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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The 12 Days of Christmas

Joy to the world! Peace on earth! Happy holidays! Or is it? This is one of the most stressful times of the year for many. Family time, travel, gifts to buy, meals to prepare, etc. We want this time of the year to be merry and bright for our family and friends. Feeling overwhelmed is an under-statement.

Kick off December by giving yourself the gift of a wholistic approach to survive the holiday season.

Day 2: Here We Come A-wassailing!


I've often had the feeling that the real reason Grandma got ran over by a Reindeer was due to all of the A-wassailing! The holidays are a time of joy and fun. However, it is also a time where many find themselves boozing it up at holiday parties or family gatherings. Unfortunately, many find themselves over doing it on the holiday cheer, which can set the scene for drama and discord.

Alcohol impacts everybody in different and unique ways. It might make some people happy and others moody and mean. Liquid courage lowers inhibitions for some and may lead to "stirring the pot" by bringing up controversial or politically charged topics. These behaviors likely occur because alcohol is known to lower activity in the brain’s

prefrontal cortex; the area responsible for focus, forethought, impulse control, organization, planning, judgement, empathy and insight.


What does alcohol do to the brain?


1. Shrinks brain volume

Those who drink one to seven drinks per week have smaller brains than those who choose not to imbibe. When it comes to the brain, size matters. Do you really want to give yourself the gift of a smaller brain this holiday season?


2. Lowers blood flow to the brain

The brain uses 20% of the blood flow in your body and it is critical for healthy brain function. Less blood flow to the brain results in the following problems: brain fog, poor decision-making, trouble concentrating, impulsivity, etc. A bigger concern is that low blood flow is the primary predictor of future memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease.


3. Causes atrophy of the hippocampus

Even “moderate” drinking (1 to 2 glasses of wine) can result in a smaller hippocampus. The hippocampus is an important part of the brain for learning and memory. Heavy drinkers have been found to have changes in the microstructure of the corpus callosum. This is the area of the brain where a thick bundle of nerve fibers connect the two hemispheres of the brain and is involved in allowing both sides of the brain to communicate effectively.


4. Reduces the number of new brain cells

In 2009, Neuroscience found that excessive alcohol consumption lowers the generation of new brain cells, especially in the hippocampus (the area of the brain where new neurons are made every day). zv


5. Increases the risk of dementia

Drinking may literally be responsible for making you lose your mind! Those that participate in moderate to heavy drinking have a 57% higher risk of dementia.


ALCOHOL ABUSE AND THE BRAIN

The holidays can be a tough time for people; especially for those in crisis. Often those with mental health issues or increased stress turn to alcohol to numb the pain. If you find yourself struggling this holiday season, please find other ways to relieve stress. Consider practicing some of the following this holiday season to lower your stress. (Amen p. 233)

  • Spend time with people who decrease your stress levels.

  • Laugh!

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing

  • Practice prayer and/or meditation

  • Listen to calming and/or joyful music

  • Flood your five senses with positivity

  • Watch comedies!


Tips to avoid the alcohol:

  • Volunteer to be the designated driver

  • Ask the bartender or host for a non-alcoholic drink that looks festive

  • If you choose to drink, do so in moderation


Please return tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas.



References:


2. AMEN, DANIEL G. “I Is for Immunity and Infections.” End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience Is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or... Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictio, TYNDALE MOMENTUM, S.l., 2022, p. 233.


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