By Nanditha Krishnamsetty, MD
A lot of holiday traditions involve alcohol. You’re with friends and family you may not see all the time, and you really want to have a good time, so you celebrate with a few drinks, and then maybe a few more.
The stress and emotional issues tied to the season also play a role in overdrinking. Sometimes you’re with people that you don’t feel entirely comfortable with, and drinking is a way to grease those wheels a little bit.
There is so much pressure to be happy during the holidays, so much pressure to be with loved ones that if you’re going through a difficult time, like a divorce or a job loss or you don’t have someone in your life, it’s really magnified. Mental health concerns, stress and distress all go up during the holidays because of family conflicts, financial concerns and any number of other issues, especially for those with preexisting conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety.
Drinking too much just once can change your life forever, starting with the documented uptick in driving under the influence accidents and fatalities in the Thanksgiving through New Year’s period. Alcohol is a factor in approximately 60% of fatal burn injuries and drownings, 40% of fatal falls and car accidents, and half of all sexual assaults, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Frequent drinking on the holiday party circuit can run your body down and impede immunity during cold and flu season, not to mention damage your liver in the long term. Holiday drinking lowers your inhibitions and can factor in seasonal weight gain. You may also get so intoxicated that you say or do something you regret.
Take the first step in setting the tone for a relaxing, peaceful and enjoyable holiday season by drinking in moderation, avoiding stress and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.
- Alternate sparkling water (or something else nonalcoholic) with any alcohol you consume.
- Go for a wine spritzer, or add ice to wine or other drinks. You’ll feel as though you’re having more alcohol than you actually are, and you’ll be drinking at a slower pace.
- Figure out beforehand how many drinks you will enjoy without feeling lousy the next day. It’s easier to say no when you know that the third gingerbread martini will give you a nasty hangover.
- After setting a drink quota for the night, spread them out over the course of the evening.
- Tell your partner what your drinking limit is going to be before you go to an event where alcohol is free flowing. Being held accountable by someone else makes it easier to say no to the next drink.
- Don‘t make drinking the focus of your festivities. Choose something else, such as catching up with friends or taking pictures.
- Always have some of what you love. So even though eggnog is a calorie and fat bomb, have a small cup and enjoy it fully if that’s what makes your holiday season complete.
Board certified psychiatrist Dr. Krishnamsetty is part of Bay Behavioral Health with offices in Old Bridge and Perth Amboy, NJ. To make an appointment, call 732-360-0287 or Raritan Bay Medical Center’s free physician referral service 1-800-DOCTORS.
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