• Christmas parties and time off work can means more social events, and often more drinking

  • Tara Jackson, who once struggled with her relationship to alcohol, shares 9 ways to limit your drinking and feel healthier

  • If you have a difficult relationship with alcohol, find a therapist to support you here 

We’re coming into a time of year known for more indulgence, when it’s easy to drink way too much and end up feeling awful all over and increasingly so as you keep topping up with every social event.

I struggled with drinking at this time of year for a good decade of my life. When I worked in an office I loved the Christmas parties as they were a time to let loose and I had some incredible colleagues and we always had a lot of fun. But it was like I was different from everyone else, I had no ‘off’ button when it came to drinking and I often ended up going past my limits on drinking and being taken home as I was too out of it to get there myself.

Even remembering these times now fills me with sadness and embarrassment. We’d laugh it off the next morning in the office, as we devoured our hangover breakfasts together, and there were always a number of amusing stories to tell. But, deep inside I knew something wasn’t right and I always felt as though alcohol had a hold over me. I hated the fact that I’d not been able to ‘control’ myself, that I had made a fool of myself once again.

I noticed my health mentally and physically slowly declining over the years I drank, and particularly in December when my drinking was at an all-time high. I gained weight so easily and found it increasingly hard to lose. I felt constant low levels of anxiety and struggled with depression. As well as that my digestion was all over the place and I had to know where the bathroom was at all times. Come January I’d be feeling awful inside my body, bloated, low in energy, constant mood swings and like I needed to eat fruit and vegetables only for a month to feel like me.

Aside from the moments drinking and connecting, which was one of the main reasons why I drank, the negative effects began to far outweigh any positive benefits and I started to challenge myself to regular periods not drinking, ranging in length from 10 days – 6 months. These periods, over time, made me realise how good I can naturally feel (a few things for me are: more energy and wanting to be more active, weight loss, clearer skin, feeling calmer and more balanced, sleeping better, better digestion, more embodied, connected and grounded, more money in my bank account) and how much fun you can actually have not drinking. Something I genuinely thought was never possible. Today I have chosen to live a sober life and can honestly say I feel I so much better all over.

You don’t have to be in the same place as I was, nor do you have to stop drinking forever. But, if you feel that you’d like to drink less or stay off the booze this holiday season here are some tips which might support you.

1) Connect with why you want to stay off the booze or drink less 

Really feel into it and connect with the vision of yourself that is who you want to be this holiday season. It may also be for health, financial or other personal reasons. Keep this vision and / or reasons somewhere you can see them daily, to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.

2) Pick which social engagements you want to go to

It’s a lot easier to manage how much you will be drinking and whether you want to drink or not with a little planning. It’s easy to say yes to a few glasses of mulled wine if you are at an impromptu event or gathering as you are putting yourself in a situation you hadn’t planned for. Whereas if you go to events you have planned to attend you can decide for yourself beforehand how you want to handle them and be prepared with tools (such as some of the following) to support you.

3) Book in activities to connect with others that don’t involve drinking

This could include exercise classes or another form of movement with a friend, seeing an exhibition or play, going for a walk, meeting friends for tea , or anything you enjoy that means you get to still socialise and enjoy some of the festivities without drinking.

4) Create a personal non-alcoholic festive drink

One that you look forward to and can drink whenever there are others around you drinking. Make it delicious and special so it feels like a treat. There are some awesome non-alcoholic options available too, so you don’t feel like you are missing out.

5) Put aside all the money you are saving

 And use it treat yourself to something that will make you feel good in January, or at a time of your choice. Or you could give the money to a cause you believe in.

6) Keep reminding yourself why you are choosing to not drink or drink less

How do you want to feel? How will you feel the next morning?

7) Find a support group or meetup

Either online or in person, with other non-drinkers. This can be particularly helpful as if things get tough you can reach out and get some inspiration, encouragement or motivation to keep going. These days there are so many groups online (free and paid for) that offer support for not drinking without labelling yourself, you can just show up and get the support you need for where you are at and help others too.

8) Sign up for a physical activity

Maybe a charity run, which will require you to be in good shape. This can be motivating as you’ll need to keep up your exercise and movement, which is a lot harder to do with a hangover.

9) Get creative

So often we drink to feel something inside of ourselves, to express or let loose. Think about what you did as a child when you didn’t drink alcohol. You likely found a way to entertain yourself (if you’re my age anyway!) and spent time using your imagination. Creativity is a similar outlet and way to connect with this part of your being and you can do it any way that feels good to you. Creating can be painting or drawing yes, but it also can be flower arranging, photography, singing or any way that you enjoy expressing yourself.

Wishing you a wonderful festive season that feels good in your body.

Tara is a holistic wellbeing coach and author of Embodied – A Self-Care Guide for Sensitive Souls

  Embodied Tara Jackson

Further reading

Changing my relationship with alcohol helped my mental health

What alcohol withdrawal does to your body

Coping with an alcoholic relapse

Living with someone who is dependent on alcohol

The five stages of giving up alcohol