LOCKDOWN drinking has become the hangover from hell for many of us — no matter how many times we tell ourselves that tonight we’ll just stick to soft drinks.
And now a new study has confirmed it, revealing that the drinking habits we picked up during the pandemic are still having an impact on our health.
NHS England found people who became heavy drinkers during lockdown remain so, despite restrictions lifting.
This may lead to more than 25,000 additional deaths and cost the NHS £5.2billion. But it’s not just lockdown drinking habits that have remained.
From snacking out of boredom to terrible sleep patterns, bad habits plagued us during lockdown — and are still damaging our health and wellbeing.
We asked the experts to reveal how to break these unwanted habits once and for all, and return to a more healthy lifestyle.
Failing to exercise
PRE-LOCKDOWNS, commuting to work, going to the gym and all manner of outside activities were normal.
But being forced to stay inside for long periods destroyed many of these healthy habits.
Founder of Results Wellness Lifestyle (resultswellnesslifestyle.com) Cecilia Harris, who’s also a personal trainer to celebrities including Lucy Mecklenburgh and Wayne and Frankie Bridge, tells SunHealth: “Lockdown was the perfect excuse to stop moving.
“Being inside made it hard to motivate ourselves, but it also affected our confidence.
“People now feel they can’t exercise after a long break, but this isn’t true.
“I always say start with a walk. Go out for a 15-minute walk, then each day increase that time. Don’t go to the gym at first, as this can be intimidating.
“Embrace home workouts. Choose short sessions and then, as before, build up that movement slowly.”
Becoming a social recluse
LOCKDOWN deprived us of face-to-face contact and made us swap nights out for nights in and Zoom quizzes.
This 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 depression.
But now restrictions have lifted, some still prefer to stay in with Netflix.
Life coach and diet psychology expert Jeff Spires says: “We’ve become used to feeling safe at home and our brains tell us it’s scary to socialize.
“Acknowledge you’re doing this — many people won’t realize they are turning down social events. Next, start socializing in a familiar setting.
“Invite friends round for drinks at home.
“Then plan social events near home at weekends, leaving your weeknights free.
“Each time you take a new step realize how fun it was and how much better you feel from face-to-face contact.”
Poor sleep pattern
SOME experts called it “coronasomnia”, others dubbed it “the sleep pandemic” but whatever the label, lockdown wreaked havoc on our sleep.
A study from the University of Southampton showed the number of people experiencing insomnia rose from one in six to one in four, and bad sleep has lingered.
Life coach Jeff says: “Start with a sleep routine to correct this. Decide on a bedtime and make sure you start your bedtime routine 30 minutes before this.
“Turn down the lights and stop screen time — turn off the TV, close the laptop and get off your phone.
“Next, begin a routine you will follow every night: Clean teeth, wash face, etc.
“When you get into bed, take a pen and paper and write a to-do list for the next day, and finish by writing down anything that’s on your mind.
“Finally, set an alarm to wake up at the same time every day.”
MORE than 40 per cent of adults in England put on weight during the pandemic, with the average gain being half a stone.
Boredom snacking or eating due to anxiety were the top culprits — and for many the habit has stuck.
Life coach Jeff says: “We have to replace the old habit with a new one.
“For example: Old — having a chocolate bar at 11am every day. New — making a cup of tea at 11am every day.
“Old — opening the kitchen cupboard after work to search for a snack. New — going for a walk around the block.
“When you catch yourself starting to do an old habit, say to yourself, ‘Stop’.
“Shout this out loud if you need to.
“Finally, celebrate your success. Every time you carry out the habit swap, give yourself a pat on the back.
“This will strengthen the neuro-association and embed the new habit faster.”
Bad body posture
WHEN the pandemic hit, laptops became the order of the day, having a huge impact on our bodies.
Home workers have been reporting high levels of lower back pain, shoulder and neck pain, tension headaches and even numbness in their buttocks.
If you’re still working from home, wellness expert Cecilia says: “Stop sitting on the sofa or a dining chair — invest in an office chair.
“Raise your laptop to eye level using a laptop stand, or purchase a separate screen to reduce pressure on the neck.”
Next, whether you’re WFH or in the office, enter movement.
“Doctors recommend standing up and moving around every 30 minutes. This sends oxygenated blood to tired muscles.
“Try my favorite stretch: Stand up and hold your arms out to the side.
“Turn one shoulder round forwards, the other backward, tweeting your arms. Now reverse in the other direction.”
Steps to cut your drinking
IF you’re still clocking up the units even though the lockdowns are over, you are not alone.
GP Sarah Garsed says: “For some patients, lockdown reduced the amount of alcohol they drank, but for others it caused a big problem they are struggling to shift.”
Here’s how to get a handle on boozing.
COUNT UNITS: If you regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week (equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or ten small glasses of lower-strength wine), or have struggled to curb daily drinking since lockdown ended, it’s time to assess your consumption .
GO SLOW: When it comes to alcohol, we are talking about addiction and habit and it’s important people feel supported in making changes.
Start small rather than trying to give up suddenly.
Take things gradually, don’t go cold turkey because you’re less likely to quit.
SET TO BUDGET: Set a budget for alcohol on visits to the supermarket.
Not only will this limit how much you buy, it will also make you realize just how much money you are wasting on alcohol that could be spent elsewhere.
See the pennies stack up!
MAKE A PLAN: Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to knock back.
For example, say to yourself, “I’m going to have one large glass of wine” rather than just opening a bottle and having it out on the coffee table and seeing how it goes.
LOWER STRENGTH: Make your wine a spritzer, or your beer a shandy 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 come in a whole range now, too.
STAY HYDRATED: Drink as much water as you can during the day.
This will help you to stay hydrated and make you feel full of fluids so you are less likely to want to drink as much alcohol.
If you do drink, alternate glasses of water.
ASK FOR HELP: Speaking to your GP is key in you getting help with alcohol. NHS doctors can advise you on ways to change habits.
They can also check your health and refer you to a program if they feel it would benefit you.
Don’t keep quiet if you need help!