The extent to which one is cowed by peer pressure hinges on one's own sense of self-worth, Ornsteiner explains. And that can take a beating during the holiday season, when people take stock of their lives and may feel they are lacking. That's where this season can trigger depression, and New Year's Eve debauchery can provide an escape to that plight, Ornsteiner says.
Revelers may also consider the night's indulgences a "last hurrah," and the next day's hangover good motivation for a fresh start, says Ryan Howes, a psychologist based in Pasadena, Calif. "People may get excess out of their system temporarily, but without a dramatic paradigm shift, they'll still feel pulled toward the excess once in a while. And when you feel horrible, you look for something to make you feel better."
So what's the solution?
Strive for balance, "the model of health," Howes says. "Neither excessive restriction nor excessive indulgence benefit us in the long run. Many people can manage their urges toward excess through the healthy spring and swimsuit summer months, but they have difficulty during the celebration-heavy slide from Labor Day to New Year's. Egg nog is not made from kale." However, "if you adopt an attitude of balanced living, which includes some healthy choices with a few moderate indulgences, the holidays shouldn't be a problem."
Ornsteiner recommends using healthy, routine antidotes to stress such as physical fitness to gain control, rather than be controlled by one's particular anxieties. To that end, each person will have to find his or her own approach, he says.
That might mean making small, instead of sweeping, New Year's resolutions. Maybe you'll insist on a half-hour each day to fight stress through meditation, or you'll try to fortify yourself and your family by cooking meals more often. Perhaps you'll spend New Year's Eve the way you'd really like—at home with a few friends and favorite flicks. And, maybe you won't wait for an imaginary trip to Italy to wear that sexy red dress. Maybe you'll just wear it to dinner.