Many people increase their alcohol consumption during this holiday time. There are a number of reasons for this. Certainly there are more social gatherings, parties and celebrations with friends and family and alcohol is often part of that celebration. In addition, however, some people trying to go to those parties are struggling with social anxiety, shyness or worry about how to handle themselves or the people who will be there. This is often when they turn to alcohol to decrease their anxiety and help them tolerate the situation. They may even feel they interact better with a few drinks.
Still, others use the excuse of holidays to drink more because they are in fact more stressed or lonely. Holidays tell us we are supposed to be happy, together with loved ones, getting along and spreading holiday warmth. Actually, all the shopping, the financial burden, the making meals for others, and being with family with whom we are in conflict, can instead stress us out, make us sad or nervous and we think, “What is wrong with me?” Many people will have a few drinks to try to squelch those feelings.
There is nothing wrong with a drink or two. In fact, there are health benefits to a little alcohol. But a drink or two can become three or four more easily than many realize. Alcohol is a depressant, so it really doesn’t elevate your mood; it depresses your nervous system. In the short term it may relax you, but it will take increasing amounts of alcohol to produce that same relaxing effect over time. This is called tolerance and it is a factor in moving some people from enjoying a drink to alcohol abuse and addiction. If you are drinking to deal with a feeling, you are at increased risk for developing a problem. Some people drink to go to sleep more easily.
Yes, you may drift off more quickly but actually alcohol disrupts sleep architecture, meaning you will wake up much more often during the night, ultimately leaving you less rested. Alcohol addiction does run in families. If you have a first-degree relative who is an alcoholic you should be exceedingly cautious. It is possible that drinking may not be a good idea for you at all.
A drink or two at gatherings this season is fine but if you are increasing your intake, even if it’s not every day, you may be developing a tolerance and you need to cut back. Alcohol will not treat underlying problems with mood or anxiety. If that is the issue then see a professional for an evaluation.
Tips: 1. Stick with a drink or two. 2. Watch for tolerance and increased drinks. 3. Alcohol does not treat mood or anxiety. 4. Be honest with yourself about intake.