Mindful Merriment: How to Keep Alcohol Consumption in Check this Christmas


The festive season in Australia is a time for enjoying the sunshine and gatherings with loved ones. Whether you are spending your time at laid-back beach BBQs, Summer festivals or office Christmas parties, the temptation to overindulge this time of year can seem ever present. 

Having fun is important (and encouraged!), it is also important to remember that overconsumption of alcohol can have both negative short and long-term effects on your health, your wallet and sometimes even your relationships with partners & children. 

The good news is that it is possible to enjoy the festive season and have a great time, while keeping your alcohol consumption in check. The key to moderating your alcohol consumption or indeed staying sober, is to plan ahead and have a strategy in place. Getting organised and knowing your risks or triggers can help you avoid some of the most common alcohol consumption pitfalls of the festive period.  

Here are some suggestions to enjoy mindful merriment this Christmas: 

Know how much is too much 

Before you start drinking, decide how much you want to drink and stick to it.  

A 'standard drink' contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. This is about 285 ml of full-strength beer, a can of mid-strength beer, 100 ml of wine, or a single shot of spirits. You can use our interactive Standard Drink Calculator to test your pour. 

According to the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, the less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol: 

  • For healthy adults - To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. 

  • 18 years of age and under - To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol. 

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding - To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby. 

For more on the 'Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol' and what they mean for reducing harm, read 2020 Australian guidelines on alcohol released. 

 Have a plan to get home 

Alcohol affects your ability to drive safely and trying to drive or ride home puts you and other road users in danger. For your own safety and the wellbeing of others, have a Plan B to get home. Leaving your car, booking a taxi in advance or checking your route on public transport before you leave the house are all great options. 

 Be mindful of the types of drinks you consume  

During the festive season, you might be offered a greater variety of alcohol choices than normal. It is important to understand that some festive drinks might contain a higher percentage of alcohol than you may be used to consuming. Saying yes to Nana’s kind offer of an after-dinner sherry for example could tip you over the drink-drive limit if you’re not careful. Fortified wines such as sherry and port contain around 18–20%, and spirits such as scotch, rum, bourbon and vodka contain 40–50% (NSW Ministry of Health)

Alternate your drinks with water or a non-alcohol drink  

Plan ahead to make sure that there are non-alcoholic options available, whether that involves bringing them with you or perusing the mocktail list before you attend an event. Try to have at least one glass of water or no sugar, non-alcoholic drink for every alcoholic drink. Avoid buying rounds so that you can pace yourself, and sip slowly.  

Practice your response when someone offers you another drink 

Having a plan of what to say when someone offers you a drink or questions you for not drinking can help for an easier interaction. It can be a good idea to let your family or friends know about your intentions in advance. A casual text message can sometimes help avoid any awkwardness such as “I’m driving tonight as I have to be up early tomorrow so let me know if I can pick anything up on the way” or “I won’t be on the rounds tonight as I'm off the booze for a while”. Check out this article for some more examples of things to say.   

Eat before and during alcohol consumption 

This will help to slow down your drinking as well as also slow down the absorption of alcohol. The more slowly you drink the easier it is to monitor your drinking and you will be less likely to accidentally drink too much.   

Know your triggers 

For some individuals, the holidays can be stressful due to expectations, family dynamics, or other factors. Some people may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism during challenging times, contributing to an increase in consumption. For others, the lure of a free bar at the work Christmas party can be enough. Knowing your own personal triggers and taking the time to evaluate your past behavior may help you identify potential risks for overconsuming.  

Managing your alcohol intake 

Still unsure if you're drinking too much? Try our online confidential Alcohol Risk Assessment Tool to determine if your drinking is putting you at risk.   

Whatever your goal, you can download the Daybreak app to help support you to change your behavior. The Daybreak app allows you to track your alcohol intake via personalised goals, with the ability to visually monitor your consumption. You can also join a non-judgmental peer community of people for advice and support and access a list of over 100 suggested activities to help with your alcohol behavior change goals.  

 You can also take advantage of the free NSW telephone-based coaching service Get Healthy. The Get Healthy Alcohol Reduction program is designed to support you to make healthy lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption. The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm. To enroll call 1300 806 258 or register online at gethealthynsw.com.au/alcohol. 

 For free and confidential advice 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm. ​

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