LOCKDOWN drinking has become the hangover from hell for many of us – no matter how many times we tell ourselves that tonight we’ll stick to soft drinks.
And now a new study has backed it up, revealing that the drinking habits we’ve picked up during the pandemic are still impacting our health.
NHS England has found that people who became heavy drinkers during lockdown remain heavy drinkers, despite restrictions being lifted.
It could lead to more than 25,000 additional deaths and cost the NHS £5.2billion. But it’s not just lockdown consumption habits that have remained.
From boredom snacking to terrible sleeping habits, bad habits plagued us during lockdown – and continue to damage our health and well-being.
We asked the experts to reveal how to break these unwanted habits once and for all and get back to a healthier lifestyle.
Do not exercise
PRE-LOCKOUTS, commuting to work, going to the gym and all sorts of outside activities were normal.
But being forced to stay indoors for long periods of time destroyed many of those healthy habits.
Results Wellness Lifestyle (resultswellnesslifestyle.com) founder Cecilia Harris, who is also a personal trainer to celebrities such as Lucy Mecklenburgh and Wayne and Frankie Bridge, told SunHealth, “Lockdown was the perfect excuse to stop moving.
“Being inside made it difficult for us to be motivated, but it also affected our confidence.
“People now feel like they can’t exercise after a long break, but that’s not true.
“I always say start with a walk. Go out for a 15-minute walk, then each day increase this time. Don’t hit the gym at first, as it can be intimidating.
“Embrace home workouts. Choose short sessions then, as before, build this movement slowly.
Become a social recluse
LOCKDOWN deprived us of face-to-face contact and made us swap parties for Zoom parties and quizzes.
This has had a huge impact on our health, with research linking isolation and loneliness to increased risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety and of depression.
But now that the restrictions have been lifted, some still prefer to stick with Netflix.
Jeff Spiers, life coach and food psychology expert, says, “We’ve gotten used to feeling safe at home and our brains tell us it’s scary to socialize.
“Acknowledge that you’re doing this – a lot of people won’t realize they’re turning down social events. Then start socializing in a familiar setting.
“Invite friends over for a drink.
“Then plan social events near you on the weekends, leaving your weeknights free.
“Each time you take a new step, realize how much fun it was and how much better you feel with the face-to-face contact.”
Bad sleep pattern
SOME experts have called it “coronasomnia”, others have dubbed it “the sleep pandemic” but whatever the label, the lockdown has taken its toll on our sleep.
A study from the University of Southampton showed that the number of people suffering from insomnia has fallen from one in six people to one in four, and the poor sleep persists.
Life Coach Jeff says, “Start with a sleep routine to fix this. Decide on a bedtime and make sure to start your bedtime routine 30 minutes before it.
“Turn off the lights and stop screen time – turn off the TV, close the laptop and turn off your phone.
“Then start a routine that you follow every night: clean your teeth, wash your face, etc.
“When you go to bed, grab a pen and paper and write down a to-do list for the next day, and finish by writing down whatever comes to mind.
“Finally, set an alarm to wake up at the same time every day.”
Snack out of boredom
MORE than 40% of adults in England have gained weight during the pandemic, with the average gain being half a stone.
Boredom from snacking or eating due to anxiety was the main culprit – and for many, the habit stuck.
Life Coach Jeff says, “We need to replace the old habit with a new one.
“For example: Old — having a chocolate bar at 11 a.m. every day. New – make a cup of tea at 11am everyday.
“Old – open the kitchen cupboard after work to get a snack. New – take a walk around the block.
“When you catch yourself falling back into an old habit, say to yourself, ‘Stop’.
“Shout this out loud if you need to.
“Finally, celebrate your success. Each time you perform the habit swap, give yourself a pat on the back.
“This will strengthen the neuro-association and integrate the new habit more quickly.”
Bad body posture
WHEN the pandemic hit, laptops became the order of the day, having a huge impact on our bodies.
Home workers have reported high levels of lower back pain, shoulder and neck pain, tension headaches and even numbness in the buttocks.
If you’re still working from home, wellness expert Cecilia says, “Stop sitting on the couch or in a dining room chair — invest in a desk chair.”
“Elevate your laptop to eye level using a laptop stand or purchase a separate screen to reduce neck strain.”
Then, whether you’re at the WFH or in the office, introduce the movement.
“Doctors recommend getting up and moving every 30 minutes. This sends oxygenated blood to tired muscles.
“Try my favorite stretch: stand up and extend your arms out to the side.
“Rotate one shoulder forward, the other back, twisting your arms. Now reverse the other way.”
Steps to reduce your alcohol consumption
IF you’re still saving units even though the lockdowns are over, you’re not alone.
GP Sarah Garsed says: “For some patients the lockdown reduced the amount of alcohol they were drinking, but for others it caused a big problem that they are struggling to solve.
Here’s how to control alcohol.
UNITS OF ACCOUNT: If you regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week (equivalent to six pints of medium beer or ten small glasses of less strong wine), or if you have had difficulty reducing your daily consumption since the end of the confinement, it is time to assess your consumption.
GO SLOW: When it comes to alcohol we talk about addiction and habit and it is important that people feel supported to make changes.
Start small rather than trying to quit suddenly.
Take things gradually, don’t go all out because you’re less likely to quit.
SET A BUDGET: Set a budget for alcohol during your visits to the supermarket.
Not only will this limit the amount you buy, but it will also make you realize how much money you are wasting on alcohol that could be spent elsewhere.
Watch the pennies pile up!
MAKE A PLAN: Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you will push back.
For example, tell yourself, “I’m going to have a tall glass of wine” rather than just opening a bottle and setting it on the coffee table and seeing how it goes.
LOWER RESISTANCE: Make your wine a spritzer or your beer a cooler by adding lemonade to half the glass.
You can also buy lower strength spirits that taste exactly the same but have a lower alcohol content. Non-alcoholic beers are also available in a range.
STAY HYDRATED: Drink as much water as possible during the day.
This will help keep you hydrated and feeling full of fluids, so you’ll be less likely to want to drink so much alcohol.
If you drink, alternate the glasses of water.
ASK FOR HELP: Talking to your GP is key to getting help with alcohol. NHS doctors can advise you on ways to change your habits.
They can also check your health and refer you to a program if they think it would benefit you.
Don’t shut up if you need help!