Hangxiety: How to Cope with Anxiety After Drinking
A night of drinking may be all fun and games—until the next morning. Besides the nausea and headache that can come from a physical hangover, some people also experience increased anxious feelings along with low mood that some have dubbed "hangxiety."
What Is Hangxiety?
“Hangxiety is the emotional plunge or dive that an individual may experience after drinking,” says Michelle Sproule, a licensed professional counselor and chief clinical officer at Scottsdale Recovery Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. It may entail general feelings of shame, guilt, or worry.
Sproule points to how alcohol dehydrates you and messes with your gut health, both of which can contribute to anxiety. And being hungover “increases cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate,” says Allison Konovalova, a licensed therapist in Port Richey, Florida, who specializes in relationships and substance abuse. This can make you feel stressed and anxious.
Those whose social anxiety can cause them to drink more in social settings may also experience hangxiety following a night out. “Hangxiety can cause people to wake up in a panic, worrying about what they did or said the evening before and ruminating about incidents, which may cause deep feelings of shame,” Konovalova explains.
Tips For Dealing With Hangxiety
Next time you’re feeling anxious the day after some drinks, keep these tips for feeling better in mind.
Focus on Self-Care
Load up on the self-care with rehydration, getting good sleep, eating something light but healthy—and giving yourself permission to rest.
“Part of the anxiety after a night of drinking may stem from the guilt that follows when you're unproductive because you don’t feel well physically or mentally,” Konovalova says. But everyone needs a day off now and then. Remind yourself we all need to be gentle with our minds and bodies, and that we can’t work well without rest.
If you need a day of gentleness and have the opportunity to take it, do so—guilt-free.
Try Mindfulness Techniques
Sproule recommends practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing to help you relax. A mindfulness practice can also help you think about your drinking habits, she notes, which may be important if you find yourself feeling “hangxious” more often than you’d like.
Do Something Relaxing
Engaging in something fun or calming can help you get out of a funk. Try reading, taking a light walk, and practicing self-compassion, Konovalova suggests. Some ways to do the latter include massaging your body, writing a compassionate letter to yourself, and telling yourself whatever you’d say to a friend in your shoes.
When Hangxiety May Suggest Something More
If you’re experiencing hangovers and related anxiety frequently, it may be time to evaluate a bigger picture. Ultimately, taking a close look at our drinking habits (and how they make us feel) is a good practice for all of us, Sproule says. In particular—and in short—she advises looking at how much you drink, when you drink, and how you feel when you aren’t drinking. Your friends and family can help, she says, by letting you know if they're concerned.
Any negative effect on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well‑being can be a red flag, Konovalova says. The best way to deal with hangxiety is to cut back on drinking to avoid it in the first place. And if you have difficulty with that, a mental health professional or your primary care provider can help you get a better handle on your drinking. Don’t be afraid to reach out—and start having less anxious morning-afters.
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