A glass of wine to celebrate surviving another day of home schooling, a few G‘n’Ts to cheers a friend’s birthday via zoom, a lunchtime tipple to brace yourself for the daily briefing.
Hands up if you’re drinking more alcohol during coronavirus lockdown?
We know our hands are firmly in the air right now.
According to Alcohol Change UK around one in five drinkers (21%) have admitted to drinking more frequently since the lockdown.
While almost half of the 2,000 people surveyed are drinking about the same amount on a typical drinking day, 15% said they have been drinking more per session since social-distancing measures were introduced.
And, worryingly, nearly one in five (18%) daily drinkers have further increased the amount they drink since lockdown.
Experts believe the sudden upheaval of our lives and struggling to adjust to a new normal has contributed to many reaching for the rosé.
“With something like a pandemic, we totally underestimate the physiological impact of the fear, the grief (yes we grieve the loss of our routines, the loss of jobs, the loss of our way of life) and heightened anxiety,” explains Ruari Fairbairns, founder of One Year No Beer.
“It’s perfectly normal that when there is a higher level of these emotions in society, that the normal day to day emotions of arguing with a partner or kids with a tantrum affect us harder.
“This causes us to look for a way to soothe those emotions. Most of us have been used to using alcohol as a way to numb out the thoughts, to de-stress unwind and let go of the stress.”
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that alcohol consumption has risen by 22% from early March in the UK.
But turning to alcohol to cope with coronavirus lockdown can have some pretty important implications on mental and physical health, so much so that the European arm of the World Health Organisation has warned relying on alcohol is an ‘unhelpful coping strategy’.
Aside from the horrifying combination of having a hangover while also having to homeschool, increasing your alcohol intake could also lead to increased anxiety, depression and heightened emotions.
“Alcohol has also been proven to increase the likelihood of developing and having greater symptoms of respiratory disorders,” Fairbairns continues.
“And it can severely impact the immune system, which is not something that we want to be doing more of right now.”
The solution, according to experts, could be not to quit alcohol altogether, but to drink more mindfully.
“Not only could drinking less help improve our immune system and therefore our chances of developing COVID-19, but it also means consuming less calories, getting better sleep as well as improving your physical and mental health.
“There has never been a better time with the change of environment to focus on ourselves and our health,” he adds.
So just how do we shrink the amount of sauvignon we’re chugging?
How to drink more mindfully
Keep a drink diary
What you think you drink can actually be pretty different to what you actually drink so keeping track of your alcohol consumption can be the first step in reducing it. According to consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell, alcohol addiction expert at the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, lockdown could be the perfect time to look honestly at your weekly consumption.
“Familiarise yourself with what a 'unit' consists of and what the alcohol unit guidelines are (no more than 14 units a week),” he suggests. “It's not as simple as one drink, one unit. Large wine glasses hold 250ml, which is nearly three units or more in a single glass. Likewise, one pint of strong lager can contain more than three units of alcohol. A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine contains around 10 units.”
He says that knowing what you consume, can help you make decisions about levels.
Know your ABVs
When looking at your consumption, consider the ABV (alcohol by volume) of what you are drinking. “Wine that says '13 ABV' on its label contains 13% pure alcohol,” explains Dr Campbell.
“The ABV of popular 'new world' wines from New Zealand and Australia can be more than European wines.”
Knowing which drinks have a higher ABV could also help you reassess your intake.
Just like we track our steps, you can keep count of your weekly cocktail consumption and set limits. “My advice is don't drink at times that you wouldn't usually, but still treat yourself to a great cocktail when you'd normally have one, whether that's to celebrate the end of the working week, or a virtual Saturday night get-together with friends,” says Jacob Briars, Global Head of Advocacy and Education at Bacardi.
Go No or Low
Remember when your only alcohol-free option was a bottle of Schloer? Tasty as Schloer is, alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks have come a long way. “There are so many great no or low alcohol alternatives available on the market for those who fancy enjoying a cocktail, glass of wine, or beer without actually consuming alcohol,” says Briars.
For those who want to drink alcohol, but want to drink less, why not try a spritzer. “They're low-alcohol and will last you longer, great during the summer months when people tend to drink over longer periods,” he adds.
While bar staff have access to tools to measure out drinks, at home it is harder to keep track of how much we’re adding, so Briars recommends ditching free pouring. “Unless you're an experienced bartender, it is often hard to gauge what a double or single measure looks like,” he says.
Instead he recommends using a measuring jug to keep track of your measures.
“A double measure is 50ml, and a single is 25ml, so when pouring yourself an at-home gin and tonic or vodka soda, use a jug or alternate measuring device to keep track of that pour.
“It will also taste better!” he adds.
Shrink your Drink:
According to Briars some of the world’s top bars have debuted demi-serves of classic and bespoke cocktails that deliver big taste without the calories and alcohol content of full-serves. “Think of this as the cocktail equivalent of choosing a starter versus a main course for dinner. Just cut the measures in half to turn the iconic Dry Martini cocktail into a ‘Dry Marteeny’,” he says.
Think of the alcohol-less positives
Dr Campbell suggests thinking about the side-effects of drinking too much - on your physical, mental and emotional health. “Remind yourself of your worst or most embarrassing hangover,” he says. “Thinking about these things will help you decide you might want to change, because the benefits of reducing or giving up alcohol are manifold.”
Seek out help
Fairbairns believes people trying to cut down their alcohol intake could benefit from joining an online community of those wanting to achieve similar results, such as the One Year No Beer community. “You can listen to our podcast, watch some testimonials on Facebook or Instagram and if you want to challenge yourselves then join a challenge - it will be life changing, I promise,” he adds.