As people across the world settle into an unprecedented period of social isolation, with no clear end in sight, it's understandably difficult to maintain any semblance of normalcy, let alone a healthy routine. Being at home with a lot of free time on your hands can easily lead to drinking – and lots of it. But there are also plenty of sober evening activities you can do in quarantine that are perfect for when you need a break from alcohol or have decided to go sober but also want to unwind and feel like the working day is behind you. We've probably all seen the "coffee time wine time" tweet, but what else can we do to give our evenings a little edge?
Speaking about the relationship between alcohol consumption and staying indoors, Dr Niall Campbell, a consultant psychiatrist and alcohol addiction expert at Priory Hospital, explains: "The enormous stress caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and the social isolation, is leading to more people trying to cope by using alcohol." He continues: "It's cheaper to drink at home, and so much easier to drink more."
This is a difficult time for everyone, and we are all dealing with it in different ways. However, Aiysha Malik, a technical officer at WHO Europe's mental health and substance abuse department, has warned against using alcohol or other substances at this time, as it "can make things worse." And Dr Campbell agrees, saying it's vital to "try and look honestly" at the amount of units of alcohol you're consuming weekly and consider whether its impacting your health – be it mental or physical.
The NHS advises that men and women should stick to 14 units or fewer a week – that's about four large glasses of wine or six pints. For many of us, this will sound like relatively little, but if you're trying to watch what you drink right now, or you're totally sober, there are other things to do that won't incorporate any units at all. Here are some of our favourites.
1. Throw a games night
Dust off that old Scrabble board, Monopoly, Articulate, or whatever your favourite is and try your darndest not to end up falling out with your nearest and dearest.
Cards are another great way to pass the time. There are countless games you can play with them (no, it's not just about ring of fire) and you're guaranteed to be able to pick up a deck at your nearest supermarket or corner shop during your allotted one outing per day.
2. Visit a virtual theatre
Evenings out at the theatre are always special, and, lucky for us, it's now possible to recreate the experience at home as a number of theatres have decided to open up their archives during this period of quarantine. The Globe theatre in London, for example, will be releasing 40 productions on its Globe Player service for free over the month of April. The National Theatre has uploaded their production of One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden to Youtube, too.
3. Create an at-home cinema
Anyone can shove on a Netflix film and sit on the sofa, but if you're looking to take it to the next level, why not organise a *proper* movie night? Here's how you do it:
- Invite your pals (virtually)
- Pick the films ahead of time
- Get in copious amounts of snacks (popcorn is essential, of course)
- Set up the room: the TV or laptop should be in prime position, make sure the pillows are nicely plumped, and set some mood lighting.
4. Make mocktails
Half the fun of cocktails is watching someone make them, or making them yourself. Putting together a drinks night for your housemates, or doing it virtually with friends isolating elsewhere, is a fantastic way to put the working day behind you and relax into the evening. But you don't have to miss out if you're not drinking. There are thousands of delicious mocktail recipes to try that are just as fun (read: complicated) to make as the real thing. The Instagram accounts @mocktail.life is full of great suggestions, and there are plenty of others to find online. If you like to keep things simple, a personal favourite is soda water, a dash of fresh lime, and some Angues Stewart Bitters with ice. Delicious.
5. Host a virtual pub quiz...
Virtual pub quizzes are all the rage these days. And it's easy to see why. They're easy to organise and the perfect activity for an evening in quarantine. If you need tips on setting up your own pub quiz (minus the pub part), here is our step-by-step guide.
6. ...Or karaoke night
Hot on the heels of pub quizzes, virtual karaoke nights are starting to become more and more popular. If you need tips on setting one up, we have a guide for that too. It may seem like a scary prospect to sing (or, in most cases, scream) your heart out without having consumed even a drop of alcohol but, trust us, it's possible.
7. Prepare an extra special dinner
With restaurants shutting up shop during quarantine, many of us are missing dinners out with friends and loved ones. But it's perfectly possible to create a special dinner at home – even if you're not a great cook. There are a whole host of easy recipes out there and if you're looking to take things that extra mile, you should set the table, dim the lights, put on some music, and light a few candles. A perfect evening in.
8. Watch a live gig (kind of)
Every since quarantine began, a whole host of artists have been cheering us up with live online gigs. And it's the perfect way to feel like you're doing something fun with your evening. Some we've spotted are Coldplay, James Blake, John Legend, P!nk, 5sos, and Christine (of Christine & the Queens), but head to your favourite artist's Instagram and they're sure to be doing something to keep you entertained.
9. Tune into some stand-up
Much like the musicians we know and love, comedians are also treating us to some live content this quarantine. The funny people of the world are getting creative and hosting their usual stand-ups from the comfort of their living room. Catherine Cohen, for example, still hosts her cabaret night every Thursday and Meg Stalter has been taking the internet by storm. Ed Gamble is one of the big British comedians taking his humour online, and the CALM campaign is hosting stellar line ups on Instagram live.
Contributions from Aoife Hanna.