While the festive season is much anticipated, it can also be stressful. An effective way to control your stress level is to put everything into perspective. Think about how you want to spend your time, decide what the festive season means to you, and set realistic expectations.

Schedule ten minutes for yourself every day to help reduce festive frictions, and to give your adrenal glands a much-needed break (adrenal glands produce Cortisol – the stress-response hormone). Try Box Breathing – breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds; then repeat up to 10 times.

Ensure your self-care by saying “no” when you need to. You have the right to say ‘no’ to any activity that does not feel right for you. At this time of year, it can be more difficult as there can be expectations and we often don’t want to upset people. It is important to identify and respect your personal limits.

There are not many social occasions in Australia that don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with a few drinks. The festive season is no different with the stereotypical drunk workmate at staff Christmas functions.

Unfortunately, binge drinking (drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time) happens all too frequently and can lead to a range of harms. Not all drinking is about celebration – some people may drink to mask loneliness or despair during a time when others are spending time with family.

Some people may think that binge drinking only occasionally or over the holidays is ok. But even one episode can lead to significant repercussions such as falls, broken bones, arguments, car accidents, or even death. Other unexpected outcomes might include ruining a friendship or career, loss or damage to valuable items, reckless spending, or loss of a driving licence.

The National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Alcohol Guidelines (2019) recommend that to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no than 4 standard drinks in a single occasion and no more than 10 standard drinks in a week. Young people under the age of 18 years or women who are pregnant should not drink alcohol.

We can all play a part in helping to reduce the negative outcomes from alcohol consumption during the festive season. Here are some tips for hosts, guests, and families:

Hosts: Plan activities that can take the focus away from drinking, such as a lunch function with team games, corporate bowls, or a BBQ by the river with a game of cricket. Provide food and non-alcoholic drinks from start to finish and save some for any late comers. Avoid ‘topping up’ glasses so guests can keep count of their standard drinks. If a friend needs to take a taxi home instead of driving, offer to help them collect their car the next day.

Guests: Decide your limit of alcohol per occasion and only carry that amount. Pour your own drinks so that you can keep count of your standard drinks. Consider low alcohol alternatives and add in non-alcoholic spacers such as sparkling water with a lime wedge. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach and eat regularly throughout the event. Have a few responses ready to decline the offer of a drink – being the designated driver or having a big meeting the next day.

Families: The festive season is a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones, young and old. Plan activities for your family that don’t involve alcohol, especially if children are attending. Demonstrate that alcohol doesn’t have to be part of every social situation by role modelling lower-risk drinking, planning alcohol-free days, and avoiding alcohol-related gifts.

Binge drinking isn’t the only form of excess during the festive season – some people may find themselves overspending, overeating, and overcommitting. It is possible to enjoy a healthy festive season by swapping food – for example replace cheese and crackers with veggie sticks or pita bread. A healthy diet can help improve mood or overall wellbeing, increase energy levels, motivation and help banish that familiar sluggish feeling. Remember: learning to say ‘no’ is a gift to yourself.

Random acts of kindness can go a long way during the festive season. Connect with people who do not have family or friends around. Chat to your neighbours about their plans; you never know who may appreciate a little company. Doing something for a friend, helping a stranger, making a present, or simply taking the time to genuinely thank someone will strengthen relationships and create experiences that material gifts can’t even get close to. Happiness is a choice. It is the best gift you can give others because it’s contagious!  Volunteering is also a great way to help others and may help reduce feelings of stress, loneliness, and social isolation.

Practice daily gratitude by writing 3 things you are thankful for every day for 21 days straight. This can increase happiness levels, decrease stress load, and boost your immune system. Try it to experience the happiness advantage.

On behalf of Holyoake, we wish you a safe and happy festive season!