The throbbing head, the feeling of insatiable nausea and hankering for a seventy cheese pizza are all standard physical side effects of a night on the grog. But what about the impact that alcohol has on your mental state? Have you noticed that you’re especially prone to feeling low, anxious and riddled with shame after a night out?
Beyond Blue says that anxiety can be triggered as your body works to remove alcohol from your system and your blood sugar levels drop significantly. As the alcohol leaves your system in the early morning, cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenal systems start to reactivate to help remove toxins from the body, and therefore adrenaline starts pumping a helluva lot harder.
Dr Iyer, M.D, psychiatrist and assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center contends that hang-xiety is basically the reverse of how you feel while you’re drinking; the come down from the high, dopamine-fuelled fun of the night before. When your dopamine levels come back down, it impacts your mood and anxiety levels negatively.
In addition, alcohol is not an ideal bedfellow. This study found that sleep deprivation drastically increases symptoms of anxiety, and that alcohol negatively affects quality of sleep. Which is probably why you spend Sunday evening feeling exhausted and anxious, despite not getting out of bed until mid-afternoon.
Here’s what you can do to counteract the hangxious beast (beyond just, y’know, abstaining from alcohol).
Although there’s little that can be done the morning after when you’re lying in bed googling whether or not it’s possible to die from a hangover, you can commit to increasing your water consumption the next time you go out. It won’t prevent your hangover, but it might lessen the symptoms as you’ll be less dehydrated, which will in turn help your anxiety levels.
It’s no secret that exercise can have an incredible impact on mental health. If you’re feeling anxious after a few too many beverages the night before, a great way to counteract this is by moving your bod. That doesn’t have to mean a 7am bootcamp, but getting outside and moving gently or going for a walk is a fail-safe mind calmer. We know it’s hard, but it’ll be worth it.
Thanks to your out-of-whack blood sugar, you’ll likely be feeling sick as a dog or watching the clock tick ever-closer towards Domino’s Pizza opening time. While this might satisfy a craving, it won’t do anything to help the negative, anxious thoughts that are swimming their way around your brain.
So instead of opting for breakfast pizza (although, it is said to be a healthier option that cereal) or going out to forage ALL of the bacon, why not whip up something hearty at home? Avocado on toast with some eggs will give your bod a healthy dose of fats and protein, and the carbs will be good for your soul.
Being kind to your mind is the most important thing to remember when you’re in hangover hell. Taking ten minutes out to breathe deeply and calm your mind (bonus points if you head outside to do it) will work wonders for your anxiety-stricken brain. Focusing on your breath instead of what you said to your boss when you were five G+T’s deep will help your mind get back to balance.