Holiday Cheer is Here..but how much is too much cheer?


The Holiday season is upon us. It seems to have snuck up on us quickly this year.

As you get ready to battle the travel challenges of traffic, airport security and long lines for just about everything, there’s nothing like some ‘nog to bring on the Holiday Cheer. Not to be a scrooge…but for your health, how much is too much cheer? And what else can you do to offset the holiday sneer from that stress and overwhelm that seems to be inevitable each year.

I’ll start with the good news…studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake can have a heart protective benefit, reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease with moderate alcohol intake (anywhere from a half to 2 glasses per night). While the mechanism of action for this has yet to be fully elucidated there are many beneficial effects on the blood. Ultimately, a little bit of alcohol can “take the edge off”, and if you feel better, your stress hormones are probably lower too.

So now for the bad news…the Million Women Study (a very information rich prospective study from the UK looking at preventive factors and their health effects) shows that even small amounts of daily alcohol intake can significantly increase the chances for women to develop breast cancer. In other words, for every glass of alcohol that you drink per day, your risk of breast cancer goes up, and that is true for wine alone as well as other alcoholic drinks. When you translate this graph into numbers, if 1000 women drank 1 glass of wine per day 11 more would get breast cancer than those that did not drink any alcohol, and the more you drink, so rises the risk steadily. They also found increases in the incidence of larynx, oral, esophageal and liver cancers.

Figure 3

The long story short is, limit your alcohol intake to reduce your risk of breast and other cancers.

So what are some other things you can do to take the edge off? I am sure no one will be surprised when I say that shopping can actually increase feelings of stress from time in traffic and long lines, perhaps even from the overwhelm of buying when you may not have enough money in your budget for gifts. But did you know that according to a study by Ric Pieters of the Netherlands, Materialism (valuing happiness based on possessions) has been shown to increase feelings of loneliness over time and there is a viscous cycle of feeling lonely and wanting to buy more as well and then feelings of loneliness increases further over time. STOP THE CYCLE!!! Talk with family and friends about how you can bring back holiday traditions that increase the joy in your life, not the amount of junk we own.

decorated christmas tree in car

Finally, whenever you feel tension rising, that rushed feeling that we all know only too well, just become aware of it. You might notice you are having neck or back pain, maybe stomach pain, or you might feel like you can’t breath. Whatever it is you are feeling, just be aware of it. Then become aware of your breath and allow yourself to breath deeply and exhale fully. Focus on your heart space and feel the love and light the Holidays are meant to generate. Focus on an object of beauty, or a pleasant smell and allow yourself to melt into that moment. If you find yourself with In-laws or in family conflict and simple presence of mind is just not going to work for you, politely excuse yourself and steal away outside for a brisk and mindful walk. In the long term, it will almost always have better restorative results (for you AND your family) than tossing back a bit “more cheer”…breast cancer risks aside.

Happy Holidays and safe travels!!!

fall background

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.


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