The Holidays, Alcohol and Ayurveda

Based on what I’ve learned coaching high-achieving, busy, modern women committed to their health goals, there is often an inner conflict during the holidays. This internal conflict usually involves making choices that align with our greater wellbeing and long-term aspirations. Yet there can also be an urge to relax our regimes, indulge in the merriment around us, and avoid tension with loved ones who may have different priorities.

The struggle with navigating stress, overstimulation, and overconsumption during the holidays is REAL. It’s not all fuzzy socks, snowmen, and cookie swaps. 🧦☃️🍪

Whether "Dry January," "Sober October" or “No-Alcohol November," these are opportunities to check in with your consumption and relationship to the sauce. 

Having an awareness of your drinking habits doesn’t mean that you have an addiction. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a drink now and then if you can do so in moderation and mindfully.

Having awareness is an opportunity to assess your relationship with alcohol to make healthier choices that align with how you want to feel daily in your body, mind, and spirit.

I get it! The holidays inevitably bring ample opportunities to drink, whether connecting with friends, toasting the New Year, or simply using the excuse that it’s the holidays to crack open another bottle.

I’ll be honest; I enjoy a glass of wine every so often. However, I am also very aware of the effects on my body/mind/emotions and WHY I choose to do so. 

As I observe myself and my behaviors, I’m starting to see more clearly the triggers that lead me to make certain choices in all areas of my life. This could be from how I respond to my husband, how I choose to spend my evenings, and what goes in my mouth.

When speaking with other women, I hear the same reasons alcohol is being used. The common ones are relaxing, connecting with others, coping with stress, avoiding deeper feelings, and “fitting in.” 

I honestly think that  ANY "Alcohol Awareness" month should be renamed “Self-Awareness Month”.💕

Looking at the WHY behind choosing to drink requires us to turn in, deal with pain and unprocessed feelings, and get crystal clear on whether or not the glass of vino is covering up more profound issues that need to be dealt with…I’m just say’in.😉

I can look back at my life now and see when alcohol was just a bandaid, for deep grief when I lost my dad, or peer pressure, or when I was using it to deal (not deal) with stress and overwhelm.

I also figured that if I was healthy in other areas of my life (daily green juice, yoga, and meditation, etc.) Then, I could counter the damage. Maybe temporarily, but the point is that I had to heal the underlying cause.

To me, self-awareness is SELF-CARE. It requires you to be courageous and curious enough to look at your habits, thoughts, and limiting beliefs (keeping you stuck in old patterns) with compassion, love, and a willingness to step into the unknown. 

When you’re genuinely listening to your inner voice (the higher part of you that wants the best for you), you will start to make choices in alignment with your inner wisdom, in the moment and in the long run. 

Here’s the skinny we know about alcohol at its most basic and Ayurveda’s takes on the hot sauce.

Ayurveda says that alcohol is toxic to the body unless used in minimal amounts. It’s also a neurotoxin that affects our mental focus and ability to make clear-headed decisions. In Ayurveda, the qualities of alcohol are hot, sharp, and penetrating. It’s a hot depressant that also dilates blood vessels and aids circulation, giving it relaxing qualities. Hence, the reason for using the drink is to relax.

However, alcohol irritates the digestive tract lining and stimulates the liver, causing it to release bile, exacerbating any condition of liver deficiency. One of the many jobs the liver is responsible for is detoxifying the blood. Unfortunately, too much alcohol overwhelms the liver when metabolizing more than a small amount. And, the older we get, the harder it is for our liver to process alcohol.

That said, Ayurveda also recommends two tablespoons of wine as medicinal during winter to remedy blood stagnation.

Now, I realize that two tablespoons might sound unrealistic, and most people are not using it as medicine. However, I wanted to share a viewpoint you may not have heard before.

Many other health experts tell us that moderation does not harm our health. So what is moderation, then?

It’s more moderate than most of us realize. One to three drinks per week is a good guideline for both men and women. For example, one drink equals a 12-ounce beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine. That said, women don’t metabolize alcohol as easily as men.

So if feeling great, losing weight, improving your energy and overall well-being are goals, keeping your consumption as low as possible is critical.

We all know that alcohol is typically overused and abused around the world. Yet, we’re sold a romantic story of alcohol signifying glamor, health, fun, and dignification. If you drink this wine from this vineyard, you will feel successful, experience status, and have a wonderful, happy life. “All will be good.”

It truly is the most significant load of horsesh*t out there. This is what our kids are being raised with.

The hard, cold facts are that 1 in 3 people will be affected by alcohol-related problems at some point in their lives. Alcohol is linked to over sixty different health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and liver disease.

Alcohol-related crimes, anti-social behaviors, and healthcare costs cost societies billions of dollars every year. Emergency hospital admissions, car accidents, and treatment for conditions caused by alcohol abuse are just a few of these.

However, one of the most remarkable misuses of alcohol is in our relationships. These are our relationships with the things that trigger us to drink.

There are five habit triggers to consider when changing a habit or automatic response to anything. These triggers are other people, places, emotional conditions, previous circumstances, and a specific time.

For example, notice if certain people, family gatherings, or a close relationship triggers you to drink. For instance, is cocktail hour with friends, wine with your partner on Friday night, or holiday gatherings a trigger for you to drink?

Is there a specific time in the day, perhaps a glass of wine after work, to “wind down” or date night that acts as a trigger? Do you drink when you are upset, lonely, or feeling overwhelmed? These would be emotional triggers.

Is returning from a busy day at the office a trigger to pour a glass of wine? This is a previous circumstance trigger. After this happens (fill in the blank), I have a drink.

These are just a few examples of becoming AWARE of the reasons that we might consume alcohol. As I mentioned, these five habit triggers can be applied to any habit,

I understand that this intimate relationship can be a slippery slope. The holidays can be when we’re faced with making more decisions about drinking than usual. Most likely, this will include certain people, situations, events, and even stressful emotions.

I hope this article helps you become more aware of your triggers and empowers you to make mindful decisions based on listening to your inner voice and what you KNOW is best for you.

Wishing you a happy, rejuvenating, and nourishing holiday season.