Most of us are pretty familiar with the common hangover effects after a night out- the splitting headache, a mouth as dry as the Sahara, and the unbearable queasiness. But what about the psychological effects that can also be accompanied with a hangover? Specifically, anxiety. So widely reported, that it now even has its own name- Hangxiety. With a year of limited socialising, as well as a lot of anxiety in general existing at the moment, hangxiety is more prevalent than ever– but fear not, as there are ways to help you manage.
Hangxiety is the new age term for the anxiety that is commonly felt after excessive drinking, although it isn’t necessarily a new concept. Previously known as ‘beer fear’, it’s a word to describe when you wake up the next morning, feeling overwhelming shame, worry or embarrassment from the previous night. You might replay the evening’s conversations in your mind, look for text messages you sent or even apologise to friends and family in case your behaviour was out of line. Other symptoms are:
- the feeling of a knot in the stomach
- a racing heart
- restlessness that makes it difficult to concentrate, sleep, or relax
- Constant state of restlessness
- Inability to focus on normal tasks
What causes hangxiety?
The anxiety after drinking isn’t only reserved for those of us who spent the night running through town with a traffic cone on our head. Instead, it can actually arise from simply socialising with our peers whilst consuming alcohol. When you’re drinking, alcohol disrupts your brain functionality, releasing an excess of “feel-good” chemicals, like endorphins. The next morning you are drained from those mood-boosting chemicals and descend into a sudden mood decline. As your body is always trying to maintain a state of homeostasis, it triggers the stress hormone cortisol, causing it to spike and make you feel more anxious than usual.
The good news however, is that anxiety from a hangover doesn’t last long. Nevertheless, during the times when you do feel anxious, it can often feel like there is a dark cloud above your head, so when it does happen, here are six ways to help you manage:
1. Keep busy
If you can distract yourself by keeping busy then you’ll have less time to focus on your anxiety. You could go for a walk and get some fresh air, and meanwhile you might choose to listen to a mindful podcast. By keeping occupied, you’ll have less time to overthink every possible situation in your head. Going for a run (if your other hangover symptoms allow it), can be a really good way of getting some feel-good endorphins back into your system, so get up, get active, and be productive.
Talking about how you feel is a great way to get some much-needed reassurance at a time when your anxiety is particularly bad. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone, you could write a journal instead. Ask yourself what are you most worried about and why? Often, by being honest with yourself and talking through what you’re afraid of allows you to see your fears and find ways to manage them.
3. Get Perspective
Often, a big part of hangxiety is worrying about what you might have said or done while drinking. Chances are, you’re not alone and other people are probably just as anxious about what they said and did too. Therefore, they are too preoccupied with their own hangxiety to be thinking about your actions, and so the persistent thought that everyone is doing that, is pretty unrealistic. Essentially, you’re being too hard on yourself.
Dealing with a hangover involves rehydrating your body to help you deal with the painful physical symptoms such as a headache and dry mouth, but did you know it can also help relieve anxiety? Drinking enough water means you’re less likely to become dehydrated, which can trigger anxiety attacks and exacerbates symptoms of existing anxiety disorders. Doctors advise the best time to drink water is before a drinking session, during drinking, and before bedtime.
5. Understand the importance of sleep
Things can feel so much worse when you’ve not had a great sleep. Sleep is vital for functioning well and allowing you to think clearly. How much you sleep determines how well you can deal with anxiety and stress, and too little sleep causes you to feel overwhelmed and helpless.
6. Make changes
To avoid hangxiety altogether is to either drink less or not at all. The thought of not drinking may seem challenging at first, however, rest assured that you can still have a good night and an even better morning, because your anxiety won’t be worsened by alcohol. If you do drink, then drink in moderation, match each alcoholic drink for water and make sure you eat a good meal before you start drinking.
Like other hangover symptoms, hangxiety may be a passing discomfort, but if you think you are depending on alcohol too much to manage your anxiety, speak to your GP or contact alcohol support services for confidential support.