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Alcohol Free Ways to Manage the Stress of the Festive Season

By 8th December 2023No Comments
woman walking with child in forest

By Marie Duffy, PR and Communications Officer

As the festive season approaches, it’s easy to indulge in sugary treats and alcoholic beverages well into the wee hours. While the immediate enjoyment is undeniable, your body and mind may not share the enthusiasm the next day.  

Many of us will enjoy an alcoholic drink or two during the festive season. During the Christmas period there might be more occasions to drink alcohol than usual, and it can be hard to keep track of your alcohol intake. 

According to Alcohol Action Ireland the recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than: 

  • 11 standard drinks for women 
  • 17 standard drinks for men 

 They also recommend that drinks should be spread out over the week with no more than two standard drinks a day for men, or one standard drink a day for women.  They also recommend that you have two- three alcohol-free days per week. 

While drinking alcohol can be enjoyable in moderation. It can be useful to remember it is a depressant and the more alcohol you drink the more likely you are to feel anxious or depressed. If you already experience mental health difficulties, drinking alcohol may make them worse. 

Many people may feel heightened anxiety in the days and nights after drinking alcohol. You might not necessarily connect the dots as to why, but it’s not just a figment of your imagination. The body undergoes an intricate process to break down the toxins and chemicals present in alcohol and other drugs, and this can often leave you feeling nauseous, anxious, and depressed. 

Some people refer to the post-drinking anxiety as ‘hangxiety,’ a unique blend of hangover and anxiety. This anxiety can last from anything from a couple of hours to a few days. Other ways alcohol can impact your mental health can be found on the HSE’s factsheet on Alcohol and mental health.  https://www2.hse.ie/living-well/alcohol/health/mental-health/how-alcohol-affects-your-mental-health/ 

When you experience a hangover, you are also less likely to use positive coping mechanisms which can also impact your mental health. There may also be times over the festive period where stress or anxiety creeps in and you may feel tempted to drink alcohol to help with that.  

There are lots of healthier ways to deal with this. They can include: 

  • Sticking to a routine- This is easier said than done during the festive period, but this will help you feel better. Check out our blog on the secret power of having a routine is here: https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/how-having-a-routine-is-your-secret-superpower-during-the-festive-season/?external=1  
  • Connecting with someone- Give a friend a call or a text and ask if they want to meet up and do something that doesn’t involve alcohol, like going to the cinema or going for a coffee. You will be surprised how many people will want to do something alcohol free too. 
  • Spending time in nature-This can be walking, cycling, running in nature, or even going to a local park, forest or green area and just sitting in nature. Nature has a calming effect on the body, and it can help to spend time in it when you are feeling stressed or anxious. If you are lucky to live near the sea, many people find sea swimming or even just standing in the sea invigorating. Check out our walking in nature video here.
  • Listen to some music- Some people find that they can transform their mood by putting on their favourite music and listening to it until they feel a little bit better. Remember to listen to the music you like and not the music others have told you will have the most calming effect. There’s no point listening to what other people find relaxing or motivating if it doesn’t work for you! 
  • Do something that you enjoy like watching a funny movie or curling up with a good book. Check out our movie and book suggestions here 
  • It can be helpful to notice any triggers that may lead to you drinking more alcohol than usual or developing a dependent relationship with alcohol. If you want to talk to someone but aren’t sure who to speak to you can always contact Samaritans on 116 123 or Text HELLO to 50808.  
  • How ever you enjoy your Christmas period, remember that there is always support available and if you are concerned about your mental health or someone else’s that you can contact your GP or Dr on Call, call 999 or go to your local A+E. For more information on supports available go to www.bit.ly/mhisupport   
  • You can access Mental Health Ireland’s resources by going to www.bit.ly/mhiresources  Here you will find booklets on anxiety, stress, mental health recovery and much more.