Drinking More Than Usual This Summer? We Can Help.

Ahh, summer! Warm weather, sunny days, barbecues, family vacations, pool time and fun. The months of July and August typically provide a much-needed mental health boost due to an increase in Vitamin D and melatonin production, which can aid sleep and improve well-being. The uptick in socializing that happens in the summer also supports mental health as people connect with one another and enjoy more time with friends and family.  

But there is a definite dark side to that easy summer living. The summer season shows a marked increase in alcohol consumption, alcohol-related accidents and in particular, binge drinking. August ranks as the deadliest month for DUI crashes and more drownings occur in July than any other month, with an estimated 31 percent of all drownings involving alcohol.  

Summer Drinking Can Be More Dangerous

Why is summer drinking more dangerous? Simple – the heat. With the warmer weather, people tend to dehydrate much more quickly which can exacerbate effects of alcohol. Also, in the summer, people drink more alcohol over longer periods of time. Red solo cups of frothy beer, fruity cocktails and coolers packed with beverages are a mainstay of summer concerts, festivals, baseball games, picnics and pool parties. This can be challenging for people in recovery and for those trying to be mindful of their drinking habits.  

According to Jody Ryan, MD, WellPower’s chief medical officer, “It’s easy for drinking to get out of hand in the summer. If you find yourself frequently feeling hungover or embarrassed about your behavior while drinking, you might want to consider a summer ‘reset.’ This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate alcohol entirely, but putting parameters around drinking and practicing mindfulness can go a long way to ensuring better health and well-being.”  

Tips to Control Summer Drinking

Dr. Ryan recommends these tips to be mindful about your summer drinking: 

  • Honestly Evaluate Your Alcohol Intake: How much do you actually drink? Keep track and you may discover patterns and triggers as well as a true accounting of what’s really going on.  
  • Plan Your Drinking for the Week: Consider your calendar and decide when and how much you intend to drink. Perhaps cut out alcohol on weekdays, don’t drink until after a certain time or set limits on the number of drinks. 
  • Change Your Routine: If you typically unwind from work with a cocktail, mix up the routine and instead take a neighborhood walk or hit the gym for a change of pace.  
  • Enlist a Friend: Enjoy the social side of summer with a friend who also wants to be more mindful. Together you can embark on new activities and hold one another accountable.  
  • Give Mocktails a Try + Stay Hydrated: Whip up a batch of mocktails and serve in fancy glasses with fresh fruit garnishes to make them extra appealing. Alternate alcoholic drinks with mocktails, waters or sodas. Stock your cooler with non-alcoholic beers as well as the real thing.  
  • Try the “Dry July” Challenge: Give yourself a break and forego drinking entirely for a set amount of time. There’s a new movement for a summer alcohol reset called Dry July, similar to the popular Dry January challenge, where you cut out drinking for a full month. 

The Benefits of Moderation

Studies show that cutting out alcohol for even a month can make a  noticeable difference in your health. Regular drinkers who abstained from alcohol for 30 days slept better, had more energy and lost weight. They also lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduced cancer-related proteins in their blood. You will also see an impact on your budget, as drinking can be expensive. 

While most people can cut back on summer drinking fairly easily, there is professional help available if you find yourself struggling. WellPower’s TherapyDirect offers an immediate online connection to a professional therapist with no insurance needed. For more information on TherapyDirect, visit www.wellpower.org/therapydirect/.