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How to Drink Less Alcohol During the Pandemic

By Ian Andersen
Posted: March 30, 2021

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Reviewed By:

Dr. Hrishi Belani

Primary care physician & Sunnyside Advisor

Do you feel like you’ve been drinking more since this grueling pandemic began? Do you find yourself drinking more frequently? Or drinking more when you do imbibe? Or both? Are you ready to learn some ideas around how to drink less alcohol that you can start implementing immediately? We can help.

Drinking more during the pandemic? You’re definitely not alone.

First, understand that you’re in good company. If your relationship with alcohol has changed since Covid-19 hit, you’re certainly not alone. A recent study published in a journal of the American Medical Association found that people over 30 drank 14% more in 2020 compared to 2019. And 1 out of 5 women said they are binge drinking more during the pandemic.

A recent study published in a journal of the American Medical Association found that people over 30 drank 14% more in 2020 compared to 2019. And 1 out of 5 women said they are binge drinking more during the pandemic.

The CDC defines binge drinking “as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above.” This typically occurs when males consume 5 or more drinks or females consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours. 

At Sunnyside, we think about these concerning trends a great deal, and frequently talk to our members about how the pandemic has impacted them and affected their habits and routines. And while there appears to now be a light at the end of the tunnel, we’re not out of the pandemic woods just yet.

47% of adults want to drink less alcohol

It’s not necessarily surprising that people would overindulge in alcohol during a public health crisis. In times of high stress and uncertainty, human beings turn to simple comforts. A glass of wine at the end of (yet another) hard day became a reward we earned. A beer after work became two or three beers. Some Zoom meetings transformed into Zoom happy hours. A seltzer turned into a hard seltzer – or maybe even a “quarantini.” A nightcap became a new sleep aid. 

In fact, a 2019 study by Nielsen IQ found that 47% of adults in the U.S. said they were making efforts to reduce their alcohol consumption, yet fewer than 1% of drinkers were seeking outside help to change their drinking habits. 

But even before we all became intimately familiar with terms such as N95s, social distancing and pandemic fatigue, many of us were thinking of reconsidering our alcohol intake. In fact, a 2019 study by Nielsen IQ found that 47% of adults in the U.S. said they were making efforts to reduce their alcohol consumption, yet fewer than 1% of drinkers were seeking outside help to change their drinking habits. 

Drinking less alcohol will help you deal with pandemic stress

The fact of the matter is that cutting back on drinking can help many people better cope with pandemic-related stressors more effectively and reclaim better balance in their day-to-day. Cutting back can help you sleep better and wake up with a clearer mind, which equals more energy and focus to deal with whatever curveball comes your way. The last thing any of us needs is a pounding hangover headache, right? 

Drinking less alcohol can boost your mood and support better emotional health overall. There’s also research to show that reducing alcohol can help improve your digestive health, your skin, and most importantly right now, your immune system, according to the World Health Organization

You’ll also likely save money and avoid some regrets.

The positive news is you don’t necessarily have to stop drinking entirely to enjoy results. You can practice “mindful drinking.” Mindfulness is about slowing down, staying present in the moment, being intentional. Drinking mindfully means proactively managing your drinking. 

8 ways to drink less alcohol during the pandemic

  1. Establish some new rituals. During the pandemic, alcohol sometimes can serve as a way to break up the many hours spent at home. Try a new routine to mark the different phases of the day. After you turn off your work computer, grab your headphones, put on a podcast and go for a walk around the block. Call that your new commute. Or make your new nightcap a high-end soothing cup of herbal tea to help get you ready for a restful night of sleep. These new choices should be personal. What is a treat, reward, or a bold act of self-care for you?
  2. Create better boundaries. For many “social drinkers,” drinking used to be something that we did, well, socially or just on special occasions. Try to shift that mentality to the “outings” we are doing while we safely commiserate with others. Save the cocktail shaker for your Google Hangouts with the girls – not a random Wednesday night alone.
  3. Set some clearly defined goals. There is so much we can’t control in life, especially right now. So, setting a goal and accomplishing it will feel even better these days. Think of objectives that will enrich your physical and mental health. You could sign up for a virtual 5K or strive to add mileage to your weekend bike ride. Or maybe you have a stack of books waiting to be read. Create a specific objective to help you reduce your drinking. Go at your own pace, but challenge yourself. Focus on small wins; they will build up over time.
  4. Reach for the smaller glass. At a bar or restaurant, you’re more likely to get the recommended serving of alcohol when you order a drink. If you’re at home, not so much. Look closely at your wine glasses, for instance. Does that glass really hold just one drink? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that a serving of wine is just 5 ounces. Put your wine glass next to a standard coffee mug for comparison. Most standard coffee cups hold about 10 ounces. In short, try your best to pour with a lighter hand.
  5. Don’t forget to drink water. Water is your best friend. Alcohol dehydrates you and keeping a glass of water by your side can help you reduce the number of alcoholic beverages you consume in one sitting. Try alternating a drink with a glass of water: For example, a four-beer night turns into two beers and two glasses of water in the same timeframe. Be sure to end the night with a couple more glasses of water because that extra hydration will put you in a better position to wake up feeling fresh and rested. Here are 5 simple tips to avoid a hangover.
  6. Think quality over quantity. If you’re drinking less, think about drinking better, too. Maybe go for the nice bottle of red you really enjoy instead of the drug store box wine. Go for that craft beverage that you know you’ll savor, not the boring brew that you’ve come to barely enjoy. View having a drink as more of a special treat to look forward to.
  7. Talk about it. Consider telling select friends or supportive family members that you are cutting back on your alcohol consumption. Let them know why this is important to you and what you hope to gain. This can help build in some accountability. Your actions might even inspire others to explore and embrace the practice of more mindful drinking.
  8. Drink less alcohol by using Sunnyside. Mindful drinking means tracking your drinking just as you track your steps or count calories as part of your overall health and wellness routines. Try a drink-tracking app such as Sunnyside, which is designed to help you reach your wellness goals by helping you scale back on your drinking. Sunnyside offers a completely customized plan based on your current drinking habits and objectives. You’ll get coaching and support daily via text message to help you track your progress and stay on target. It’s a supportive, discrete, non-judgmental way to change habits and feel better. 

More helpful resources

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Ian Andersen

Co-Founder of Sunnyside

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