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How lawyers can navigate the festive season with less alcohol

Sip smartly: You may be eyeing off the 2023 finishing line and thinking, ‘I’ve got to cut back the booze!’ For lawyers who have been finalising endless deadlines and pushing through never-ending work events, this thought is more common than you think, and for good reason, writes Isabella Ferguson.

user iconIsabella Ferguson 22 December 2023 Big Law
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Alcohol use can dramatically increase this time of year as a source of energy, social lubrication, and relaxation. You may feel compelled to partake more than you want, nervous that you may miss out professionally if you drink less or abstain altogether.

The flip side, though, is that one glass often leads to three or four (or more) and can impair judgement, leading to unprofessional and regretful behaviour, not to mention diminished sleep, fatigue, unhealthy eating, reduced exercise, anxiety, depression and just feeling “pretty average”. Moreover, alcohol makes stressed lawyers more stressed.

Making a commitment to drink less at professional events is a great decision if you want some fuel left in the tank to spend with family and friends over the holidays. Tapering back now will also set you up for a smoother transition into the new year and help you to achieve health-related New Year’s resolutions.


Here are five tips that you can start now that will allow you to continue to enjoy the festivities but wake up hangover-free.

  1. What does a successful event look like to you?
Play the tape forward and keep your eye on the prize. Consider ahead of time what a successful event looks like for you. Is it about networking, circulating, being articulate, adding value to conversations, having a laugh (not being the laugh), behaving professionally and leaving before things get messy? Then, keeping to the alcohol-free options is the way to go.

A related tip is to set feeling-based goals. Would you like to feel refreshed, regret-free and energised at the end of a networking event? Feeling-based goals are more effective than behaviour-based goals, so think about how you want to feel afterwards and the morning after. More than two glasses will hamper this goal.

  1. Team up with an alcohol coach
Why not join forces with an alcohol coach to help you reach your alcohol and professional goals through this festive season and beyond? Most of us want to drink less, and seek out to do so, but if you keep breaking your moderation goals, a coach can help to strategise events with you, boost self-confidence, and change your drinking behaviours long term. Profound improvements to your life can be achieved by drinking less in the long term.

  1. Delay your first drink until after the meal
Stress, no food, and alcohol do not mix! You will be more susceptible to cravings if you’ve been working all day and you enter an event on an empty stomach (this includes coffee!). Work stress on an empty stomach increases the release of stress hormones in your system. So, your blood sugars will be depleted, you will be tired and stressed, and you will crave alcohol more. Prepare by eating foods rich in proteins and fats throughout the day, starting at breakfast.

Another tip is to drink alcohol-free options for the first hour (call ahead to see what’s offered) and keep pushing back your first drink in 30-minute increments. You’ll eventually think, “what’s the point?”

  1. Plan an early exit
One or two hours spent at an event is enough time to circulate, network and leave vaguely refreshed. Certainly, nothing good happens after four hours. Consider setting a specific time to leave the party, especially if it’s an evening event. Create something lovely to go home to, like fresh sheets, dessert, a good Netflix show, and an early morning exercise.

Also, regular walks outside to “make a phone call” or to go to the bathroom can release nervous energy, get you out of difficult conversations, and allow you to return refreshed.

  1. Upskill yourself and your workplace
Read quit-lit, such as This Naked Mind. Listen to a podcast, such as Not Drinking Today. Join an online six-week alcohol-free challenge designed to change your relationship with alcohol. Download an app, such as Mind the Sip. All of these things help change your habits.

Better yet, encourage your workplace to embrace an inclusive and healthier alcohol workplace. After all, workplaces hire the staff, create the work, exacerbate the stress, stock the fridges with alcohol and encourage participation in marketing events. Statistically, high-stress professionals are prone to alcohol abuse, so it makes sense to pull out all stops for workplaces to support healthier drinking cultures.

You’ve had a big year, and you certainly deserve to celebrate and relax. However, consider whether alcohol needs to be a dominant or necessary part of this. The fact is, it increases stress in the long run and impedes your long-term health goals. Why let your work events hamper your achievement of these goals?

By setting goals, being prepared, and prioritising personal wellbeing, you can enjoy the holiday cheer without leaving all of your energy in the workplace. Save a little for your personal life as well.

Isabella Ferguson is a former lawyer and a registered counsellor and coach.

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