Managing your drinking during lockdown: tips for looking after your mental health

May 2020 | 7 minutes

We asked some people who moderate or don’t drink at all for some of their top tips for managing their drinking and mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve also all taken part in Dry January!

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Many of us are struggling not to drink more than we’re used to. In fact, some recent research by us has shown that one in five adults in the UK are drinking more during lockdown. This time has been, and still is, a period of stress, uncertainty and anxiety – all of which can be triggers for reaching for a drink.

If you’re working from home, you may face new challenges and find yourself pouring a glass of wine at 5:30pm rather than the 7pm you’re used to. If you’re trying to cut down, moderate or stay alcohol-free - even if you’ve been doing it for a long time - things might be particularly tough. There seem to be memes about drinking everywhere, your friends are drinking on every Zoom call, and there’s no one to hold you accountable because you can’t see anyone. But the important thing to realise is: you’re not alone. Here are tips from some people facing the same challenges as you on what works for them.

Remind yourself that in this awful time, drinking alcohol would make it so much worse. Mixing Covid-19 and a hangover is a very bad idea.♥️

Frances

If you can, make sure you carve out some self-care time. Park the kids in front of a screen with plenty of snacks, explain your needs to your partner and give yourself the gift of ‘you time’. It doesn't have to be big - a walk, a bath, or an online exercise class can be enough to restore the balance and distract you from thoughts of drinking.

Amanda

Compassion and self-compassion. Understanding that my reaction to this crisis will vary, that I’ll have strong days and vulnerable days. On vulnerable days I’ll need to be kind to myself, and not feel guilty that I’m not as productive as on the strong days. And when I’m feeling strong, I need to try to help others.

Susan

First off, all of this mental energy, worries, fears of the future, doubt, anger, I've taken out through cycling. Also I'm taking a lot of my "surges" of mental energies and am really trying to connect, recognize and feel them all with meditation and concentrated breathing sessions. That’s hard, as I am quite mentally wound up and anxious. I wish it could all just go away, but this is our new reality I guess, and it seems as if there’s nothing to do about it but to do our sober best. I’ll also go on to say, that if I were drinking now, as I had been two years ago, I would not be able to function today. I would not be as mentally or physically strong, I would not be able to move forward or even be somewhat positive. The gift of sobriety keeps giving, if we are open to that… Thank you all at Alcohol Change UK, you all have made a difference in this one man's life!

Steven

Try and keep a routine to your day. Obviously you don't need to be fanatical about it but eating and sleeping and exercising at roughly the same time every day will help with your physical and mental wellbeing.

Ann

As a keen runner, which has been invaluable in my 3+ years sobriety, I am still able to maintain this locally in U.K. in my allowed daily exercise session. The other thing I’d add is daily journaling. I’ve always kept a daily diary since childhood, to record what I’ve done, write out my worries / concerns, make sense of my head etc! This has been a particularly useful tool for me in coping with this pandemic and will form an interesting read in years to come.

Sarah

Those already living with anxiety and stress are now faced with limited opportunity to deal with that in a positive way. I would recommend some of the traditional strategies suggested by the NHS. There are therapies to reduce stress and anxiety, and replace them with more positive behaviours.

Gill

If you’ve been cutting down for a while but are struggling now, review your aims, look how far you've come. Write a list of all the benefits you've experienced - big and small. Remember why you started this journey. Adjust to match this confusing time. Keep trying.

Mandy

You can find more information about coronavirus and alcohol in our coronavirus information and advice hub. If you’d like more tips on managing your mental health and your drinking, this blog has additional advice.

There is no shame in asking for help. If you’re struggling to control your drinking, or you would like to talk to someone about getting some support, here is a list of organisations offering remote services.

If you’re finding things really difficult at the moment and are feeling overwhelmed, you can contact the Samaritans for free in the UK on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org.