Many of us are halfway through Dry January – a global trend where you commit to no alcohol for the first month of the new year. The trend started around 2013 as a challenge by Alcohol Change UK.
Dry January is a time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol and set goals that you can carry forward into the new year.
2020 was a tough year. Many Canadians found themselves drinking more as a result of pandemic-related stress, anxiety, and boredom. But many are looking to change their habits into the new year. Alcohol Change UK estimated 6.5 million people will be going alcohol-free in January, up from 3.9 million the previous year.
Reducing your alcohol consumption can have a big impact on your physical and mental health. For women who are pregnant or at risk for becoming pregnant, going alcohol-free is important for their health and that of their future child.
Whether you are committing to reducing your alcohol consumption this January, or you are pregnant and going alcohol-free, here are five tips to help you achieve your goals.
Set your goals
This may seem obvious, but set achievable goals surrounding your alcohol consumption. Write them down so you have a physical reminder or tell friends and family members of your intentions so they can help you stay on track.
Look towards friends and family members to help you achieve your goal. Be open with your challenges and ask for support when you need it.
Support can come in many different forms. Some people may just need someone to talk to. Others may ask friends or family members to go alcohol-free with them, either for the Dry January challenge or for their full nine months of pregnancy.
Some people may need more traditional supports. If you are pregnant and struggling with your alcohol consumption, reach out to a trusted health care provider or a service provider.
Know your triggers
Alcohol is often very ingrained in our daily lives. You may drink a glass of wine with dinner or a beer during the game. Alcohol may be a tool that you use to help you relax or cope with stress. Take a moment to do some reflecting and try and understand your relationship with alcohol. Once you recognize what your triggers are, you can make a plan to overcome those urges.
If you often turn to alcohol after a stressful day at work, it has probably become a coping mechanism. Try and find other ways to deal with stress and anxiety. Things like exercise, time outdoors, reading, puzzles, or other hobbies are great alternatives to alcohol.
If alcohol is part of your daily routine, you may also find it helpful to switch out alcoholic drinks for non-alcoholic ones, like mocktails.
Small changes in your environment can also help when you get that overwhelming urge to drink. If you’re indoors, go for a quick walk outside. If you’re sitting and watching T.V., get up and do some exercise. If you’re connecting virtually with friends, maybe take some time alone. Changes in your environment might distract you and take your mind off your urges.
It’s not ‘all or nothing’
Reducing or eliminating your alcohol consumption at any time can have positive impacts on your health. If you set a goal not to drink and you slip up, it doesn’t mean you have to throw your whole plan out the window. Take some time to reflect on why you drank. Revaluate your triggers and make a plan to overcome those urges in the future.
If you are pregnant and consume alcohol, be sure and connect with a healthcare or service provider you trust and talk about it with them. You can also reach out and get support from trusted friends and family members or your local helpline.