With American Thanksgiving marking the ‘official’ beginning of holiday festivities (although some may argue Halloween is where that stage is set), it is also the official start of what I like to call the ‘drinking season’. Both seasons culminate in a massive display on New Year’s Eve.
It affects every one of us, whether you are a drinker or an abstainer. This is due to a few important factors of life during this time of your year: During the final 6 weeks of the year, stress becomes a huge player in the lives of most of you. 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 many of you will experience major stressors that are not present during the other 46 weeks of the year.
You are quite aware that alcohol is one very common way to deal with all this extra stress, along with a common way to bond with friends and loved ones. Alcohol helps you enjoy your food, get a little buzzed and generally feel good in the moment. This is why I refer to this time as the ‘drinking season’.
It forms a part of the fabric of our society, and often, it is woven with tradition and becomes an integral part of celebrating the holidays. Depending on your stress management techniques, it may also be part of the way you do life. I am not saying these things out of judgement. I truly do not believe any of this to be wrong, it is just the reality of the world we find ourselves in.
In my opinion, 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’?
I have said it many times, preparation is the key to having an easier and more nourishing outcome when it comes to your health and your nutrition choices. When it comes to alcohol consumption, it might serve you to ask yourself a few pertinent 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 beginning to enjoy the festivities. I am going to go through a scenario so you too can ask and answer these questions effectively for you, your body and your situation.
Yes, I will be drinking alcohol this year. I am only willing to drink whiskey, vodka, tequila or wine. Mixers I will use are fizzy water and fruits like limes. I will drink a max of 4 drinks per night.
I strive 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 5 minutes of super 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 and find the one person I really do not feel like talking to and start a conversation (this may be a stretch for some of you).
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.
I bet by now you are wondering if alcohol is healthy or not.
The answer is not so simple and only you can answer that question for you. 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. You know that the waters run much muddier and deeper than this when it comes to alcohol.
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, a question of digesting your daily emotions and a question of your ability to deal with stress.
My goal is not to tell you what or how to do alcohol this season. I hope to help you think a little deeper about your relationship to alcohol and how you will choose to manage it through the holidays. 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.