Brace for re-entry: Celebrating the Spring Carnival safely post-lockdown

The reopening of our biggest cities coincides with the Spring Carnival and the upcoming festive season. We share how to celebrate safely without relying on drinking and gambling.

Young women celebrating | Photo by Luke Eggers, Unsplash

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Take it easy — Everything in moderation
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Take it easy — Everything in moderation

A lot of us are feeling a little socially awkward after months of limited interaction with the outside world, and it’s tempting to deal with that anxiety with liquid courage, and that’s ok — to a point — but it might be counterproductive to let it get out of hand.

Even if you drank steadily through lockdown, it’s likely you did it in the relative safety of your own home. Now that you’re allowed to let loose in mixed company again, it’s a good idea to take it slowly. We all know that awful Sunday morning feeling — ‘oh god, what did I do? What did I say?’

You can save yourself from that feeling by slowing down and taking precautions to drink safely and in moderation.

The key: pace and space.

Some tips to pace yourself:

  • Decide how many drinks you want to have.
  • Stick to your limit.
  • Time your drinks — maybe you’ll only have one drink an hour, or every two hours.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks — your head will thank you in the morning if you drink a lot of water.
  • Choose drinks with lower alcohol content, or dilute your drinks with water or ice.
  • Eat! Eating alongside your drinks will help you pace your consumption and can also help to lower the rate of alcohol absorption into your bloodstream and brain. Choosing protein-rich foods before you drink can really improve how you feel the morning after.
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It’s okay to abstain
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It’s okay to abstain

Many Australians report feeling peer pressure to drink, so we just want to say: whether you’ve reassessed your relationship with alcohol or just don’t feel like it on the day, it’s completely okay if don’t want to drink at all. If you’ve always been up for a few drinks, you might feel self-conscious about deciding to stick to the soft drinks, but it’s likely that your friends won’t notice or care.

You don’t owe anybody an explanation, but if you are feeling awkward about it, it can be useful to have a story prepared and ready to go — maybe you’re on hayfever medicine and drinking will make you sick, or you’re on a post-lockdown fitness kick. The best way of all to avoid scrutiny is to nominate yourself the designated driver — even the nosiest (or noisiest) people are just happy to have a ride home.

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Don’t be another statistic
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Don’t be another statistic

We all know that car accidents spike around the holidays, and in many ways the end of protracted lockdowns feels like the biggest holiday of all, especially when combined with Spring Carnival events around the country, particularly in Melbourne. We urge you not to waste your post-lockdown freedom on drink-driving. The evidence from 2020 showed us that despite roads being quieter than ever, we didn’t see a corresponding drop in road fatalities. Officials said that they’d actually seen an increase in risky behaviours such as speeding and drink driving. We have no reason to think that 2021 will be any safer.

Give yourself the opportunity to make smarter decisions. Plan how you’re going to get to and from Melbourne Cup parties. Arrange a designated driver, set aside a budget for an Uber, or plan your public transport route. You won’t regret it when you get home safe.

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Remember that the house always wins
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Remember that the house always wins

Spring Carnival parties tend to be all about drinking, gambling and fancy hats. The hats are great, but the combination of alcohol and gambling can be risky. We hear from clients that they’re more likely to gamble more than they can afford when they’ve been drinking.

The gambling industry know that having a bit of a punt is deeply woven into Australian culture, and they make sure to take the opportunity by flooding our billboards, airwaves and social media with ads that associate gambling with happiness, parties, and friends having a great time.

If you’re planning to attend Spring Carnival festivities, remember that you’ve been targeted by more alcohol and gambling than usual, and be conscious of how that might be affecting your decision-making. If you are going to gamble, you might want to set yourself a limit before you start drinking and make it difficult for yourself to exceed it by carrying limited cash or cards.

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Reconnect
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Reconnect

Humans need social connections. If you’re attending a Cup Day party, use it as an opportunity to reconnect with the friends — or even strangers — you might have missed through these long months of lockdown. If you’re feeling a bit rusty when it comes to breaking the ice, here are some conversation starters you could default to:

  • What was your most surprising/embarrassing lockdown habit?
  • What’s the worst tv show you binged during lockdown?
  • Where’s the first place you’re going to visit when our borders open?
  • If you had to be an animal, which animal would you be?
  • What’s something you didn’t expect to miss so much in lockdown?
  • Which is the best horse and why? Wrong answers only.

Don’t worry about being the best conversationalist in the world. Everybody else is going to feel just as rusty as you, and once the conversation gets started you’re all just going to feel excited and relieved to be chatting at all.

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Have a blast
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Have a blast

You don’t need to get wasted to have a great time. Wear a fancy hat or dapper suit, gossip with your friends, and cheer on the horses. Allow yourself the excitement of being out and about in the world, among strangers and friends — and be safe!

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What can I do next?
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What can I do next?