Do you find yourself getting to 5 o’clock, tired from the day, from being woken at 5 am for a nappy change and Thomas, from playing swapsie with the many hats of parenting: entertainer, cook, cleaner, wage earner to mention but a few?
You field meltdowns of fish fingers and realise it’s still two hours till bedtime and all you want is for it to go quiet for a bit? You are entering the choppy waters of Wine O’clock, that period of high stress and fatigue when a mum’s day is nearly over but not quite. Or perhaps you limp past the finish line of bedtime and collapse with the wine, for ‘me time’.
Although many of us don’t have problematic relationships with alcohol, if we repeatedly seek relaxation by drinking alcohol, a problem can creep up on us. It’s vital we have support, and develop other ways to de-stress and get our needs met. Mummy Wine Time is broadcasted on memes, cushions, mugs, and cards and seems so normal that even if we are concerned about how much we are drinking we can often just think it’s just what we all do.
Over time this can creep up, and we need to consume more alcohol to get the same effect. If we drink more than we plan to, then this can impact on our mental health. We have the worries of ‘what if the kids had been ill and I needed to take them to A and E etc?’. We start a spiral of shame and worry that can lead to more stress and more reliance on the thing we are trying to control.
The key to managing this tricky time of day is to identify YOUR wine o’clock: when it is, what’s happening and how you are feeling. When we are triggered we go into fight/flight/freeze response and our brains go to well-worn habits to self-soothe. Common triggers are hunger, anger, or if we are lonely or tired. We would add overwhelm and hormones too. Brainstorm your own trigger, get to name and know what it’s like for you, and then come up with a plan. Once you have managed this transition to relaxation naturally and your nervous system has regulated, you are home and quite literally dry. And you won’t have a hangover the next day!
How to get through Wine O’clock:
- Identify your Wine O’clock: What time are your crisis times? Typically Wine O’clock is between 5-7 pm.
- What’s happening? Identify what we actually need. For example, if we are needing to vent, we could call a friend. If we are angry, can we get out for a run? Quickly run upstairs and punch a pillow. Need to feel quiet? Go to the loo for five to breathe.
- Change the timings. Perhaps you can eat earlier with the kids. We often find after eating we feel satisfied and don’t crave a drink anymore.
- Stay hydrated. It’s an obvious one but so many of us crave alcohol when we are actually dehydrated.
- Keep the ritual, change the ingredients. Have delicious alcohol-free alternatives. Kombucha, tonic, and AF beer can all help cut through a craving. Hot chocolate with squirty cream was my evening treat with a box set.
- Look after your senses. Nurturing our sensory needs with self-massage, essential oils, soothing music, a kitchen disco to shake out the tension, lying down on the floor, and breathing. Have a bath. All of these activities can soothe the nervous system and help us manage triggers.
- Blurt It Out has a great free sensory toolkit to download for tips and ideas. That way, you can generate other options to meet your emotional and sensory needs.
- Emergency help: enlist the help of a neighbour so you can get out for a run. Another parent or grandparent who you have a deal with. Our networks of support are vital at this time.
- Saying ‘no’ and having boundaries: It’s OK to say ‘no’ and to really fight for your ‘You Time’ and support. In fact, it is essential for your wellbeing.
- Finding your thing. If you can’t get out for a class or a meetup, box sets or hobbies like painting and knitting can help you switch off the busy mid chatter and help you unwind without booze after bedtime.
- Good enough parenting: Seriously- we need to give ourselves a break! Tech is fine sometimes. Life does not have to look like a Cath Kidston v Boden bun fight. Ready meals are OK sometimes. Go for the long term view of the sustainable good enough model.
- Take small breaks throughout the day: This will help you to avoid sprinting through the day and crashing at the end. Essentially this is nervous system regulation. Sit down and have a cuppa, as much as possible.
- Proactive self-care: Time is a precious commodity when you are a parent. Block out time for yourself and make it a priority a couple of times a week at least. Exercise is so important for mind and body so try to plan this in. Plan in the structure with everyone, with older kids have a chat about what the day / next day will look like. When you have an idea of what the day might look like, dial it down by a third.
- Have a treat every day: We call them sober treats- they boost your dopamine levels which means you are rewarding your brain with something other than alcohol.
- Play it forward: One we have some downtime we won’t be craving wine anymore. Sleep is such a precious commodity and drinking disrupts sleep cycles. We will sleep so well and wake up rested (or at least cope with the little sleep we have!). Or think about a hangover with kids the next day – EEEK!
- All things shall pass: try to go with it. Each tough stage passes. When we don’t drink through it we are present for the good bits and have more energy and resilience for the tough bits.
- Get connected online. Sometimes we can’t get out in the evening, we may be solo parenting or partners might work in the evenings. If you are feeling lonely there are many online communities to join and chat.
- Remember you are doing GREAT! Before bed, list three things you have done well and what quality that displays about you. For example, I got the meal on the table (I am responsible), I said ‘no’ to the sweets (I respected my boundaries), I sat down three times with a cuppa (I am learning to respect my needs). This exercise helps us to have our own backs and acknowledge all of our efforts which we may not be giving ourselves credit for.
Kate Baily is a mum of two and an author and Sobriety Coach at lovesober.com.
Love Yourself Sober: A Self Care Guide to Alcohol-Free Living for Busy Mothers by Kate Baily and Mandy Manners, published by Trigger Publishing. Available online and from all good bookstores for £12.99.