Alcohol and Holiday Spirit: Why Do We Drink More During Holiday
Did you know that a new study found 43% of Americans double their drinking during the Holiday Seasons? I work with people in all different places in their relationship with alcohol, but I found one thing many people have in common – they tend to either drink more or think more often about drinking. Whether someone is perfectly satisfied with their relationship with alcohol, trying to cut down on drinking, or has chosen the path of abstinence, the holiday season seems to make alcohol takes up more space in their life. The question is, why does the joyous time of the year make alcohol more relevant?
We Drink to Celebrate
In recent years, more and more people have come to believe that alcohol is a vital ingredient of the Holiday spirit. Rarely do I enter a holiday party where alcohol is not served. Certain drinks, such as eggnog on Christmas, may have been a part of the holiday tradition for centuries. However, many holiday drinks have become a part of our celebration due to the billions of dollars of investment the alcohol industry pours in each year. The alcohol companies put in great effort and capital to link their brand image with a holiday celebration. Take a look at the Ernest and Julio Gallo Wine commercial in 1987; if it had more Christmas imagery, it would burst. Commercials like these are everywhere during the holiday season, sending powerful subliminal messages to our brains, making us believe that alcohol provides some essential ingredient for the holiday spirit.
We Drink to Fit In
Even if you magically survived the powerful brain-washing of the alcohol industry and resisted the luring look of readily available cocktails, peer pressure is yet another force that pushes holiday alcohol consumption to its new height. We live in a society where consuming alcohol is socially approved and encouraged, and not drinking often requires courage and the ability to stand one’s ground. I remember the first time I said “no” to an alcoholic drink and the questioning look on my host’s face when I told her that I was not pregnant. For a long time, I never went to a holiday party without a premeditated excuse about why I no longer drink—the overwhelming social pressure poses an additional challenge for people who want to moderate or stay away from alcohol.
We Drink to Relieve Stress
People fantasize or gulp down more liquor in an attempt to find temporary relief from holiday-related stress. Social gatherings and family reunions leave many people feeling tense and exhausted. Mingling with coworkers and meeting new people brings up anxiety. Prolonged time spent with family and relatives makes old feelings and frustrations resurface. No wonder many people hold onto their glass of wine as if their lives depended on it. To some degree, they indeed count on alcohol to help them survive the evening. While one to two glasses of wine may help a person take the edge off, overdrinking can easily become a source of stress. Loss of memory, inappropriate comments, and drunk confrontations cause more stress the next day and in future gatherings.
There is a certain degree of truth in alcohol’s ability to help people temporarily forget about holiday-related stress. Alcohol is a depressant and a sedative. It calms our nervous system, reduces fear and anxiety, and temporarily takes our minds off the trouble. However, its stress-relieving effect is short-lived at best and counterproductive at worst. Since alcohol never addresses the source of our stress. Imagine how amazing it would be if drinking a bottle of wine would take care of your holiday bills. That will make alcohol a magic juice indeed. Sadly, that’s not how it works. In reality, you will wake up still facing the same bill and perhaps a hangover.
We Drink to Ease Unwanted feelings
The media often portray the holidays as only filled with laughter and love. In reality, a holiday constitutes many more feelings and experiences than a monotone of happiness. The media neglected to show the other half of the holiday picture, which is made of sadness and deep longing. In a NAMI survey, 64% say that holiday worsens their mental health symptoms worse. In other words, if you are experiencing holiday blues, you are not alone.
On top of the increased stress-related anxiety, feelings of loneliness and a sense of loss are common during the holidays. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive family. Many people don’t have the time and resources to travel and be around their loved ones. The holiday spirit then becomes an overwhelming reminder of what is missing. Some people can experience a profound sense of loneliness even when surrounded by a crowd. A deep longing for those who are no longer with us adds a shade of grief to the holiday picture. These negative feelings can be difficult to stay with, and alcohol often provides temporary relief to numb the agony. Yet, alcohol never truly takes away the pain. Using alcohol to numb the emotional agony is like banging one’s head so hard on the wall to the point of passing out so that one can stop feeling the bleeding wound on our leg.
People drink more alcohol during the holidays for many reasons – to celebrate, to fit in, and to cope. There is nothing wrong with the desire for joy, belonging, and relieving pain and stress. However, excessive drinking during holidays can damage health, injure relationships, and in the worse case, takes lives. Having a set of strategies to moderate your consumption during this time of year is crucial. If you find yourself turning to alcohol during the holiday, struggling to keep the consumption at a healthy level, or experiencing unmanageable cravings, remember help is available, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Schedule a free consultation today to get the support you deserve.