Don’t get me wrong, I used to love a glass of wine in the sunshine as much as the next girl. But since as long as I can remember, the morning after drinking has been hell for me. Yes, we all get those pesky hangovers, but if all I had to deal with the next day was a hangover, then I ‘d be over the moon – this isn’t the case for me.
I suffered hugely from hangover anxiety. What did I do? What did I say? Does my best friend hate me? Will my boyfriend break up with me? Despite knowing that this is an irrational fear, and understanding why I’m feeling like this, I can’t budge this feeling, taking over my precious Sunday mornings.
It’s not easy for me to post about this, just as I’m sure, those who find themselves feeling the same way, probably feel the same. Sometimes, it doesn’t stop there either, and it’ll go straight through into the evenings (just as maybe your typical bad hangover would). After what was one of the most incredible weekends of my life, it was also an eye-opening one, so I’ve decided to write about it on my blog.
Understanding what hangover anxiety is
For those who don’t understand but want to, picture this:
* Feeling of impending doom
* Inability to sleep at night
* Difficulty concentrating
* Nausea and stomach problems
* Feeling of tension in muscles
* Restless and difficult to just relax
* Irritable and negative about life
* Feeling of losing control
Why I’m writing about hangover anxiety
A couple of big nights for my best friends hen party recently. Drinking two nights in a row, minimal sleep and lots of sugar, I knew I was going to have some anxiety the next day, but I’m used to it and I’ve learnt how to handle it much better now.
At least, that’s what I thought. Throughout the morning I felt my anxiety levels increasing, for no real reason. I found myself sniffing around the bride-to-be all day, she probably wondered why I kept following her. I didn’t want to be a downer, nor did I want to draw attention to how anxious I was feeling. If I admitted it, then it would be a deal.
As my heart rate increase, my palms felt sweaty and I couldn’t take a deep breath, I decided to leave the group of people sitting outside on the grass and have a second to myself in the kitchen. That’s when A asked me if I was feeling okay, I shrugged it off and said I felt anxious.
I felt it getting worse in those split seconds and asked her if she thought my heart was going too fast. She put her hand on my chest, then asked me to come into the other room. I don’t think that she pulled me away because my heart was racing, but I think because she saw I was about to crumble.
As soon as she opened the kitchen door for us to go into one of the bedrooms, I just felt myself burst into tears. I couldn’t even remember the last time I cried like that, it’s just not a usual reaction for me.
Even though some of my best friends were in that lodge, A was probably the best person who I could have gone to, despite only meeting her twice. Don’t get me wrong, she’s lovely, but as most people know, when you’re anxious, usually you want someone close to you, to support you. But A dealt with the situation like I never expected.
A laid me on the bed and sat my head in her lap, she massaged my head and told me to breathe slowly. She reassured me that the feelings I was experiencing were completely natural, and to let all the negativity leave my body. I could feel my body starting to relax, and I was actually able to take a deep breath, as she held me.
She gave me half an hour to be alone and continue practising my deep breathing in the lodge. When she left, she closed the curtains and shut the window, so I wouldn’t be distracted by outside. By the time she came back to check on me, I felt better than I had all day (still not 100%, but writing this a few days later, I’m still not perfect!).
What is the point? A dealt with my hangover anxiety so well, and I don’t think she could have done this if she didn’t know what I was going through. I felt so much better knowing that she could really relate to me and that what I was feeling was okay, and I was going to feel better. The last thing I wanted to hear was “why are you anxious?”
How many other people are suffering? So, I’m writing this post, hoping that if someone else is struggling with anxiety, hopefully, you’ll find this article on Google, and you’ll relate and it just might make you feel a little better.
How I dealt with my hangover anxiety
People always say to me, “Oh, you know what your trigger is? So, if you know alcohol gives you anxiety, then why don’t you stop drinking? If I knew what gave me anxiety, I’d stop in a heartbeat”. Fine, absolutely, I get that, because the feeling I get the next day is so bad, that I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, and just like a normal hangover (but 10 x worse), you’d do anything to take it away.
I didn’t like that I had no option though – why could all my friends drink, and I couldn’t? I figured I just had to learn how to deal with it. Like when you learn that you never drink on an empty stomach, drinking a glass of water before bed, and eating a bacon sandwich first thing in the morning is the best way to avoid a dreadful hangover.
Refraining from drugs, here are some ridiculous tactics I’ve tried:
- Writing notes on my phone throughout the night to monitor my actions and what I’m saying, so in the morning I can look back over and think “Yeah, I didn’t do anything wrong”.
- Swapped every other drink for a non-alcoholic
- Giving up alcohol completely
- Refrained from staying out late or going out in general
- Stopped myself talking throughout the evening – If you’re not talking, you can’t say anything wrong, right?
These (all but the giving up drinking option) seemed like ludicrous sacrifices, all in the name to poison myself so that I could hang out with my friends and not feel anxious the next day. Understanding the anxiety, and giving up alcohol completely was also the only option that worked.
Why do we feel hangover anxiety?
When we drink alcohol, we tend to lose our inhibitions, and the self-critical part of our brain isn’t speaking to us as much. As the alcohol leaves our system in the early morning, cortisol (the stress hormone) and our adrenal systems start to reactivate to help us remove the toxins from our bodies, and therefore leaving our adrenaline pumping harder.
This can result in people feeling on edge or anxious. Psychical symptoms of anxiety such as nausea and shakes may confuse the body with panic.
A Telegraph article explains that being a “happy drunk” or a “sad drunk” often depends on your genetic makeup. So, I started going out and not drinking alcohol, and I wish I had a clicker for every time someone moans at me for not buying a drink. I continuously got asked if I was pregnant, or if I was judging other people. No one understood when I said I just didn’t feel like it, or that I couldn’t handle my hangovers – which was completely honest.
I didn’t want to bring up the fact I felt brutal anxiety in the mornings – I didn’t want to dampen the mood with a taboo subject. I don’t think it should be that way though – I can never understand why heavy drinking is so ingrained into our culture, that it isn’t questioned why we drink, rather, why we’d not
It’s taken me five years to learn that the only way to avoid hangover anxiety, is to eliminate getting drunk. I’ve learned that my body physically and mentally, just can’t handle being drunk – and I can’t blame anyone for it.
Resources for hangover anxiety