Suddenly, mid-January sets in and we’re all left with this sunken feeling of cold and loneliness. Gone is the merriness and nuttiness of the November and December months of comfort food, desserts and nonstop celebration drinking. A beer here with the friends, some wine there at dinner, then those after dinner cocktails to bid everyone farewell. Before you know it, the holidays are over and that drinking level becomes part of your routine and you are left with jeans that no longer fit and an unhealthy drinking habit. The truth is, drinking more than usual during the holidays is also a way to try and handle those often-awkward social gatherings. Though sometimes a drink can loosen us up and put us in an ‘all is chipper’ mood, unfortunately sometimes it can backfire and leave us without a social filter where you find yourself telling Uncle Ralph you can’t stand his red and green polka dot tie he wears every year.
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“While alcohol in moderation can act as a social lubricant,” says Franklin Schneier, MD, an expert on social anxiety in Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, “it can be problematic for people who have difficulty coping in social situations. What seems to be a quick solution can easily spiral out of control.”
Now that we’ve brought in the new year, it’s best to start out clean, drinking less is not only good for your liver, but your sleeping habits, your skin, and your overall well-being. It will also keep the peace with your loved ones and coworkers. Begin by aiming for at least two alcohol free days a week. Not only will it temporarily clean out the system after too much drinking, it can show the drinker the benefits of not drinking, such as feeling better in the morning, feeling more energetic throughout the day, having a better complexion and losing a few pounds.
Just like counting calories on a diet, on the days you plan on drinking, know the ounces and alcohol percentages you’re taking in and pace yourself. Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men . So before you go out on the town, know exactly what you plan to have and stick to it. One way of making sure you don’t go over this is to take only enough money to buy the drinks you want. Ask friends for support and if they don’t support you avoid seeing these friends until you’ve got your act together.
If you’re at a dinner party, serve yourself or asked to be served a small glass of wine. Don’t you love hosts who fill your wine glass as if it were a glass of Welch’s grape juice? During the social event, consciously put down your drink, walk away from it, and serve yourself a tall glass of water or non-alcoholic drink in between. You may also be the type of drinker that loves to pop a bottle open at home and drink it at your leisure. If you’re that person, put the brakes on buying beer or wine in bulk for your home. It’s tempting because it’s cheaper and it saves you from having to run to the store when company pops by or because you need to “unwind.” But the temptation of having all those comfort bottles and cans lying around is hard on anyone who loves to drink.
Toning it down means becoming highly aware of how you are drinking and why you are drinking. Whether you choose to keep a daily drinking journal to keep track over a month’s period or use an app to curb your enthusiasm when you are out with friends, the best advice is to always eat a lot before you drink, drink slowly and with limits. You and your loved ones will feel all the better in the morning.