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Hangxiety: Why do hangovers make you anxious?

Hangxiety: Why do hangovers make you anxious?

Do you tend to feel anxious after a night of drinking? Find out why you feel this way as well as the perfect hangxiety cure from Three Spirit.
wellbeing

If you’re partial to a tipple on a weekend or public holiday, you’re probably no stranger to the hangover the following morning. The pounding headache, dry mouth, and unbearable nausea chasing you from sleep are all too familiar but you may also be aware of another non-physical feeling that makes you feel rough: the overwhelming sense of dread.

We looked into the reasons why so many people wake up feeling anxious after a night out and it turns out that this ‘hangxiety’ isn’t just about remembering the drunken things you did or said, it’s actually a side effect of the alcohol on your body. 

Find out more about why you feel so anxious after a night of drinking and read on for some good hangxiety remedies. 

What does an anxiety hangover feel like?

A usual hangover is a state of recovery for your body. Excessive alcohol dehydrates you which is why you experience headaches and feelings of nausea among other symptoms in the morning following a ‘sesh’. You may also feel shaky and weak in response to your body flushing the alcohol from your system. These symptoms are pretty universal, however, hangover anxiety can feel different for everyone.

You may feel an overwhelming feeling of shame, worry, or embarrassment from the previous night. You may also feel restless, not be able to focus on tasks, and you might experience feelings of paranoia as well. For some, these feelings stem from embarrassment over something they did or said, for others it may be worry over not being able to remember events or moments from the night before and, for others still, it may include overwhelming feelings of panic or a desire to ‘flee’.

But why do we feel this way? Is it down to embarrassment or is there something more?

What causes hangxiety?

As it turns out, it’s more than just remembering the mortifying things you said to someone that can cause hangover anxiety. It’s actually a chemical imbalance that your body is trying to overcompensate for that causes these feelings of dread. 

Alcohol targets the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor. This receptor is responsible for sending chemical messages through your brain and central nervous system to inhibit the activity of nerve cells. Simply put, it calms your brain and reduces activity by making fewer neurons fire which is why you feel relaxed and cheerful when you have a drink. 

One or two drinks is unlikely to have too much of a negative effect on your GABA but the more you drink, the more likely you are to feel anxious due to an imbalance in a chemical called glutamate. The more alcohol you consume, the more your body also starts blocking glutamate production. This is the main excitatory transmitter in your brain and the chemical responsible for you feeling anxious - the more glutamate in your system, the more anxious you can feel. Therefore when you get drunk, the alcohol stimulates your GABA receptor and also blocks glutamate production, causing you to feel relaxed and less anxious. But this feeling never lasts.

Soon, your body registers this imbalance in brain chemicals and, in an attempt to rebalance things, puts glutamate production into overdrive. When you stop drinking, you suddenly end up with an overabundance of glutamate, a comparatively low GABA function, and this imbalance leaves you with feelings of anxiety as well as the feeling of ‘fight or flight’.

Hangxiety Fact: Did you know that a study conducted in 2019 revealed that people who are naturally shy experience hangxiety more than those who are outgoing? Although alcohol can lead to lower feelings of anxiety in the moment, it turned out that the naturally shy participants had greater feelings of anxiety the next morning. 

How to get rid of hangxiety

Although there isn’t a surefire hangxiety cure out there, if you regularly struggle with anxious feelings after a night on the town, there are a few things you can do to help:

1. Take care of your physical symptoms

holding-glass-of-water

Tackling the physical symptoms of a hangover is an important step to feeling better over all. 

Ensure you rehydrate your body by steadily sipping plenty of water and electrolyte-rich drinks over the day. Chugging large amounts of water may increase the feelings of nausea so make sure you take small sips regularly instead. 

Eat something light, if you can stomach it, and try to avoid overly greasy or processed foods (no matter how good it sounds).

Resting well is paramount to proper recovery. Sleep when you can for as long as you need to help your body recover the best it can. 

2. Take care of your mental symptoms

When you do feel anxious after a night out, it’s important to take care of your mental health. 

  1. Don’t let yourself overthink situations from the previous night. Slowly unpack it and let it go.
  2. Forgive and don’t be too hard on yourself - you probably weren’t the only one who’d had a bit too much to drink. 
  3. If you have some specific fears of the evening, speak to a trusted friend who was there that can help talk you through the evening and ease your worries. 
  4. Practice mindfulness to help calm your mind and stop it from worrying and whirring too much. 
  5. If you’re feeling restless and ‘flighty’, try a stress-relieving activity such as taking a bath, drawing, or taking a walk.

3. Take preventative measures next time

Being proactive in ensuring you don’t feel the same way again will greatly improve your hangover anxiety the next time you are enjoying some drinks. 

Make sure you eat a good meal beforehand and throughout the night, stick to the 1:1 ratio of alcoholic beverage to water or non-alcoholic beverage in order to stay hydrated. 

If you find that your hangxiety is particularly bad on repeated occasions, you may want to think about drinking less alcohol over the evening. Opt for low or no-alcohol options and soft drinks instead of the usually boozy choices so you can still have a good time without the impending doom of a hangover the next day.

Try a Livener

Livener-non-alcoholic-drink

The best way to help combat hangxiety is to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Our range of delicious elixirs are expertly crafted using feel-good, vegan ingredients and are alcohol free so you can enjoy a tasty beverage while reducing the chances of feeling anxious the next day.

A delicious drink such as our Livener is the perfect pick-me-up to enjoy before you head out on a night out, or even to help perk you back up the morning after. It includes invigorating ingredients such as guayusa and schisandra and you can count on big flavours from vibrant berries and bright aromatics. Grab a bottle or check out our full range of drinks in our online shop!

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