“Prioritise minding yourself in the ways that fit you, and look out for the friends around you. Christmas can be the busiest and most social time of the year, hence there can be difficulty in understanding the isolation or loneliness others feel.”
The winter party season has kicked off, and much to our conflicted dismay and Christmas joy, winters in Ireland tend to drag into the depths of February. The days are shorter, the nights are longer and with that our social lives grow busier. Limited daylight hours, added financial stress and unhealthy habits can have a detrimental effect on our mental, and in turn physical, health. Throw in exam stress, longer working hours, or the societal pressures of Christmas for good measure. Wintertime proves to be rough for some.
One in fifteen people in Ireland are known to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and many more without the diagnosis still struggle in these months. The gloomy weather, rain, cold temperatures and darkness impact our bodies sometimes unbeknownst to us. Sunset is just after four o’clock, and with many of us either working or in college for the greater portion of the day, we miss out on vital vitamin D and fresh air in the daytime. Throw nighttime clubbing in into the mix, followed by poor sleep or naps, and the difficulty in keeping yourself well has the potential to manifest greater.
Generally for those drinking or otherwise, the decisions of the night before leave us in a fragile state the next morning, a state we prefer to sleep through. With Christmas parties, catching up with friends over pints, regular club nights, weekly afterparties, or invitations back to a friend’s house, it could be well into the next day before the head hits the pillow. Even getting home “early” after drinking presents its challenges. Lack of natural daylight has been proven to disrupt moods, and unfortunately it’s a challenge we’re frequently presented with in Ireland. It’s important to be mindful of how often you miss a day, and how many times you can personally do it, without negatively impacting your functioning and wellbeing. There are so many parties on, and there will be parties on the week after. It’s alright to miss one if you need to. Also on the topic of weather, suck up the minuscule cloakroom fee and bring warm layers. Colds are unfashionable.
The importance of responsibly monitoring your drug and alcohol intake goes without saying. Alcohol is a depressant, and the effects of repeated drug use vary depending on the substance and the individual. From a comedown, anxiety, fear, low mood and irritability to a weakened immune system. If you do choose to use drugs, following general harm reduction strategies are applicable even in a party setting. Sharing paraphernalia such as keys, rolled- up notes and straws puts you at risk of contracting Hepatitis C through micro-cuts in the nose.
Familiarise yourself with lethal combinations and look out for your friends. Know and practise your limits with alcohol, and if you plan on going over them, have a plan for the next day to ease the damage. Stay hydrated and sit down if you need to.
Having a recovery routine for when you consciously or unconsciously surpass your limits can bring your day after from horrible to kind of alright. Perfect the basics of sufficient rest, vitamins, a substantial meal and fresh air if you can muster it. Maintaining some amounts of exercise in the winter is key and regular endurance will stand to you in all aspects of health. Hydrate with water and juice, avoid caffeine which dehydrates and contributes to the anxiety. Explore hangover remedies naturally or from the chemist like dioralyte, berocca, painkillers. Bringing out set amounts of cash, or a Revolut card can help you anticipate and limit your spending, saving the fear the next day.
Prioritise minding yourself in the ways that fit you, and look out for the friends around you. Christmas can be the busiest and most social time of the year, hence there can be difficulty in understanding the isolation or loneliness others feel. We face difficulties year-round, but winter presents additional hurdles. Utilize your support networks when you need them, and be a support for the important people in your life too. Caught up in the buzz, those in difficulty can go unnoticed. They can slip away, retreat, hibernate – or they can go on regular benders, with the aftermath transpiring in other aspects of life.
Next time you’re out, notice who’s around you. Notice who isn’t, and ask yourself, why?
Words: Niamh Elliot-Sheridan
Mae Ly Lim