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Dreaded Hanxiety!

Let's talk alcohol…

Let me be very clear I am writing this blog on a Saturday night, after more drinks then intended at dinner on Friday. Yes I am feeling hungover for the first time in years. And I am not here to tell you drinking is bad and you should give it up.

I will be looking at the impacts of alcohol on anxiety and particular the hangover anxiety – ‘hangxiety’!

I have always suffered terrible hangovers but in my 20s I was never going to let a hangover stop me from a fab night out! Most of them, I ended up regretting the next day and told myself I’d never drink again, obviously knowing that to be a bit fat lie. But since being in my 30s and having kids, drinking is no longer a priority and for the most part not something I want to do…or at least the hangover the next day anyway. I often feel the feelings every mum feels when they have kids and lose the life they once had, which for me included nights out with friends, parting and quite often a few drinks. But honestly even the thought of a night out with drinking causes me anxiety.

I have had a number of chats with friends lately, both with and without kids, who have said they are starting to struggle with anxiety after having a drink. It turns out around 12% of the population who suffer with hangovers will also suffer the dreaded hangxiety.

But one thing I have noticed within the last year is that it isn’t just nights out the cause me anxiety but often just a quiet drink or 2 at home will have a huge impact too. It has taken a while to let go of the habit of having a drink after a busy, stressful day of working, tantrums (mostly my own!) and school runs but since doing so I haven’t regretted it once. And if I do fancy a drink, then I absolutely have one!

So what is it about alcohol that leads to anxiety?

Firstly alcohol slows down your nervous system and inhibits neurons by impacting their ability to transmit impulses, which can leave us feeling calm, slow and even relaxed...we all know the feeling. When the relaxing impacts of the alcohol wear off it can cause a rebound effect of overstimulation, causing anxiety! After a big night of drinking, followed by lack of quality sleep we are left feeling tired, mood and often anxious and panicky. Serotonin also decreases when we drink alcohol which is the hormone that regulates mood, when serotonin low, it is likely your mood will also be low.

In other words, alcohol makes you feel…crap!!

Many of us, sometimes without even knowing, will use alcohol as a way to manage social anxiety. Having a drink or two can make us feel relaxed in a situation where we may feel overwhelmed or worried. When we let go of the anxiety and the social inhibitions the next day can often be tricky when the social anxiety comes flooding back. But add in the fact that now your worried about the night before, what did you say, what did you do, and did you offend anyone?!

Lastly, the physical symptoms of a hangover can mimic anxiety. When your heart is racing, or your shaking and even feeling sick, this can lead you straight into feeling anxious. When we feel those symptoms that we associate with anxiety, we are often triggered into feeling that anxiety both physically and emotionally.

So what to do?

Of course, there is no sure one quick fix to hanxiety. If you feel that hanxiety is becoming affecting you then the biggest impact will be slowing down your alcohol intake to reduce the hangover itself. Even being more mindful when you drink, about the impact it will have and choosing to increase your water intake when you drink or making sure you have eaten enough can certainly help.

Sleep is hugely impacted by alcohol but also the impact is has on our ability to manage anxiety. So getting the rest and sleep you need is vital. And of course nutritious foods and plenty of water will help to deal with the pesky hangover, even if it is the last thing you want.

My last tip for hanxiety is mindfulness. When you are dealing with hangxiety, it is important to recognise that where those feelings are coming from, and when your hangover recedes, your anxiety soon will too.

Mindfulness technique can be super simple and include breathing exercises, meditation and even taking a walk in nature.

While reducing the alcohol would be the most efficient way to prevent hangover anxiety, working to improve your anxiety levels is also crucial. If you struggle with anxiety, you are much more likely to be impacted but hangover anxiety.

If you would like quick, concise help with anxiety, why not try my new power session? A bespoke 90 minute session followed by anxiety hypnosis and a follow up plan to help you move forward and tackle you anxiety in a way that fits into your daily life.

Lauren x

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