health

The ultimate no judgement guide to surviving this Christmas without the bubbly stuff.

Holidays can be one of the most challenging times when we are focusing on our health. Most events like Christmas parties, holidays and family get-togethers involve a surplus of food and drinks.

Often, the way we celebrate is to loosen our inhibitions and relax, through eating and drinking to our hearts content.

Many members will describe dreading these occasions, as they may signal a slip back into a lifestyle they are wanting to move away from.

Here are some tips to surviving the holiday season and emerging in fantastic health.

Ensure you have some structured self care activities in place.

This could be daily exercise, time alone, or time spent doing hobbies, this will help you to re-focus and shift away form the food and drinks surrounding you.

Set some goals for the holidays.

Whether this is around health (exercise daily), personal growth (reading all the books on your summer reading list), social (catching up with friends you haven’t seen/emailing them) or cleaning out drawers in anticipation for the new year.

The holidays can be an opportunity to prepare for a great year, and reflect on the one just gone – a time to clear your mind.

A good question to ask yourself might be – when my holidays are over, what would I liked to have done? What would I have liked to spend my time on? In previous years, what did I wish I had spent more/less time doing?

In regards to drinking and alcohol…

Reflect on what you would like your drinking to look like over the holidays.

Would you like to be completely abstinent, or stick to a number of drinks each day? It can help to set expectations early on with family, to help them to know whether to offer you drinks or not.

It can also be good to have a back-up plan, in case triggers arise – eg. what am I going to do if I have an argument with my siblings, and feel overwhelmed? What am I going to tell my parents when they offer me a drink at lunch?

Being prepared for what is likely to happen is really helpful. Remember, lots of people don’t drink during the holidays, and at some point, they too have had that conversation with their family.

health christmas drinking
"Reflect on what you would like your drinking to look like over the holidays." Image: Getty

Often if we say something like 'I'm focusing on my health at the moment, and have noticed that alcohol is really setting me back in terms of fitness', or 'I'm not drinking this year, as I want to feel refreshed after the holidays - but please don't let that stop you', our family and friends will understand and accept that.

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Sometimes our loved ones are worried that if we aren't drinking, we might judge them or behave differently. It will be good to emphasise that you don't expect them not to drink, but that at the moment you are not going to.

Some other ideas are: Have non-alcoholic drinks with you or available (see link to nice non-alcoholic beverages here), plan to do something active after lunch or during the day, that others can participate in (eg. Backyard cricket), offer to be designated driver for supplies for lunch or to give people lifts.

See if you can notice how it is different not to be drinking during the holidays - what you miss, what the positive changes are.

Be conscious of nutrition.

Often we can feel affected by what we are eating. Reflect on what kind of food you enjoy to eat, and what foods might support your health. Some people find eating things like fruit, cheese and olives while others are drinking, provides a tasty alternative and one that is satiating and satisfying.

Others find that filling up on seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables keeps them feeling good all holidays and helps them keep their energy levels up.

Have some time each day to check in with your goals.

This can be writing to your health coach, posting and commenting on Daybreak, or doing some self-reflection with a partner, your friends, or yourself. Holidays can sometimes feel strange and challenging if you are not drinking for the first time, and it is good to acknowledge that is really normal.

It can be good to keep a list with you that outlines the 'pros' and 'cons' of drinking - being conscious of the reasons to stay the same, as well as reasons to change.

LISTEN: Holly Wainwright reckons the wild company Christmas party is on the way out. Do you agree? (post continues after audio...)

Be kind to yourself.

Understand that holidays and family get-togethers can be very challenging, particularly if there has been conflict in the family. Sometimes we can feel anxious or exhausted by being back in the family dynamic, and also without the numbing effects of alcohol.

The good news is that often it is alcohol that triggers arguments and disagreements within families, and being sober will allow you to step away from that and look at things differently.

Sometimes alcohol can feel like it is necessary to deal with family, but when we take it away or reduce it, often we find family gatherings are less tedious.

Remember that change is a process.

It is very normal to have off days, or times when we miss our goals and feel we have gone backwards. What is important is that you keep reflecting on what has happened, and try to make decisions that are the best for you.

It will be helpful to check in with the Daybreak community, as many members will have similar goals and barriers to you. Being able to speak to others who have found a strategy that works, or who are going through similar things, can be very helpful.

Chris Raine is the CEO of Hello Sunday Morning, the world’s largest online community of people supporting each other to change their behaviour around alcohol. For more information about Hello Sunday Morning, visit their website or find their app in the App Store.

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