In the lead up to the Christmas season, there are lots of social events and celebrations that can pull us into drinking alcohol. It is usually the time when we are encouraged to drink more, rather than less. With this increase in social pressure to drink, we may think that it’s the worst time to try and start cutting down. But it could be the perfect time to start focusing on yourself and make the most of this holiday season.
By the end of the year, a lot of us are busy winding up work projects, finishing up with school for the kids, and getting ready for a holiday break. Those who have been relying on alcohol to get through the stressors of life, are sick of waking up feeling tired. Generally, we could all do with more energy, and less health challenges. Starting to cut down on alcohol is just one way we can support ourselves into the lead-up to the ‘silly season’.
There are many reasons to cut down, but the main ones for many people are health reasons, to save money, and to have more energy. There are certainly lots of benefits to reducing our alcohol intake, including:
- improved mood and sleep
- increased energy
- better concentration and performance
- improved awareness and availability in relationships
- support to your mental health and wellbeing
Currently, the recommended alcohol intake for healthy adult men and women is no more than 4 standard drinks per day and 10 standard drinks per week to reduce the risk of accidents, injuries and disease (ADF, National Health and Medical Research Council). While there is no safe level of alcohol use, these guidelines can help Australians make informed decisions about their daily intake. The idea is that the less you drink, the lower your risk of harm associated with alcohol. You can check out the guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council more closely, here.
So how do we start to cut down? There are a few tips below to get you started.
1. Make a plan in advance
It’s not easy to know how much you’re going to drink when out socialising, but most people know what feels like too much for them. We often have a feeling about the kind of event we are going to too, and whether it’s going to be one where we feel pressure to drink. It’s helpful to have a plan for how we are going to handle the social pressure of people offering more drinks. Having something to say like “I’m only having 3 tonight” or “I have to drive home” can make it a lot easier to stick to your plan.
2. Set limits
Set a drink limit for the event. And decide what days of the week you are going to drink, and how many standard drinks you are going to limit yourself to. Some people like to keep drinking to the weekends, or to one night of the weekend. Try to keep a few alcohol-free days in the week also, to see if you can go without it. Some people like to quit all in one go and try for an alcohol-free period, like a few weeks or a month.
3. Count your drinks
Counting the number of drinks helps you see your progress and track how you’re doing with your goals over time. The new Drink Tracker in our Daybreak app can help you keep track of how many drinks you are having in a single session. It can also track alcohol-free days.
Swapping your drinks to low or 0% alcohol can help you transition into drinking less. Many of
our members in Daybreak have found that not reaching for that first drink is the hardest. Try having a non-alcoholic drink when a craving hits to quench your thirst. Bring some non-alcoholic choices along with you to a party.
5. Aim to avoid hangovers
Avoiding hangovers is one way to improve your relationship with alcohol. When people first decide to make changes, it is common to want to avoid the headache and discomfort associated with a hangover. A great place to start is to try these tips and see if they make any difference for you.
- Try to avoid having pre-drinks before you go out
- Eat before and during the event
- Try not to get pulled into the pressure to drink heavily by entertaining yourself in other ways. For example, take photos of the event, find a game to play, or set an intention to speak to a few new people over the course of the day.
- Pace your drinks over the time that you are there
The best way to take advantage of these tips is to have a mindset of self-compassion. Habits take a long time to form and take a bit of time to break. Going easy on yourself when it feels difficult works wonders for your progress. When there has been heavy drinking for a long time, more strategies and support may be needed. The good news is that even ‘deciding to make some changes’ is a step in the direction of change.
Wishing you all the best on your journey,
The Hello Sunday Morning Team