Ever get a rush of anxiety while you're having the worst hangover of your life? You're not alone - there's a term for that, called hangxiety. Drinking is always fun and games in the moment, but I'm often met with post drinking anxiety about the night before. Did I say anything stupid? Did I do something I'd regret? Luckily, there are ways to help prevent and cure hangixety to make sure you can enjoy drinking guilt free.
What is Hangxiety / Hangover Anxiety?
If anxiety is the feeling of worry or fear about what's happened, hangover anxiety (or hangxiety for short) is that same feeling of restlessness and anxiousness that comes after drinking. Some of its physical symptoms include, but are not limited to, increased heart rate, trembling, sweating, and stomach aches. Further, hangover anxiety can have a mental impact as well, creating a sense of paranoia, an inability to focus on tasks, feelings of shame or embarrassment, and more.
Why Does Hangxiety Happen?
If you experience hangixety, know that it's not your fault - there's a physiological explanation for it. It has been reported to occur more frequently in people who are naturally more shy and timid. Drinking alcohol can help as a social lubricant in the moment, helping reduce feelings of shyness in the moment. But that effect wears off over time. When we drink alcohol, the body's dopamine neurons begin firing more, which gives a rush of euphoric feelings. What's happening behind the scenes is that alcohol is reducing the production of one of the body's primary neurotransmitters, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (or GABA for short).
...as the effects of alcohol fade over time, your body's GABA receptors take time to replenish, leading to lower relaxation and hangover anxiety.
GABA is primarily responsible for regulating the nervous system, which includes the body's ability to balance, move, and more specifically to hangover anxiety, senses of sedation and relaxation. This is further supported by a 2014 study by the University of Geneva, Switzerland that found an inverse relationship between GABA and dopamine. When alcohol desensitizes these GABA receptors over time, your body's stimulatory system is at a peak. However, as the effects of alcohol fade over time, your body's GABA receptors take time to replenish, leading to lower relaxation and hangover anxiety.
How to Cure Hangixety / Hangover Anxiety
The Lil Better team's approach to hangxiety cures is two fold: 1) managing hangxiety once it hits, and 2) reducing the likelihood of hangover anxiety.
Managing Hangxiety In The Moment
Once you're already hungover and anxious after drinking, there are several things you can do to manage it to the best of your ability.
- Breathing Exercises
- Meditation & Mindfulness
- Unpacking the Night and Getting a Second Opinion
- Taking Care of Physical Symptoms
1) Breathing Exercises
One popular technique to reduce anxiety in general is the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which is just as helpful for hangxiety. The technique can be done in 4 simple steps:
- Emptying out the lungs with a deep breath
- Take a deep breath in through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale hard through the mouth for 8 seconds, emptying the lungs and making a "whoosh" sound
- Repeat up to 4 times
A 2011 study by the Health Science Journal identifies that there have been correlations between these deep breathing techniques and reduced anxiety, while improving stress management. While this breathing technique has generally been effective at reducing hangxiety, it can cause lightheadedness at first, so it is advised to take it at your own pace and watch out for dizziness to prevent falling.
2) Meditation & Mindfulness
Meditation is the act of focusing the mind on a particular thought, object, or activity to help improve focus, attention, and awareness. It has reportedly been linked to reaching a generally more mentally clear and emotionally calm state, and can help with hangxiety. If you're new to meditation, it may be helpful to follow guided audio meditations from apps like Headspace or Calm - or if you're looking for a more cost conscious option, there are plenty of free resources on YouTube.
3) Unpacking the Night and Getting a Second Opinion
Don't overthink your actions. This is one of the most common ways to create hangover anxiety. We quickly jump to conclusions about what might have been said or done from the night before. But we should acknowledge that no one probably remembered what you did. And other people probably did things they regret as well. Allow yourself to forgive yourself, as you weren't the only one drinking, so others might have a memory as hazy as yours.
If your hangxiety persists after that, it may be good to talk through your fears with trusted people in your network. Those people can help provide positive reaffirmation that the night isn't as horrifying as you remember it.
4) Taking Care of Physical Symptoms
Physical symptoms of a hangover can further accentuate the feelings of hangxiety. Stay hydrated, eat complex carbs to restore your body's blood sugar, and sleep in to let your body rest and recover. Remind yourself that both your body and mind are processing the alcohol, so these feelings are temporary. Most importantly, avoid the temptation to drink more - this might provide momentary relief, but will ultimately create more hangover anxiety in the long run.
Reducing the Likelihood of Hangover Anxiety
The best way to avoid hangxiety is being mindful beforehand, and preventing it altogether.
- Eating Before Drinking
- Drinking Water Throughout the Night
- Setting a Total Limit Beforehand
- Stopping Sooner
1) Eating Before Drinking
It's true - eating before drinking can help slow down intoxication and the feelings associated with it. By eating a heavy meal beforehand, you can help your body prepare for the evening by providing it with the nutrients it needs to be more resistant to alcohol. By not getting drunk as quickly, you'll reduce the likelihood that you'll end up in an unideal situation that will leave you regretting or anxious the following day.
2) Drinking Water Throughout the Night
We all know water can help sober you up while drinking, but sometimes it's important to instill certain measures to hold yourself accountable. The Lil Better team likes to follow the 1:1 ratio to prevent hangxiety - for every alcoholic drink finished, follow it up with 1 glass of water. This will keep you equally hydrated as you get inebriated, and ultimately help you pace through the evening.
3) Setting a Total Limit Beforehand
Setting a limit on how many drinks you're willing to consume beforehand can help hold yourself accountable. Often, drinking can get out of hand because we just go with the flow. This ultimately results in us getting more drunk than anticipated, doing or saying things that we don't fully remember, and then having a massive anxiety hangover the next day. If you have trouble keeping track of how many drinks you've had, you could also tell a friend to hold you accountable as well.
4) Stopping Sooner
You don't have to stay out until the bar closes every time. By setting a goal of what time you want to be home beforehand, you can likely reduce the number of drinks you'll consume that evening. For example, before the evening begins, tell yourself that you want to be home at least 1 hour before the bar closes.
Lil Better, a 100% all natural herbal supplement for drinking, to help with hangovers and hangxiety.
The feeling of hangxiety can often be compounded by the physical symptoms associated with hangovers. It's difficult to fathom trying to meditate or doing breathing exercises when you have a pounding headache or you're hunched over the toilet. We created Lil Better, a 100% all natural herbal supplement for drinking, to help with hangovers and hangxiety. Our goal was to help improve your general liver health so that you can wake up feeling better than expected the day after. Take 2 capsules before your first drink, and you'll wake up thanking yourself for doing so.