Q: How do I stop my after-work wine habit?
A: Making new choices isn’t easy, even when we consciously know what we might prefer to do—such as kicking the after-work wine habit (substitute any post-work relaxation habit you may wish to replace). We are wired, by our survival instincts, to hunt down carbs, fats, and salts, so it’s no wonder our taste buds are a primary means for rest and relaxation in our culture—eating tells us we’re safe. But being seduced by our tongue will often derail our evenings and, subsequently, affect our sleep and following day. If this pattern repeats we will typically wake up one day and find ourselves in a hole that is tough to climb out of. However, one of the blessings of our new work-from-home reality is that we have newfound time to cement new healthy habits. With the additional time once spent on commute and travel, we can now repeat a new action more frequently and anchor it into a healthy lifestyle habit in less time.
Know it’s a need, not a want
It’s very common to want to relax and reward our efforts at the end of the day. Come 5 pm or 8 pm, or whenever it is you get home from work, cortisol (our stress hormone) has been elevated all day, helping us stay focused and on-task with zoom meetings, calls, and a mountain of emails, we’ve made thousands of choices and decisions, and our willpower is spent. Now, our brain is craving a relaxing bath of feel-good neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—to help us let go of it all. This craving to feel good is actually a “need” we need to be conscious of if we want to make different choices at the end of the day to unwind. Our bodies need to unwind after a full day spent in a stressful, vigilant state. We are wired this way in order to regain some semblance of balance and not physically burn out (aka survive). So, whether it’s that glass of wine or perhaps some chips and guacamole, know that you are consuming these carbs, fats, and salts because of a primal need to slow down and find balance.
Rather than thinking about your post-work choice as a “should” (e.g. I should go work out, or I should eat a healthy snack), remember it’s a “need”. If you don’t proactively answer that need, your body will resort to those feel-good fats, carbs, and salts to comfort itself. Take time to honestly reflect on what need is not being met. Then you can more easily find other sources of pleasure to satiate this need.
Here are a few alternatives that could be woven into your workweek as a replacement to snacks and alcohol—proactive, healthy alternatives that will fill your need for feeling good at the end of a stressful workday, lower your cortisol levels, and bathe your body with ‘feel good’ hormones:
- Pet an animal lovingly for 10 minutes.
- Go for a 20-minute walk in nature. “Warm-up” your hike by spending the first 5 minutes focusing your awareness on sights, sounds, smells, and even touch. This will slow your mind down and bring it to the present moment, reducing cortisol and anxiety.
- Meditate in a quiet nurturing place for 5 minutes.
- Spend 20 minutes working on something creative to get into the ‘flow state’. Some great options are gardening, playing an instrument, writing poetry, or tying fishing flies—anything that captures your attention and is solely for your joy.
- Connect your mind and body with your breath while unwinding on the yoga mat for 20 minutes.
Document Your Intentions and Experience
Make a list of 3-5 benefits that you might receive by altering your after-work routine. This will give your effort significantly more meaning. Next, write down three obstacles that could derail your efforts and match each of those obstacles with three solutions (contingency options determined in advance). Now you’re fully prepared for any curveballs.
Frequently stop, take a few breaths, and notice thoughts and feelings. Journal (before bed or after awakening is best) the insights you have noticed about your sleep, digestion, moods, mental focus, energy levels, and replacement choices. Be curious. This will help you notice and appreciate the benefits of your new habit-to-be.
Cues are triggers for your bad habit. Common cues are time of day, such as happy hour, physically seeing your favorite bottle sitting on the counter when you walk in from work, your emotions, such as stress or exhaustion, and people that you may typically drink with. You should let your best friends know that you’re working on changing your habits, so when you decline their invites for happy hour, they understand why.
Create Your Own Positive Cues
Replace negative cues with positive ones. Consider setting an alarm on your phone right at 5 pm reminding you of your goals and suggesting one of your replacement actions. Write a note to yourself and stick it to your wine fridge. Put a sticky note on your office door that reminds you of your goals right as you leave work. There are so many other creative ways to help you snap out of the post-work trance and make a mindful decision on how you want to spend your evening.
Be Kind To Yourself
Do your best to be kind to yourself as you start the processes of nurturing yourself (rather than soothing or numbing) after work. Strive not for perfection, or you can certainly expect internal rebellion. Take baby steps on your journey up the mountain. Begin by setting goals that are seemingly trivial—e.g. one night a week where you have a healthy after-work activity. Then, after a few weeks of this, move on to two nights a week. Stop at no more than 5 nights a week to leave yourself room to be human.
What is Mountain Trek?
Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out below: