The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve can be busy and stressful with a month-long collection of family gatherings and social obligations. It’s the time that people like to “eat, drink, and be merry”, but that’s not exactly a healthy approach to take during the holidays – especially if you take it too literally.
Regardless of what time of the year it is, you need to remember that your physical and mental health is inextricably linked. Eating excessively or binge drinking can be a serious barrier to maintaining optimal health, both physical and mental.
Tips To Practice Moderation
If any of the following symptoms are interfering with your holiday, it is likely that you are too stressed out. You can manage the overwhelming stress by cutting back on your binge drinking / smoking / drug use, or if severe, seeing a physician. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Disrupted sleep cycles
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in appetite
- Upset stomach
- Short temper
- Muscle aches
There are several ways you can limit your exposure to situations where you know you might engage in binge drinking or excessive drug use, such as:
- Restrict the number of invitations you accept to parties and other social occasions.
- Recognize that the event is about the people – not the alcohol or any other substance. Focus on your company and the people you want to hang out with.
- Let your friends and family know about your commitment to quit/reduce drinking so they can support you in your efforts. Depending on the kind of relationship you have with them, they may stock up on non-alcoholic beverages for you or even join you in cutting back.
- Make sure you never drink on an empty stomach. Alcohol is absorbed much slower when there is food in your stomach. If you drink without eating something first, the alcohol will pass through the stomach and into your bloodstream, resulting in more rapid and risk-inducing intoxication.
- Instead of sugar-loaded cocktails and other high-carb drinks, consider having straight liquor. Drinks like neat scotch and whiskey are meant to be sipped slowly so they may help keep you from consuming too much, too fast. Just remember that a standard drink of spirits is 1.5 oz so be careful when pouring it out of a bottle or better yet use a shot glass as a measure and know how many ounces are in it.
- Enjoy a non-alcoholic drink between and after each alcoholic drink of the night. The human body processes ethanol at approximately the same rate (mg/hour) so allowing additional time between alcoholic drinks both helps reduce peak Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and can help maintain overall hydration (reducing headaches and other side effects of alcohol consumption).
- If you think your drinking is a coping mechanism for negative feelings, find alternative ways to achieve those feelings of relief, calmness, and even joy. This could be through meditating, daily exercise, spending time in nature, or taking up a new hobby.
Take the First Step in the Journey
The path to changing your relationship with alcohol and drugs is not always a linear one but it’s certainly rewarding. By checking in on your behavior regarding a substance (like alcohol) or a potentially damaging habit (like gambling), you can transform the role it plays in your life.
That’s what our CheckUp & Choices program aims to help you do. This is a clinically-proven online program that can help you become more mindful of your alcohol and/or substance use patterns. In several trials funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), our program subscribers demonstrated a 50% decrease in alcohol-related problems on average.
The comprehensive CheckUp allows you to take a critical look at your drinking / drug usage and determine whether it’s something that needs to be reevaluated. If you decide that it’s time to moderate or quit altogether, the Choices Program will give you the cognitive and motivational tools to achieve that goal. For those of you who want to take a look into the program before committing to anything, check out this free 10-question quiz.