Each year, the holiday season brings mixed feelings for many people when parties, shopping and social responsibilities become intertwined with emotional upsets and worries about expenses associated with giving gifts.
The top cause of holiday stress is believed to be money followed by the pressures of gift-giving, lack of time and then credit-card debt. In a survey a couple of years ago, one in five Americans reported that they worried that holiday stress would affect their physical health and 36 percent reported that they usually eat too much or drink alcohol to cope with stress during this time. Imagine the additional stress of today’s economy!
While some survey participants reported using positive stress-management techniques (exercise, religious and spiritual activities, massage and yoga), many admitted that they often found themselves turning to short-term strategies that were, in fact, very poor solutions in the long run. These “solutions” ultimately contributed to greater stress levels in the end.
Managing holiday stress should begin by making sure expectations for the season are manageable. Setting realistic goals — such as developing a budget, pacing yourself and organizing your time by making a “to-do” list — will definitely help decrease the stress level. Other tips include:
• Good communication: Verbalize what you mean and listen closely to others.
• Avoid over or under eating. Eat three to five small meals daily. Limit portions and select healthy foods.
• Plan active activities such as walking, sightseeing or raking leaves instead of sedentary activities.
• Get six to eight hours of sleep per night. Don’t forgo rest and, when possible, maintain normal daily routines.
• Do not drink and drive. Impaired driving makes the winter holidays some of the deadliest times of the year. Research has shown that stressful events significantly influence the use of alcohol and that all drivers have increased impairment risks after drinking alcohol.
Remember, one drink is 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Time is the only thing that can sober someone up; neither coffee nor a cold shower can do it.
According to USA Today, more than 1.5 million people were arrested in the United States last year for driving drunk and at least that many are estimated to have driven under the influence of drugs. Drunk and drugged drivers cause more than 17,000 Americans to die each year. An alcohol-related motor vehicle crash kills someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injures someone every two minutes.
Here are a few tips for party hosts, courtesy of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving’s website:
• When your guests arrive, collect their car keys. That way, when they are ready to leave, they must get a second opinion on whether they’re sober enough to drive home.
• Always serve food with alcohol. High protein and carbohydrate foods like cheese and meats are especially good. They stay in the stomach much longer, which slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.
• Have several jiggers or self-measuring one-ounce bottle spouts at the bar to mix drinks. Guests are less likely to drink excessively when standard measures are used.
• If you serve alcoholic punch, use a non-carbonated base such as fruit juice. The body absorbs alcohol faster when mixed with carbonation.
• Serve non-alcoholic beverages. It is possible that some of your guests will not want to drink alcohol.
• Do not force drinks on your guests or rush to refill their glasses when empty. Some guests may not wish to appear rude and will accept drinks they do not want.
• Stop serving alcohol about two hours before the party is over. Guests then have time for their bodies to absorb the alcohol consumed. Serve coffee or other non-alcoholic beverages as well as food.
• If you observe a guest drinking too much, try engaging him/her in conversation to slow down the drinking, offer high-protein food like pizza, shrimp or spare ribs or offer to make the guest’s next drink using less alcohol and mixing it with a non-carbonated base.
When the party’s over, if one of your guests has been drinking and shouldn’t drive, please don’t give them back their car keys and let them drive. They could hurt themselves or others, and maybe just a little persuasion from you could mean the difference between life and death.
• Suggest that you or a sober friend drive your impaired friend home. Their car can always be picked up at another time.
• Suggest that your impaired friend stay overnight in your home. This may sound inconvenient, but you could be saving your friend’s or someone else’s life.
• Have your friend taken home in a taxi. Pay for the ride yourself. It’s hard to object to a free ride.
• Whatever you do, don’t give in. Friends don’t let friends drink and then drive. In the morning, you’ll have a safer and maybe an even closer friend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, impaired driving will affect one in three Americans during their lifetimes. In an effort to increase community awareness, December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. First started in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan, this designated month has experienced increased community support and continues to promote safer streets on a daily basis.
Wishing you a very merry — and safe — Christmas!