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A psychologist’s advice on drinking less this party season

WORDS BY GITIKA GARG

How to take a step back and check in with yourself.

Most of us know that dreaded feeling of waking up the morning after a night out with a pounding head. A few too many margs and rounds of tequila can lead to some possibly (most definitely) questionable decisions being made. 

As we ease back into socialising, this post-party hangover seems to be hitting a little harder than usual (thanks Rona). For many of us, including myself, getting back into the groove of going out has proved to be a bit more challenging than expected. 


For more useful advice, try our Life section.


Heightened feelings of anxiousness and social burnout on a night out has been real and that is perfectly okay. Being stuck at home for three months glued to our Netflix watch lists can have that effect on people. 

And so as the festive party season gears up, quickly filling our social calendars, it’s important to reflect on some of these feelings and what we can do to manage them. 

That’s why I asked clinical psychologist and Headspace App mental health expert Mary Spillane for her tips and advice. Below she shares how we can be kinder to our bodies by drinking a bit less, taking a step back and enjoying a healthier event-filled time of the year. 

What makes people feel the need to drink more? 

Often party culture revolves around the ‘go hard or go home’ mentality, so downing drinks is a given. Mary gives me a bit of insight into some of the reasons that this might be the case. 

“I think we have difficulty coping with any kind of uncertainty or uncomfortable emotions and we tend to try to avoid those and alcohol is a really accessible way of doing that. Given what has been going on in Australia over the [last] couple of years where there is a lot more anxiety and uncertainty around, people are more likely to want to drink alcohol,” she explains. 

Months of lockdown have certainly not helped and according to Mary, social media has also “normalised drinking quite a lot”. “People were experiencing more stress and there were less outlets to manage that. You couldn’t go to a gym class or catch up with a friend for coffee… and alcohol was so accessible,” she says. 

The benefits of drinking less and why it’s important

The negative impacts of drinking are something we all probably have some understanding of. “We tend not to sleep as well when we are drinking and experience heightened anxiety… and lower mood. It can have a real impact on our mood,” Mary tells me.

“Alcohol actually reduces our ability to manage [day-to-day stresses] effectively so we are left with much less psychological resources after we have been drinking.”

Advice and steps on how to drink less while still having a good time

So what should we do if we’ve been using alcohol as a bit of a crutch? “Given that we do have this tendency to avoid discomfort and painful emotions, a really helpful strategy can be actually getting better at that and… sitting with some discomfort,” Mary tells me. 

“A mindfulness-based app like Headspace can help people to manage their emotions and get better at sitting with discomfort which means you are less likely to reach for that alcohol.”

In terms of practical strategies, here is what Mary suggests. 

1. Set yourself a limit on a night out for how many drinks you want to have and try to stick to that. 

2. Try and have a few alcohol free days each week.

3. There are many alcohol-free alternatives available now so try to drink those or balance out your alcoholic drinks with some non-alcoholic drinks. 

And what about falling victim to good old peer pressure? Mary suggests “… being consistent in your message… or taking a step back from the situation, person or group of people you are with and spending more time with the people who support your decision to not drink”.

How can we enjoy a healthier and more focused festive party season?

As much as we love it, festivities and social events can be chaotic and exhausting, leaving us running from one thing to the next. 

“Mindfulness can help you just stop and look at how you are feeling in the moment and sit with your feelings a little bit better rather than running around and avoiding them the whole time.

“We can tend to judge how we are feeling and get anxious about how we are feeling which can make things worse. Mindfulness can help us… check in with ourselves and then get on with what we are doing.”

And so, with all that advice in mind, let the party season begin! 

 For more tips on drinking less, try this.  

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