COVID-19, we’ve experienced the challenges of working from home (if we even still had a job), while tending to our children’s education and social development. The emotional stress, along with the physical strain of multi-tasking, has certainly taken its toll.

I am one of those parents.


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Pandemic Parents Feel Overwhelmed

At the start of the pandemic, I had my second child, and because of the unknowns of the virus at that time, we had no childcare for my oldest.

My husband and I flipflopped between caretaking and trying to meet our work deadlines. Both our companies were hit hard by COVID, and we were constantly on pins and needles due to the many rounds of layoffs that occurred at our workplaces.

It was a stressful time, to say the least, and I constantly felt overwhelmed, maxed out and inadequate.

How much longer would I have a job? Was I doing enough for my kids’ development?  Would we be able to pay our bills that month?

My story is certainly not unique, but it’s one I’m sure countless of parents can relate to. With everything we have had on our plates the last year-and-a-half, it’s no wonder that the drinking frequency among parents has skyrocketed.

How Pandemic Stress Leads to Increased Alcohol Abuse

In a recent study conducted by the nonprofit research institute, RTI International, it was found that increases in alcohol consumption observed at the onset of the pandemic (February 2020) were sustained through at least November 2020.

More specifically, the proportion of people exceeding drinking guidelines increased by 39% between February 2020 and November 2020, and binge drinking saw an increase of 30% between that same timeframe. Interestingly enough, the results showed that the largest increase in consumption was among women with children under the age of 5.

Another study shows similar results. In a report conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly one in four adults (23%) reported increased alcohol abuse to cope with the stress of the pandemic.  This proportion jumps to 52% for those who are parents with early elementary school-age children (5-7 years old).

3 Ways to Ensure Healthy Coping

Even though the virus is still very much a part of our lives, there are actions we can take to better cope with pandemic anger, stress, and anxiety – rather than turning to that glass of wine.

These actions include:

  • Finding Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Many people tend to use alcohol as a crutch when they’re experiencing certain feelings – anxiety, stress, or even boredom – so it’s important to replace this behavior with some healthy coping mechanisms. This could involve picking up a new hobby or activity, such as scrapbooking or learning to play a new instrument. Whatever this new activity is, make sure it’s something you enjoy doing and look forward to. While we’re developing these new coping mechanisms, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep is crucial. After all, being well-rested and providing enough nourishment to the body can go a long way in battling urges and cravings.

  • Knowing Your Triggers

A trigger is any form of stimuli that can prompt urges and cravings to go drink, and it is typically associated with a memory or situation that relates in some way to past use.  By keeping track of your urges and cravings, you can identify what those specific triggers are, which are usually people, places or things that remind you of drinking. Being more aware of what your triggers are can help you come up with a game plan the next time a craving hits and use those healthy coping mechanisms that you’ve developed.

  • Reaching Out

If you’re struggling with alcohol and the amount you’re consuming, tell someone. This could be your significant other, your best friend, or your primary care provider. It’s important to voice your concerns so that you don’t go through this struggle alone and feel even more isolated. Even though we are still in the middle of a pandemic, there are a variety of COVID-friendly resources to utilize that can help you take control of your drinking.


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This Too Shall Pass

Remember to go easy on yourself and give yourself some grace. At the end of the day, we are doing the best we possibly can under these extremely challenging and unusual circumstances. The pandemic won’t last forever (we hope anyway), and there will undoubtedly be brighter days ahead.

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