Happy New Year/National Hangover Day!

I joke, but it must be true!

Hangovers can be particularly brutal because they can come with so much mental, physical, and emotional turmoil.  Most commonly, those who suffer from severe symptoms find that their hangovers come with lots of anxiety.  People feel badly about themselves, ashamed of their behavior, and generally feel negatively about life when in this state.

Hangovers can cause extreme anxiety as a symptom of the withdrawal from alcohol or other substances.  Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the central nervous systems and blocks the brain’s ability to produce stimulating chemicals.  The withdrawal from this state of depression turns the system up-side-down.  If we think of depression and anxiety on a spectrum, with depression at the far right and anxiety at the far left side, you can picture a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other.

While withdrawing from alcohol, the body overcompensates by “swinging” to the left, toward anxiety.  The central nervous system is very activated and the brain is producing stimulating chemicals, but the body and brain are tired, unrested, and confused.  Especially for those who suffer from anxiety naturally, this can be a powerful and awful experience.

Tips for getting through a hangover:

1. Take it easy on yourself. If you are turning your anxiety inward, meaning you are thinking bad thoughts about yourself, know that they are chemically induced.  Have a mantra and repeat it – “these thoughts aren’t real and I’m ok.”

2. Despite your urge to eat the entirety of the fast food menu, eat something good for your body.  A salad with veggies or some fruit can get you on your way back to health.  Alcohol also dehydrates the body so drink lots of water.

3. If you can bear it, exercise.  Exercise stimulates all the right chemicals in your brain to release and ease your body and mind.  It can also speed the release of toxins so that you can feel better faster.  Even a brisk walk can make you feel better since some say that fresh air is a cure to hangovers.

Happy New Year!  Take good care of yourselves.