Holiday Festivities or Stressful Activities? 5 Tips for Celebrating Responsibly

The holidays are full of joy, love, and festivities, but they can also bring an increased level of stress and anxiety. While our social calendars fill quickly with trips to the mall, holiday parties, family get-togethers and other activities, we can easily become overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted. Given the increase in social activities and related stress around the holidays, it is more important than ever to remember to drink responsibly.

Below are five tips on responsible drinking to help get you through the holiday season and keep what you’ve earned:

1. Don’t rely on alcohol to reduce your stress:

We’ve all heard the “I’ve had a stressful day” excuse for having a drink or two too many. Drinking alcohol may lead to positive feelings and relaxation momentarily, but if you try to deal with stress through drinking it can lead to serious problems. Instead of “calming your nerves,” drinking can actually work against you, increasing your risk for alcohol dependence and leading to other psychological health problems. If you’re feeling stressed this holiday season, look for other ways to reduce stress such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or just taking a moment each day for yourself to relax and be in the moment. If trying to de-stress with alcohol has become a common practice for you, it’s probably time to self-refer for help. Talk to your Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA), chaplain, doctor, or command leadership about where to get help.

2. Practice good self-care:

Mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and casserole, pie, pie, and more pie. There are many treats to indulge in over the holiday season and as your social calendar fills up it becomes more difficult to make time to stay healthy. During the holiday season it’s okay to allow yourself some additional treats, but be careful not to over-indulge—especially when it comes to alcohol. Drinking in excess during the holiday season can lead to bad decision making, whether it’s the decision to eat more than you had planned, skip out on the gym, or worse, drive yourself home after drinking. Keep your diet and exercise routines on track and don’t let alcohol steer you wrong—you’ll feel better for doing so!

3. Know your limit:

Many people, particularly those who don’t drink that often, find themselves participating in more social activities that involve drinking this time of year given the celebratory nature of the holidays. In fact, according to the Distilled Spirit Council of the United States, the $49 billion distilled-spirits industry makes more than 35% of its profits from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. If you find yourself drinking more often during the holiday season, you should know your limit, don’t try to keep up with others, and learn to say no to peer pressure to drink more than you had planned. Exercise Controllability, one of the Five Principles of Resilience, and monitor your consumption to help you keep what you’ve earned. Whether you’re the host or a guest, there are plenty of festive alcohol-free drinks to enjoy this season! Non-alcoholic eggnog, anyone?

4. Plan ahead for a safe ride home:

Studies show that during the holiday season there is an increase in drinking and driving, making it one of the most dangerous time of the year to be on the road. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2012, more than 300 people were killed in traffic accidents nationwide. This holiday season, plan ahead for a safe ride home before you go out for the night. Make the choice: will you drink or will you drive? Stick to the plan! Remember that even buzzed driving is illegal and more importantly can lead to dangerous accidents.KWYE_Holiday

Furthermore, this season the Keep What You’ve Earned campaign is encouraging all Sailors to take the pledge to be a designated driver for a shipmate, friend, or family member. You can give the gift of a designated driver to a loved one by downloading the printable holiday gift cards, and don’t forget to take the pledge to be a designated driver this season. Exercise Trust, another one of the Five Principles of Resilience—don’t put your friends and shipmates at risk by deciding to drink after committing to serve as a designated driver.

5. Talk it out:

Do you blame your stress, loneliness, or feelings of depression on the “holiday blues?” Do you often feel alone amongst all of the holiday activities and social gatherings happening around you? Do the hardships you’ve experienced in the past 12 months feel magnified during this time of year? These feelings can slowly build up over time, especially as we deal with the stress and anxiety associated with preparing for the holiday season.

Rather than bottling up your feelings—or turning to the bottle to relieve stress—it’s important that you talk to a friend, family member, fellow Sailor, DAPA, chaplain, doctor, or any other resource available to you. If drinking to relieve stress has become a trend for you, remember that a self-referral is the best option for seeking help. When Sailors get help via a self-referral or through the help of their command, neither results in disciplinary action.

Keep an Even Keel, Shipmates—and Keep What You’ve Earned this holiday season!

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