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How to avoid reaching for the vino during lockdown

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of drinking more during the UK’s lockdown? We know our hands are firmly in the air right now. Here are some handy hints on how to keep things in check...

By Faith Richardson

With bars, pubs and clubs all out of action for the foreseeable future, many of us have been taking to creating our own nights out in our living rooms. With online pub quizzes, drinks with friends over FaceTime, and endless nights in front of us with nothing to get up for in the morning, it’s easy to see why we’ve all started to up the ante on our drinking habits.

Cutting back on the booze can have many positive physical effects – fewer hangovers (obviously), clearer skin, better sleeping – but it’s also proven to have a significantly positive effect on our mental health too. Slowing down on the drinking helps us feel less anxious, less stressed and allows our minds to be clearer – which all sounds pretty good during a time where we’re all operating with extreme levels of stress and anxiety.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying a drink in the evening while you’re having dinner or playing a board game with your family, but if you feel like your drinking habits have started to creep out of control, here are some helpful tips to help you lock down your drinking whilst on, well, lockdown.

Swap to alcohol-free versions

Many people will probably admit that for them, drinking is about the taste. It’s easy to be transported to a Summer holiday with a piña colada or reminisce about sitting in a beer garden over a pint. If you’re someone who enjoys the taste of alcohol, there are plenty of alcohol-free versions that would trick even the most well-practiced drinker into thinking they’re enjoying the real thing.

Try making some of your favourite cocktails at home – you probably already have way more ingredients than you thought – using these recipes from Stylist. 

If cocktails aren’t your thing, all your favourite beer brands do alcohol-free or low-alcohol versions – add them to your next food shop so you can enjoy a beer in the garden without a hangover the next day.

Avoid over-buying

Let’s face it – if it’s in the house, you’re going to want to drink it. The temptation is to stockpile your alcohol for fear it’s going to run out, particularly with people panic-buying at the moment. Don’t worry – your favourite wine isn’t going to be gone forever. Try to buy the bare minimum, and if your favourite tipple is all gone this week, consider having a dry week rather than buying another type that you won’t enjoy as much.

Pace yourself

If you don’t want to cut out the drinks completely, try to pace yourself. It can be far easier to over-drink in the house than when you’re at a bar, as you can pour as much as you want as often as you want, without queuing or paying for each one. Try to pace yourself carefully – if you’re binging your favourite Netflix series over a glass of wine, try to make your glass last at least the full length of an episode and alternate between alcohol and water per episode. Chances are you’ll probably end up so engrossed in your series that you’ll forget all about finishing the bottle.

If you find that you’ve ended up drinking every night without even realising, try to dedicate yourself a couple of alcohol-free days a week. They can be whatever days you like, and as many or as few as you want. Instead, treat yourself to a night of self-care and pampering instead – have a bath, do a face mask and paint your nails, journal, try yoga – you’ll end up feeling much calmer and more content.

Only drink with dinner

A great tip to limit your drinking time is to only allow yourself to drink over food. Enjoy that time sat around the table eating, talking to loved ones or catching up on podcasts, then once the plates are cleared away, clear away the alcohol too. Not only does this put a limit on your time spent drinking, but it also makes sure you’re drinking on a full stomach and therefore less likely to be ill or get too drunk too quickly.

Measure your drinks

When you’re drinking at home it can be SO tempting to just free-pour your drinks – whether its spirits, wine, or a cocktail you’re making. Take the guesswork out of it and make yourself measure out your alcohol for each drink. It makes it easier to keep track of how much you’re drinking, and you can moderate your intake when you start to feel tips – it’ll help you feel more like you’re in a proper bar too!

Stick to your routine

Suddenly finding ourselves with endless days and nights at home has thrown us all off our normal day-to-day routines. However, a great tip to help you cut back on excessive drinking is to try to stick to your normal drinking routine. I’m sure most of us don’t usually open a bottle of wine at midday when we’re in the office, no matter how bad of a week it’s been, so don’t do it when you’re at home either. If you usually enjoy a night out on a Saturday, and pop to the pub for a couple on a Thursday, then continue doing that (at home, of course), but don’t be tempted to start doing it every night.  If you usually enjoy a glass of wine in front of the tv after the kids are in bed, continue this routine – just try not to finish the bottle if you wouldn’t usually.

Maintaining a routine not only helps us keep our drinking levels normal, but it can help us feel like we’ve still got some normality in our day to day lives too.

Find your support network

The one benefit of drinking at home is that you don’t have to worry about peer pressure. There’s no one telling you to just have one more, or people buying in a round so you feel obligated to keep drinking well past when you’ve had enough. However, it can also make it harder to find support if you decide you want to curb your alcohol enthusiasm – whether it’s forever, during lockdown, or just to try and cut back a bit.

There are some truly great advocates out there for sobriety and healthy attitudes towards drinking. Millie Gooch (@milliegooch) runs an incredibly supportive space on Instagram (@sobergirlsociety) where she helps women to change their relationship with alcohol. She told us:

“Drinking is the single best thing I have ever done for my mental health. Whilst sobriety isn’t the cure for anxiety, it gives you the time, space, energy and a clear head to manage it so much more effectively”

With such a glowing testimony for considering cutting back on the booze over the coming weeks, we might just take her advice.

You can also find some amazing support and help in The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober where author Catherine Gray covers everything from how to survive a wedding sober, to informative interviews with psychologists about England’s drink-pushing habits.

Love Sober Podcast is also great if you feel like you need some positive encouragement. Hosted by Kate and Mandy, Love Sober is “for the sober and the sober-curious”, in their own words. Covering everything from drinking to self-medicate to binge drinking and everything in between, this is a great resource to help you get some positive information.

Don’t feel pressured into cutting back or abstaining if you don’t want to, particularly during such an uncertain and difficult time for everyone. Only you can determine whether your drinking has strayed into concerning territory. Instead of suddenly going cold turkey and throwing that champagne you’ve been saving for a special occasion down the sink, try to move in baby steps.

Making small cutbacks here and there, swapping one or two drinks for water or alcohol-free versions etc. will ensure you’re much more successful in your plight to cut down. Change what you think needs changing rather than worrying about doing it “properly” or what other people are doing.

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