5 Ways to Stay Sober at 5pm

Cocktail hour. Happy hour. And when I was a mom with little kids, arsenic hour.

5 pm is the magic release date for permission to drink. But what are those of us who are taking a break from booze to do?

Drinking after work or after a long day with toddlers takes the edge off. It calms and relaxes us. Even the thought of a drink helps us unwind. We respond to the sound of a cork slipping out of a bottle of wine like Pavlov’s dogs did to the ringing of a bell.

Drinking at 5 is a habit. According to Charles Duhigg, a habit has distinct parts:

  • A trigger (5 pm appearing on your phone)
  • A behavior (drinking)
  • A reward (the ease and comfort of the first sip of wine) 

Taking a break from booze is an invitation to create a new habit associated with 5 pm.

In fact, it’s easiest to create a new habit when it’s tagged onto some other habitual behavior. 

For example, I started journaling before bed by tagging this new behavior onto brushing my teeth at night. I now brush my teeth and the next item that pops up on my mental “to-do” list is to write in my journal.

You don’t have to WANT to do any of these things when 5 pm rolls around. All it takes is a teeny bit of willingness to take the action first, and your feelings will follow. 

This won’t feel comfortable or easy at first. We take the first steps into new behavior from our old patterns. It feels weird. That’s okay. It’s part of the process. Don’t doubt yourself because there are days when you don’t want to do any of this. Do it anyway. You’ll be happier after you do.

Here are 5 ideas for new habits to substitute for having a drink at 5 pm.

  • Move a muscle. Change your mind. – Move your body! Run, stretch, and do yoga after work. It can be as simple as walking around the parking lot.
  • Play a game with other people. – Set up a regular schedule of playing tennis, pickleball, and basketball with other people. This helps create a new social structure that doesn’t revolve around “wine o’clock.” Do something active and goofy to blow off steam!
  • Be in nature. – Whether you’re heading to a pocket park or the Rocky Mountains, simply being outside helps. It clears your head. Reminds us that we aren’t the center of the universe and reduces our stress.
  • Escape into some other story. – See a movie. Or watch a show. Read a novel. Put the kids in front of a screen for 30 minutes. It won’t kill them. Do something for yourself. If you can’t physically be somewhere else, let stories transport your consciousness away from where you’ve been all day. You’ll come back to your own life refreshed.
  • Make something with your hands. – Put on headphones, listen to your own music, and create something. Pour acrylics, knit a scarf, bead a necklace. 

As you seek to create these new habits, remember, do NOT aim for perfection! 

Instead, aim for 80%. The key is consistency, not making a grandiose gesture once or twice a week. Consistency will start to groove a new neural pathway in your brain. 

Break your new habit into laughably small steps! 

Any goal that’s small enough to make you giggle. When we set hugely ambitious daily goals for ourselves, we trigger our amygdala to flood us with cortisol. And that cortisol makes us resistant to taking any action. We freeze in fear.

So we can leave the amygdala asleep and tiptoe around it. Make your first actions in starting your new habit so minuscule that you giggle inside. I suggest meditating for 30 seconds. Who doesn’t have 30 seconds???

You’ve got this! 5 pm’s got nothing on YOU.

And if you need some more support at 5 pm (or any time!), I’d love to welcome you inside the Juicy AF Community

This community of professional, kickass women (no men allowed) is a place where you can shed the façade of having your shit together all of the time. 


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