Frankie Bridge on mindful drinking and her lockdown mental health strategy

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  • Plus, exactly how to make her favourite Malteaser popcorn movie snack. Oh yes.

    You’ll know Frankie Bridge from pop bands S Club Juniors and later The Saturdays and yet, the 31-year-old mum-of-two has a few more strings to her bow you may not know about.

    Since the band went on hiatus in 2014, she’s been pretty busy. She’s presented a handful of Channel 5 documentaries, launched and hosted three seasons of her podcast Open Mind, where she chats to other celebrities about their personal struggles with mental health, and become a Sunday Times bestseller with her latest book, Open. Describing the book, award-winning author Adam Kay said it was ‘brave and beautiful… a first aid manual for your mind’.

    Her own struggles with depression and anxiety form the main narrative of Open, and have also led to an ambassadorship with Mind charity. Oh, and she’s also wife to retired footballer Wayne Bridge, and mother to their two sons, Parker, age 4, and Carter, age 2.

    To say she juggles a lot is an understatement, but what’s interesting when we chat to the star to discuss her new collaboration with low abv drinks brand Atopia is that you’d never know. Rather than highlighting her many successes, Frankie is candid and down-to-earth about her mental health, contemplative about the struggle that this year has been and keen to discuss the simple ways we can all build a stronger mind and body, for life.

    From working out which workout suits you, to safeguarding your mental health throughout a turbulent, COVID-centered year, to mixing Malteasers through your popcorn, Bridge has solid life advice for every situation.

    A: Tell me a bit about your collaboration with Atopia.

    F: For me, as someone who’s not a huge drinker anyway, it’s a nice alternative to having water or a soft drink. Sometimes, when you’re out with other people, you want to feel like you’re involved and not always make it so obvious that you’re not drinking. 

    With Atopia, it’s so refreshing and it does feel like you’re having a gin and tonic. That was my original reason for getting involved. I just liked the whole idea of it, and of encouraging mindful drinking. It’s not saying don’t ever drink again or slating alcohol as being bad for you, it’s reframing it and suggesting to maybe have one every other drink to break it up a bit and still feel like you’re involved.

    That’s especially important this month, October, where Atopia are hosting their month of moderation encouraging mindfulness around drinking. Especially now, when we’re at home more and sometimes feeling like you want to drink a bit more, the next day you sometimes regret it, so it’s a nice way around it.

    View this post on Instagram

    AD: @atopiaspirits This year I have got really into making cocktails at home for Wayne and I…🍹As you know… we are all about the balance and keeping up our wellness routines too… ❤️ so I’ve got us (& everyone else I know) playing around with Atopia… An @atopiaspirits & Tonic contains 75x less alcohol than a Gin & Tonic but tastes so bloody good! 😍This drink allows me to be myself without having to compromise on anything… 💋 So… here’s a little recipe.. 🍹PLUS… it was a resounding success with my friends and family too! AND there's currently an offer at @sainsburys at the mo.. https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/gol-ui/product/low-alcohol-drinks/atopia-spiced-citrus-ultra-low-alcohol-spirit-70cl-7976886-p-44 #OpenUpWithAtopia #FrankiexAtopia www.drinkaware.co.uk  0.5% alc./vol

    A post shared by Frankie Bridge (@frankiebridge) on

    A: It’s a bit more of a grown-up way to skipping out on the booze than having a plain old tonic, isn’t it? 

    F: Totally. It tastes so nice and is made from all natural ingredients. We so often forget to think about what we’re putting into our bodies when we’re having drinks, so this is a great way around it.

    A: I’ve tried Atopia and really enjoyed it.

    F: I loved it when I first tried it. I forced my sister and Wayne to try it straight away and they both really liked it. Now Wayne’s got really into it recently and started drinking it all the time. I’m like, yes! See! People shouldn’t write it off before they try it.

    A: Why, originally, did you start drinking more mindfully? It’s so normal, especially in the UK, to feel like you need to drink when socialising.

    F: Back in the day, I used to go out a lot, but I’m one of those people, once I start to feel drunk, I stop, I don’t keep going. I want to encourage that in others and show them that you don’t have to compromise on taste.

    There is sometimes social pressure to drink, and I have definitely found that over the years. I think people mean well, but there’s a pressure to keep up with everyone else. If you’re out on a night out and say you aren’t drinking that night, it normally doesn’t go down too well!

    The great thing with Atopia is that it still looks like you’re drinking. You can probably get away with it and pull it off as a G&T. Also, for yourself, you still feel socially involved while enjoying a taste that you like, rather than having something you don’t really enjoy, like a glass of water.

    A: How do you manage drinking less in social situations where the pressure is quite high? Do you ever get FOMO when everyone’s sharing a bottle of wine? 

    F: I do actually think it’s really hard. It’s a shame, because I don’t think it should be. Although people are getting better at being more mindful around drinking.

    I either drive, so I know I can’t drink. The minute you say to people you’re driving, they leave you alone. Plus, I think not drawing attention to it is important. I don’t feel like you need to shout, ‘I’m not drinking tonight!’. Perhaps try sticking to a different drink to everyone else and go for a non-alcoholic option that looks like a G&T, like Atopia. Then your mates may not even know, so won’t be able to judge.

    A: What are your favourite three non-alcoholic drinks?

    F: An Atopia, a non-alcoholic Mojito (they’re so refreshing), or a Diet Coke.

    A: What else do you incorporate into your daily routine that helps boost your mental wellbeing? 

    F: I love working out. Since lockdown, I’ve been a lot more consistent with my workouts. I think part of that has been finding the workout that I enjoy. For me in the past, working out has been a real chore and a punishment. When you’re down that route, you’re never going to keep it up. Find the thing you enjoy, even if it’s not something that everyone else does. We all get wrapped up in the cool thing of the moment, but I think it’s more important to stick to what works for you.

    Secondly, and it’s a bit of a random one, but I’ve started writing lists. It’s funny because I’ve never really been a list person. I’ve just found, with everything that’s going on and with there not necessarily being much of a routine, that my head is a bit all over the place. I forget things really easily and remember them as soon as I go to bed. Everything feels a bit scrambled! Even writing the simplest things, like tidy that drawer or make that phone call—whatever. I also sometimes set alarms on my phone, with little notes of what the ‘to do’ is. I don’t know if it’s age or lockdown, but I’m definitely more forgetful.

    In the past, working out has been a real chore and a punishment. It’s so important to find the thing you enjoy.

    That helps massively with my stress. Otherwise, I box everything together and panic at how much stuff I have to do. When you write everything down and can tick it off, it makes you feel so much better. Writing it consolidates it more. 

    A: What’s your go-to workout that you’re really enjoying at the moment? 

    F: I really enjoy dance workouts. I do enjoy weights and stuff, but I have to be in the right frame of mind for that. Especially at the moment, I often feel like I need a lift and a boost in the morning. A dance or steps workout is so enjoyable, as you have to think about the moves, so you haven’t got time to think about anything else or how much it hurts.

    Plus, it always gets your heart rate and endorphins going, and you actually enjoy it. Obviously, if you don’t like dancing, you won’t, but I love it. That, for me, at the moment is my main thing. If in doubt, I go for that as I know it’ll make me feel good.

    A: What would your advice be for someone who has tried a couple of workouts they didn’t enjoy and decided that working out isn’t for them? How would you encourage them to get moving and find the workout that they’ll love?

    F: I genuinely think there’s a workout for everyone. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. You don’t necessarily need to be in a gym or in a class. What if you really enjoy going for walks? Why don’t you go for walks, if you’ve got time?

    Also, get off of Instagram and find things you enjoy rather than looking at what everyone else is doing. Everyone loves HIIT at the moment and I hate it. I absolutely hate it! I thought if I wasn’t doing HIIT, them I wasn’t working out properly, but that’s not true, and now I’ve found the workout I actually like.

    Be persistent and try new things. You could do trampolining, skipping, hula hooping—there are just so many things. A good way of figuring it out is thinking back to what you enjoyed as a kid, whether that was skipping, or swimming. I loved dancing, which is why it still works for me. Think about what you enjoy, and go for that. It could be taking up Zumba lessons, that could be your thing. It doesn’t have to be in a gym.

    Lockdown wise, I’ve really struggled. I was fine at first,  but now it’s starting to feel a bit like groundhog day.

    A: The fitness industry has changed a lot in the last few years—it used to be hour-long sessions in the weights section or nothing. Now it feels a lot more diverse.

    F: I hardly ever workout for an hour. If you tell me I need to do a whole hours workout, I start worrying about how I’ll fit it in my day and stressing about how horrendous it might be. Whereas if I do 30 minutes every day, I find that I keep it up. Any longer than that and I feel like I don’t have the time. 

    A: So it’s finding the right workout and the right amount of time that works for you?

    F: Yes. It could even be as little as 20 minutes. Whatever works for you.

    A: 34% of Brits have been drinking more in lockdown and mental health figures are rising, too. What would your advice be to someone who’s struggling with their mental health right now who feels like they may be leaning on alcohol too much? 

    F: At the moment, a lot of people are reaching more for alcohol. While the odd glass of wine here or there is fine, trying to balance it out with a non-alcoholic alternative like Atopia at the end of the day will make you feel better in the long run.

    Lockdown wise, I’ve really struggled. I was fine at first,  but now it’s starting to feel a bit like groundhog day. It’s hard to see an end to this. At the beginning, we were all quite naive to this and thought it’d be a few weeks and then everything would be back to normal. But I think we’re all starting to realise that we don’t know what normal is going to be, or if it’s going to be. That’s what’s hard. Plus everything is so unclear.

    My top tips for protecting your mental health?

    I tend not to listen to the news at the moment. I make sure to know the rules, but I’m not keeping up with the daily death rates as it’s not nice to hear. I know enough. At the beginning of the lockdown, I was watching it all day, every day. Get the information that you need to know and then switch it off.

    Second tip: remember to try talk as much as possible. The great thing about technology is that we can Facetime or we can Zoom (although I’m so over Zoom). There’s no excuse not to reach out to people if you need too. It can be hard sometimes as you can get stuck in a rut and find reaching out hard to do, but even texting someone and being honest about how you’re feeling is a really big thing.

    Thirdly, finding ways to keep busy even if you haven’t got loads to do helps. I’ve found going out for a walk or taking the small win of, say, having a shower that day, is important. Take those small victories, even when it feels really tough. It’s really hard as everyone will deal with this year in different ways – everyone’s affected in different ways.

    And lastly, try not to think about the future too much. We’ve normally all got holidays or parties to look forward too and now we don’t have that. Try thinking day-to-day rather than further down the line. As long as we all try our best to stay as sane as possible, we’ve done our bit.

    A: On the topic of lockdown: what was the weirdest lockdown hobby you picked up? 

    F: I’ve started doing Paint By Numbers, which is so random. I bought it for the boys and then I realised that it was actually quite difficult as it’s so small and fiddly. I actually love it and feel like such a loser when I do it. It’s not even creative as the picture’s already there and you just paint in the colours, but I love it.

    I tried the colouring in one but I was rubbish at staying in the lines!

    A: Quick fire qs. What’s your dream Friday night, lockdown edition? 

    F: I’m so boring… but now it’s getting colder, I love being in my PJs, getting a fire on and popping a good movie on the TV. It’s not even Halloween yet but my family loves a Christmas movie. We’d watch a Christmas movie, eat some popcorn and all snuggle up together under duvets on the sofa, that’s my perfect evening.

    A: What’s your go-to Christmas movie?

    F: The minute the Christmas channel comes on Sky, I’ll watch any of them. I’m one of those people that has to finish a movie even if it’s rubbish. My favourite is probably the Santa Claus one, where he turns into Father Christmas. Although I tried to get the boys to watch Home Alone the other day and they weren’t into it yet, I think they’re too young. I’ll watch pretty much any Christmas film, if I’m honest.

    A: Favourite Friday night snack?

    F: You know what I love… Do some salted popcorn in the microwave. While it’s still warm, empty a packet of the big Yorkie buttons (they’re my favourite) or Malteasers into the bowl. As you’re eating it, they start to melt a bit and you get this amazing mixture of sweet and salty. It’s so good!

    Atopia is hosting a Month of Moderation throughout October to show how to moderate alcohol for a more mindful way of living. For more information on how to get involved and join Frankie, follow Atopia on Instagram at @atopiaspirits.

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