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A drink? Don't mind if you do; The hangover is an unwelcome addition to the festive season. Gabrielle Fagan finds out how to avoid it.

Byline: Gabrielle Fagan

IT is the Christmas party season where in public we happily celebrate with family, friends and workmates - but secretly many of us will be pouring ourselves large glasses of guilt.

Despite best intentions, we'll drink more than we want and suffer - not just from hangovers, or disgracing ourselves in front of bosses and relatives - but because we'll feel concerned and anxious about the amount we've consumed.

Clinical hypnotherapist Georgia Foster has written a self-help guide, The Drink Less Mind, for people who want to control their alcohol consumption.

"Many people feel their drinking is out of control," she says.

"I don't mean alcoholics but people who regularly drink more than they like but don't want to admit it.

"They'll be particularly aware of the problem at Christmas because most commonly they're using drink to help them overcome social shyness, lack of confidence, or nerves.

"So they'll drink more because the party season is particularly challenging for them.

"Add to that the other stresses and strains of Christmas, both financial and emotional, and it's easy to see how regularly drinking a few glasses a night can increase to a bottle."

Foster says that, by understanding why we drink, we can train our mind - so we control our drinking rather than the other way round.

"Look for the emotion that prompts you to drink. We may drink so that we can open up to friends, or to ease stress at the end of a day, or use it so we can ignore problems in our life, whether a difficult boss or a bad relationship.

"But the unconscious mind does everything habitually, so there is a danger that by drinking for emotional reasons, you won't be in control."

Foster says it is possible to drink responsibly: "In our 'cocktail culture' drinking is an accepted part of life and can be pleasurable and relaxing within limits. By training your mind you can control the amount you drink and savour it more."

Celebrate this season with a new approach to drinking and you'll feel better for it, she says.

"You could enjoy those parties without suffering after-party guilt and avoid that extreme of abstaining all January because you feel so bad about your holiday consumption."

The Drink Less Mind (book & CD), by Georgia Foster, is published by Able Publishing, priced pounds 17.99. Available now. To order, call 0845 660 4396, www.georg iafoster. com

Party animals

GENERALLY we will spend less on Christmas parties this year, according to business services experts Deloitte. It says women in particular may shun too much partying because they're concerned about the misery of hangovers and headaches as well as rising debt.

Rod Stewart has spoken out about the drinking habits of his socialite daughter Kimberley. Rod recently revealed that the 27-year-old has severe liver damage after years of heavy boozing.

In a recent survey by hair removal firm Veet, a third of people revealed they'll attend an office party every week from now until Christmas, often calling in on those of a partner, client, friend or business associate.

Lawyers are leading partygoers, enjoying at least six during the season, while teachers usually attend only one.

The Welsh party the longest at each event, averaging around five hours a session, while the Scots only stay for around one hour.

Party strategies

I never know how much I will drink - how can I set a limit?

Decide how much you're going to drink before you go and stick with it. "Try to eat before you go out to slow down the effect of the alcohol and have a soft drink or water between every alcoholic drink. Never have your drink topped up, as you will lose track of how many units you've drunk," Foster says.

Don't join in rounds - make a financial excuse, ie the cost of Christmas.

Practise not drinking, have alcohol-free nights or commit to driving home - the more your mind goes into situations sober, the easier it will become.

How can I resist when friends encourage me to drink more?

Before you go out, rehearse your reasons for refusing to drink more than you want. "Practise saying to yourself 'thanks, but I'm pacing myself so I won't have another just now...'.

"It's fine to tell little white lies like saying you're on antibiotics, recovering from a big drinking night the previous evening, or can't afford a hangover before a demanding meeting/morning the next day.'

"As your confidence in your ability to drink less grows, you'll eventually be able to straightforwardly explain to friends that you're limiting alcohol," Foster says.

All my friends drink a lot. Won't I feel like a party pooper if I don't?

"We often unconsciously choose friends who drink as much as we do to justify our own drinking. Also, people encourage each other to drink because they don't want their own drinking habits exposed.

"Initially if you're starting to cut back on your drinking, it's better not to say so, as friends (may be worried about their drinking) may find it uncomfortable and won't encourage you.

"Your drinking less may put their drinking into sharper focus, but don't be bullied into drinking to keep them happy."

Are some people more inclined to over-drink?

"We are all naturally quite shy, but some of us find social situations more challenging and believe drink makes us feel less inhibited and more outgoing.

"Others are 'pleasers' who drink to bond with a group and believe they are responsible for 'keeping the party going'."

Foster says all drinkers have a strong inner critic attacking their self-esteem, constantly telling them they're uninteresting, won't fit in or have fun unless they drink.

The next day the inner critic berates them for drinking too much and replays embarrassing moments. This increases stress, which makes drinking more likely.

How can I tell what triggers me to habitually drink?

Keep a chart for a couple of weeks recording what emotion you feel before you drink. This helps you recognise your drinking pattern, what makes you override your desire to reduce drinking and who you are with and where you are when it happens.

By understanding your drinking you will be more able to control it. (Download a chart from www.georg iafoster.com)

CAPTION(S):

PARTY TIME: One thing can so easily lead to another.' TIPPLING TIPS: Georgia Foster and her book giving some sound festive advice for partygoers.' AVOID THE GUILT: Freshen up with water.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 27, 2006
Words:1077
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