Dry January®, parenting and COVID-19

Kate and Mandy at Love Sober | January 2021 | 9 minutes

Lockdown is tough, especially for parents, so check out these top tips on doing Dry January® while parenting and homeschooling during COVID-19.

The UK recently went into another national lockdown and schools were forced to close. This has created unprecedented levels of stress for parents and carers across the UK. Finding ourselves home schooling once more is hugely challenging and bound to impact our experience of Dry January®. As mums we hear you, and we get it. That’s why we’ve put together some tips to help you stick to your Dry January®.

1. Make goals

Set realistic goals for yourself. Get specific, have a time frame and list your ‘why’s. What is to be gained by going alcohol free? Some examples could be time to rest, restore, and have a look at your relationship with alcohol. Making goals can also mean writing them down or posting them somewhere as a visible reminder of your intentions. This will be hugely helpful when you feel tempted to have a drink.

2. Ask for support

If you live with a partner, talk to them about your Dry January®, and the impact home schooling might have on it. Divide workload between you to help keep stress low, which in turn will help with preventing cravings for a drink.

In terms of support from friends, with in-person meet-ups limited, there are many sober groups online you can join instead to connect with like-minded people - Love Sober or the Dry January® Community group, for example. By making your goals public to friends and family you also open a channel of communication with them that’s invaluable.

3. Watch your wine o’clock

Whether it’s wanting a glass of wine on a Friday after work, wanting a beer to de-stress, or a gin and tonic on a video call with friends, many people have particular times, locations, or situations that they associate with drinking. These are known as triggers. To cut down on drinking, it’s important to first understand what your triggers are, and then find ways to work around them. If home schooling-based stress is a trigger for you, ask yourself what you could do instead to help you unwind. Remember that nothing is made better by alcohol - it feels like it helps temporarily, but ultimately it lowers our ability to cope healthily, be present and adapt to the situation.

4. Pack your toolkit

It may not always be easy to stick to your Dry January® plan. Prepare for the inevitability of an urge to drink at some point and know which actions you’ll take to overcome it.

There are simple strategies to employ when an urge strikes that can help, such as a quick change of scenery. A key thing to note here is to be kind to yourself. Remember that this will pass, and everyone is in the same (or a similar) boat. You’re not a bad parent because the schools are shut, and managing a school closure while working is a big ask.

5. Keep the ritual / Change the ingredient

Get in great alcohol-free alternatives and yummy snacks to have so you don’t feel like you’re missing out. There are great ranges of botanicals and alcohol-free spirits, beers and wines at supermarkets these days. Or maybe you want to do the health kick with kombucha or juices?

6. Create a self-care menu

Slowing down and picking up on our sensory and physical needs can be a sober power tool. Hungry, angry, lonely, tired… Try to work out what your ACTUAL need is and care for yourself by meeting that need. Prioritise self-care: set aside time during the day to journal, meditate or just breathe. Find a place in your home that feels positive to use as an anchor when things get a bit fraught. Create a list of things you can do when you feel a certain way. If you can identify what pushes your buttons and what you need to balance it out, that can help hugely with overwhelm. Advocate for you needs. Practice: “I need ten minutes to… Then I will...”

7. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

What we mean is avoid ‘all or nothing’ thinking. If, two weeks into January, you have a beer, get back in the saddle and start again - count your overall days and acknowledge your achievement. Try to work out what the trigger was and chalk your slip-up up to learning. This way, if you have a drink, you are less likely to keep drinking for the rest of the month. Take things in your stride and recommit to your original resolution.

"A few slip-ups during Dry January® is still a Dry January®."

8. Get moving

Many people say they drink to get out of their head and stop the busy thoughts. Physical movement such as running, dancing, walking in nature can ground us and give our brains a well-earned break. You could also involve your children in this – they might enjoy a change of pace and/or scenery.

9. Get your sober treats in

Reward yourself for choosing not to drink every day. Perhaps it’s a bunch of flowers or a fancy chocolate bar, maybe just allowing time out for yourself – you deserve a treat for making this change. And if there’s a documentary you’ve always wanted to watch, now is the time to do it – it totally counts as education for the kids as well!

10. Get creative

One thing we often notice when we stop drinking is how much time we have on our hands. Having hobbies or creative projects can keep us occupied, and you might also learn a new skill! Take this opportunity to try something new or reconnect with an old hobby you stopped having time for. A Dry January® will also free up some time to think of creative ways to help with home schooling!

Remember: Don’t cause yourself more stress by focusing on perfection. A few slip-ups during Dry January® is still a Dry January®. If the kids are safe and fed and occupied with something, that’s good enough. You can do this!

Love From Kate and Mandy at Love Sober

Check out the Love Sober website for community, course and the Love Sober Podcast and their book: Love Yourself Sober – A Self-Care Guide to Alcohol-Free Living for Busy Mothers.