Out of the hundreds of funny coronavirus memes pinging their way round Whatsapp right now there’s one of a woman in pyjamas and eye mask. She’s shouting at a runner passing her house through her window: ‘What are you doing out there? Running? Why? Oh because you like it?’ Taking a big glug of wine she shakes her head incredulously... ‘I mean really, it’s 7 o’clock in the morning!
Well, that woman is me right now. In the last month I have gone from a two-nights-a-week drinker to a nearly-every-night-a-week drinker. Life has been so stressful and uncertain; news so horrific, I’ve needed a glass of wine just to take the edge off.
Of course I’m not alone. A recent survey of more than 2,000 adults, for the charity Alcohol Change UK, suggested that one in five - equating to 8.6 million of us - have been drinking more since lockdown. According to consumer analysts Kantar, alcohol sales in supermarkets and corner shops jumped by nearly a quarter in March.
Given what is going on in the country right now, these findings are not surprising. What is surprising however, is that the same survey found that an astonishing one in three (14 million) have been taking steps to manage or stop drinking during the crisis. A small but significant proportion (6%) said they had stopped drinking entirely.
Good for them, I say - the dangers of alcohol over-consumption and the implications on our health are absolutely no laughing matter.
But the ones who have stopped entirely? I mean, sorry, but who are these people? Are they, if my suspicions are correct, the ones using this lockdown to go on one big health kick? That 7am jogger the meme lady is shouting at?
Don’t tell me you haven’t seen them because I certainly have. They’re the fresh new faces I see in brand-new Sweaty Betty, overtaking me as I puff round my usual running route doing my allotted hour, that same running route I have run for five years without seeing a soul. They’re the friends littering my Instagram feed with pictures of their healthy salads and keto creations while I pile into my comfort carbs. And they are definitely the ones in my Whatsapp groups bragging about their Zoom pilates and posh new garden gyms from Amazon.
I’m convinced there’s a section of society which is going to emerge from their lockdown chrysalises like radiant, chiselled Gisele Bundchen- and Chris Hemsworth butterflies - while I fly out of mine like a ten tonne moth and have to do an emergency crash landing. I know of one friend who, along with booze, has given up all meat and dairy. She exercises twice a day - a dawn run and a lunchtime HIIT workout - and has already lost five pounds, while I’ve put on the same amount (and counting). I change the subject every time she brings up her saintly exploits.
She must have balls of steel, but all respect to her, it’s not something I could do. The only action I have been spurred into is to start worrying about the number of units I’ve been consuming. I’ve never been a big drinker, but know that relying on a glass every night isn’t good in the long term.
The secret perhaps is to find a new nightly routine: to find some kind of full stop to the day between moving from the ‘office’ (aka the kitchen table) and collapsing on the sofa. An hour’s commuting used to be a great way of unwinding but staring blankly at The One Show definitely doesn’t do the same job. A quick walk round the garden might be better.
The answer might also be to limit overdosing on all the awful news. Setting my phone onto night mode will filter some of it and make it less tempting to reach for it late at night.
Chilling out is another strategy. Indeed, when I confessed my alcohol unit worries to my husband, he told me pointblank to stop being so hard on myself. “At the end of the day, lockdown isn’t going to last forever and life will get back to some kind of normal.”
He’s right, of course. Infact, I’m going to have to drink to that. Chin, chin!
Are you are drinking more or less during lockdown? If you are trying to drink less, do you have any tips on how to manage it? Tell us in the comments section below.