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Beating winter blues without alcohol

Published 14/12/2007

It's not just at Christmas that sales of alcohol soar. In fact, they tend to build steadily throughout the autumn and winter months to reach a peak in December.

Of course, the onset of a bleak, dark winter is enough to give anyone the blues. But for people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or 'SAD'), a form of depression triggered by shorter daylight hours, these feelings can be particularly acute, and studies have shown that, in somecases, sufferers turn to inappropriate coping mechanisms, such as alcohol abuse in order to 'self-medicate'.

And it's not just sufferers of SAD that are at risk from alcohol abuse during the winter months. "As seasonal drink sales indicate, many of us deal with feeling low by having a drink, and the festive season, with the stress and the partygoing it entails, can be a trigger point for many people to drink more than usual," says Sue Allchurch, director of the Linwood Manor Group.

Allchurch says that it's important to remember that alcohol, in itself, is a depressive drug. It's easy to fall into the trap of using alcohol to relieve the symptoms of the 'winter blues', she adds, but that can lead to alcohol dependence.

For many, then, the post-Christmas period may be the time when they hit their lowest ebb and find themselves in need of professional help to get them on the road to alcohol recovery.

If you are worried about winter drinking, it might be time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I using alcohol to escape from end-of-year stresses and worries that I might be able to solve if I stayed sober?
  • Do I drink to combat shyness or a lack of confidence in social situations, such as Christmas parties?
  • Do I feel caught in a cycle of seasonal drinking from which it's hard (or even impossible) to escape? Stress and anxiety tend to return more strongly once the effects of alcohol wear off, and the answer, for some, is to drink more.
  • What are the financial implications of my drinking? At a time of year when many of us face our biggest bills, am I truly honest about how much uncontrolled drinking is costing me and my family? Medical specialists tell us that the answer to coping with the winter blues is to take regular exercise, stick to a healthy diet and curb our drinking habits. If this seems too much of a challenge to face alone, there is plenty of help out there.

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