The holidays are a time of year we associate with festivities and celebrations. For many people, that then comes with alcohol use.
While some alcohol use done in moderation and responsibly likely isn’t a problem, in other cases, alcohol use can be problematic.
There are situations where drinking can lead to potentially deadly decisions, such as driving while under the influence.
There are also times when excessive alcohol use or binge drinking during the holidays might indicate a more serious problem.
The following are some things to know about keeping your alcohol use in check over the holidays and red flags that could show a potential problem.
Is There Something Going on Aside from Holiday Celebrations?
Sometimes we might use celebratory events like the holiday season as an excuse to overindulge in alcohol. That might just be an excuse that’s masking a larger issue. We’re still very much in the thick of COVID-19, so many people may be experiencing underlying issues that need to be dealt with.
It’s important to face things head-on, rather than trying to cope through alcohol.
Maybe you’re worried and stressed about the effects of the pandemic, or perhaps you are feeling the financial strain it has led to.
Whatever it is, try to be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling rather than pretending you’re drinking excessively simply because it’s the holiday season.
Maybe there’s no underlying issue that you’re dealing with, but you’re simply not being mindful of your alcohol use.
It’s important to be consciously aware of how much you’re drinking and what your drinking patterns are.
Familiarize yourself with what a true standard drink is as well. We tend to think one drink is much larger than it is.
For example, one standard drink is equal to a five-ounce glass of wine. However, when we pour a drink for ourselves or order one at a restaurant, it’s often well above this amount.
If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re being mindful, keep a journal for a few days that details your habits surrounding alcohol. It might be eye-opening to do so.
Remember too, that along with considering the size of a standard drink, the medical definition of moderation may be different from how you view it. Moderation means no more than one standard-sized drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man. If you’re older than 65, the recommendation is no more than one standard drink a day.
Use Tricks to Slow Your Drinking
There are different strategies you can utilize to drink less during the holidays or anytime of year.
For example, drink water between each alcoholic drink. This helps you stay hydrated and also helps you drink less.
You can also use mixers that are low in calories, such as club soda or sparkling water, and fill your glass primarily with those.
Set limits for yourself as far as your drinking and try your best to stick with them. Be realistic with your goals. Too often, we create all-or-nothing goals for ourselves that are difficult to follow. Then, when you end up not meeting your self-imposed goals you’re likely to feel frustrated and that could fuel more alcohol use.
Always eat before you drink anything too.
Recognize Red Flags
Again, while moderate drinking is unlikely a problem in terms of mental or physical health, the holidays might be a time when you re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol and identify red flags in yourself.
Just because you see red flags doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily an alcoholic. Alcohol use disorder is a diagnosable medical condition. Problematic alcohol use is not the same, and many people have signs of problem drinking.
Often, as opposed to alcohol addiction, if you notice patterns of problem alcohol use in yourself, you can take steps on your own to work on the issue.
Problem drinking means that you drink too much or drink too fast. That means anywhere from two to four drinks in five hours if you’re a woman, and three or more for men in that same period.
Specific red flags can include a loss of control, meaning that you drink more than you intend. If you experience accidents because of drinking, or health troubles like weight gain or inflammation of the digestive tract, it could indicate problem drinking.
If you see problems in your day-to-day functioning, such as being late to work because of hangovers, it could be time to rethink your drinking.