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Women Warned About Using Alcohol to Mask Emotions

With Christmas and New Year festivities in full swing, women are being urged to avoid using alcohol as a coping strategy when dealing with holiday demands.

Psychologist, Dr Mandy Deeks from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, says that mental health can be at risk over the festive period and can trigger excessive drinking, particularly for women in middle age.

“We often assume that excessive drinking is a problem for young women but data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that women aged 55-64 are the most likely to consume alcohol at risky rates.

“The holiday season is a time of celebration, togetherness and joy but for many, it can bring added stress, sadness, anxiety and even set off a previous depression for some people.

“I’ve seen this first hand when counselling, Christmas is the busiest time of year. Money, social situations, family tension, isolation, grief and conflict are all issues that can easily come to the forefront during this time,” explains Dr Deeks.

Choosing alcohol to relax can be counter-productive, as it leads to problems with decision-making “Alcohol reduces inhibitions, which can fuel unnecessary arguments. It also narrows our perception of a situation so it can worsen feelings of anxiety,” says Dr Deeks.

“Inevitably, this time of year brings its own stresses and strains. Putting strategies in place and being mindful about how you are feeling are the first steps to managing distress and enjoying the celebrations. Put your health first and remember to be kind to yourself.”

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health shares six tips to survive the silly season:

• Be prepared – If you are going to an event where family tensions will run high, prepare by running through some possible scenarios, and try not to respond in the heat of the moment.

• Drink responsibly – Do not skip meals, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, limit intake to 2-4 drinks to avoid long-term health effects, and maintain alcohol free days.

• Sleep – Ensure you get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to reduced alertness, shorter attention span, slower than normal reaction time and poor judgment.

• Exercise – Exercise regularly for general health and well being. Even mild exercise produces endorphins.

• Acknowledge – If you are grieving a loss or feeling sad because you miss loved ones, acknowledge your feelings. Seek professional help if you feel you need it.

• Connect – If you are away from family or friends try to connect with them via email, Skype or social networking tools like Facebook. Volunteering and attending events like carols are great ways to feel

For more information  visit the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health website: www.jeanhailes.org.au.