How to prepare for (and get through) the drinking season

It starts somewhere around Thanksgiving and gains momentum, culminating in a blaze of glory during the festivities of New Year’s Eve. This is the time I like to call ‘The Drinking Season’.

It affects every one of us, whether you are a drinker or not, due to a few important factors of life during this time of year. Drinking is a way to bond with friends and loved ones but it's also a very common way to deal with all the extra stress we experience in the final six weeks of the year. Whether you are travelling to see loved ones, worrying about the right gift, or getting into conflicts with those around you, this is the time we are faced with major stressors that are not present during the other 46 weeks of the year.

Alcohol helps you enjoy your food, get a little buzzed and generally feel good in the moment. It forms a part of the fabric of our society, and often, is woven with tradition and becomes an integral part of celebrating the holidays. Depending on your stress management techniques, drinking may be part of the way you do life. Nothing about this is wrong; it is just the reality of the world we find ourselves in.

Whether or not alcohol is healthy for you is not a simple question to answer and only you can answer it for yourself. The research shows that binge drinking is bad for you and that consistent consumption of even one drink a night increases the chances of gut infections like SIBO. The research also shows that alcohol seems to help many that drink it. We all know that the waters run much muddier and deeper than this when it comes to alcohol.

I find that the issue becomes creating an awareness of the water you are swimming in rather than simply being controlled by the current. It is important to have a choice and to give others the opportunity to choose too.

How prepared are you for your ‘drinking season’?

Preparation is the key to having an easier and more nourishing outcome involving your health and nutrition choices. When it comes to alcohol consumption, ask yourself a few important questions:

Are you going to consume alcohol whenever it is offered or served?

What types of alcohol are you going to drink?

What types of mixers/drinks will you put into your body?

If you are not drinking alcohol what will you order at the bar instead?

What will you tell people when they ask about it (because they will)?

How will you deal with and mitigate your stress when it becomes overwhelming?

How will you calm down when you get angry or sad this holiday season?

What will you do when you are bored?

There are no right or wrong answers here. However, thinking this through is very important to reducing your stress and enjoying the festivities. The scenario below may be helpful to you when asking and answering these questions effectively for purposes of your health and wellbeing. 

Yes, I will be drinking alcohol this year. I am only willing to drink vodka or wine. Mixers I will use are fizzy water and fruits like limes. I will drink a max of four drinks per night.

I will try to meditate at least 15 minutes each day and if my stress levels feel really high I will take a short time out and do five minutes of deep belly breathing. When I get angry or sad, I will experience the emotions as much as I can and journal about them. If I start noticing boredom creep up on me, I will try to have a conversation with someone I've never spoken with before (I know this may be a bit of a stretch for many of us).

I may also choose not to drink at times. When making this choice, I commit to vulnerably sharing with anyone who asks exactly why I am choosing not to drink on that particular occasion. No hiding for me this year.

When navigating your personal drinking season, I recommend choosing and forgetting about it! There is no right or wrong way to do this. Alcohol consumption is a much deeper topic than its physiological effects on your body. It becomes about how you connect with other humans and is a question of digesting your daily emotions and your ability to deal with stress.

I prefer not to tell clients what or how to do alcohol during the holiday season. My focus is to help them think a little deeper about their relationship to alcohol and how they will choose to manage it throughout the year. Make you choice and then decide to relax (as much as you are able) and enjoy moments, friendships, conversations and connections.

Happy holidays from my home to yours!

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