What is hangxiety and what is the best hangxiety treatment?
Have you ever awakened to the bright sun in the morning after a night of heavy drinking? Your brain feels like it is painfully shaking around in your skull. Your stomach is ready to clench hard to expel the toxins of last night’s binge.
Then, you contemplate your previous evening. What did you say and do? Was there anything you are going to regret? Does alcohol cause anxiety? Of course it can.
The sickness of a morning hangover is now joined by the pressing anxiety of fear that you may have caused emotional or physical harm to yourself or others. And then, there is the concern about next time. What if you really mess up and say or do something you can’t take back?
Some people refer to this morning anxiety as “hangxiety.” It is a feeling of anxiousness the next day after a night of drinking. While it may be related to things you said or did while intoxicated, it may also be related to the effects of alcohol itself.
As you can imagine, the best treatment for hangxiety is preventative. Avoiding excessive drinking in the first place will prevent this unpleasant state of mind caused by alcohol and anxiety.
While there is little you can do to make the feeling of a hangover combined with anxiety go away more quickly, there is one thing that you should not do. You should not drink in the morning to get rid of the hangover and anxiety.
Why should you avoid taking the hair of the dog that bit you?
“Hair of the dog” is a term that refers to an alcoholic drink taken as a hangover remedy. As you can imagine, drinking to eliminate a hangover is another step along the path towards becoming an alcoholic.
Why is this practice known as drinking the hair of the dog that bit you? It is a graphic representation of what a bad idea this practice is. People who drink to end a hangover are fully aware of how they are harming themselves, so they use a silly phrase to add some light humor to it.
It is sort of like when someone lights up a cigarette and jokes about having another “cancer stick.” Making light of a deadly addiction while still continuing to indulge is not necessarily the best way to address the problem.
Substances such as ethyl alcohol for drinking and tobacco products high in nicotine have no health benefits whatsoever. They are legal drugs that do nothing but harm their users, and they are highly addictive.
Our government is involved in an ongoing cat and mouse game of identifying and outlawing various psychoactive chemicals that can intoxicate humans. When a designer drug is outlawed, illicit chemists work to come up with a new variation that lawmakers have not seen before.
Yet, two of the deadliest psychoactive drugs known to man are legal and a significant part of our economy. How is this possible?
The answer you get may be that we already tried prohibition half-heartedly in the early 20th century and the poorly enforced laws were not effective. Organized crime became entrenched and a profitable illegal economy sprung up during a time when our country seriously needed financial help.
As a result, alcohol, an illegal substance, was legalized in the US. As for tobacco, the cancer-causing, emphysema-inducing plant has been around for a long time. Lawmakers would rather point fingers at doctors for not providing adequate smoking cessation treatment instead of simply banning the deadly product.
Why should I avoid drinks that help with anxiety?
Walking into a bar or nightclub with loud music and a large crowd is a stressful event. It’s likely that the stress of walking into a drinking establishment is by design. The volume and selection of music, as well as placement of common areas and the bar are carefully laid out to lead you to having a drink to quell the stress of feeling as if everyone is looking at you.
After having a few complicated alcoholic drinks custom made by your friendly bartender, you stop caring so much about what people think. The anxiety and stress start to go away. Drinking to calm your anxiety is like taking out a short-term loan.
Can drinking alcohol cause anxiety after helping to make your anxiety go away? Yes, you are going to pay for it in the morning when your anxiety comes back, along with a hangover.
Alcohol is a toxic substance that is harmful in any amount. Drinking to the point of intoxication puts a stress on your brain and your liver. It even increases your risk of cancer.
Joking about living dangerously by drinking too much and suffering hangxiety the next day may make you feel better about your binge drinking. A group of friends drinking together, enabling each other, may make it seem fine to cause physical harm to yourself with alcohol.
You may believe, at first, that there must be a better way to deal with the stress of drinking establishments. Maybe you can learn to prevent your anxiety with breathing exercises and learn to cope in other ways with the stress of a crowded and loud nightclub.
This sort of thinking is similar to believing that you can beat the odds in a casino. While there are rare card-counting geniuses and poker-playing card sharks, in most cases the house always wins.
There are solid combinatorics applied by casinos to make sure that they are always profitable. The odds are also stacked against you when you go out to a place where people are drinking.
Places that sell alcohol want you to drink as much as possible. If they have not optimized the psychological tricks that push you to drink more, they will probably go out of business.
Avoiding alcohol events is the best way to avoid alcohol.
I once heard a wise man in recovery from addiction state that if you don’t put a drink or drug in your hand, you are not going to use it. In recovery, they refer to using alcohol or drugs as “picking up.” Thinking of this literally, that picking up a drink in your hand is what leads you to drinking, may be helpful.
Of course, when people are addicted, it is not as simple as that. If we could all avoid drinking by simply not putting a drink in our hand, there would be no need for the multi-billion-dollar rehab industry.
On the other hand, if you are a gray area drinker, meaning that you occasionally binge on alcohol, but you have not crossed the line into alcohol use disorder, you may find this advice very helpful. You can definitely save yourself from serious long-term harm by not picking up another drink.
And, to help you avoid picking up that drink, avoiding the places where people feel compelled to drink is also a good idea. As they say in recovery, if you hang around a barber shop long enough, you are eventually going to get a haircut.
Likewise, if you continue to binge drink to quell your anxiety long enough, you may eventually decide to bite the hair of the dog. One morning, when you have the anxiety caused by a night of drinking along with a serious hangover, you may decide to have that one more drink to try to make it all go away.
Why do people drink to unwind?
At the end of a stressful day, or a stressful week, people are looking for ways to unwind and forget about the stress of everyday life. Why does life cause stress for people?
It could be that they hate their jobs. Or, it could be the financial stress of a person living beyond their means and trying to pay the bills and get out of debt.
Some people choose to plan a night of drinking. Other people may decide to binge watch television, while binge eating snacks. Still, others will go to the casino or bingo hall to relax with a night of gambling.
How can a loud nightclub, filled with the stench of alcohol and cigarettes, relieve anxiety? What about the brightly lit casino, filled with the sounds of slot machines?
Strangely, people see these activities as stress relieving, at least in the beginning when they get started. Interestingly, people who use cocaine or crystal meth also see their drug use as relaxing and stress relieving.
Stimulant drugs literally cause a direct increase in sympathetic nervous system tone, leading to a fight or flight reaction. How can stress be relieved by more stress?
You might think of it like scratching an itch. When your skin itches, it is a form of pain. To get rid of the pain of an itch, you scratch it, inducing more pain to distract your brain from the itch.
When you go out to engage in activities that light up the pleasure centers of your brain, you see it as unwinding and stress relieving, even if the result is more stress. The advanced prefrontal cortex of our brain can see ahead to the tragic results of overindulgence, but the more primitive brain structures would rather distract us from those higher level thoughts.
The warnings of our prefrontal cortex, that is able to play the tape forward and predict the coming sickness and regret, are drowned out by the pleasure seeking reward center of the brain. We start to wrongly see self-harming activities that provide short-term pleasure as being a way to “unwind.”
What are some better ways to unwind without the situational anxiety of a night of drinking?
What is the best way to unwind in a positive way and feel good about ourselves the next day? I believe that we can take a tip from the bible to help us learn to unwind more effectively.
The very beginning of the Bible starts with the creation of the universe. God creates everything that exists, from light, to land and water, to all life on Earth, including humanity.
We can learn from this story of creation by realizing that creation, or creativity, is one of the best ways to overcome our anxiety. By working on making something new that did not exist before, we improve the balance of the neurochemistry in our brains. Creativity is an important part of human nature.
Rehabs help people to overcome addictions with various creative therapies. These include music therapy, art therapy, as well as dance, and other forms of self-expression.
Imagine coming home after a long day at work and sitting in front of a canvas with a set of oil paints, or at the piano or guitar. Or, you could sit down with your computer or pen and paper and do some writing.
When you are finished, not only have you not harmed yourself in any way, you also have something to show for your efforts. You have created something new that you can appreciate and possibly share with friends and family.
Serving others is a proven way to relieve stress and anxiety.
How can you provide service to others? You might consider volunteering at the local animal shelter or soup kitchen. You might even volunteer at a local community center that provides activities for children or elderly people.
Or, if you are involved in alcohol recovery, you could go to a local meeting and offer to take on a service position. Setting up the chairs, making the coffee, or greeting newcomers are all service positions in groups of Alcoholics Anonymous and similar programs.
Helping others is a proven way to feel better about yourself. In fact, in alcohol recovery programs, it is sometimes pointed out that serving others is, in a way, a selfish activity, because you are really helping yourself to feel a sense of fulfillment.
Serving others who are less fortunate is also a way to help us to be more grateful for what we have in life. Gratitude is another proven way to feel better with less anxiety and stress.
It is never too late to stop drinking because of your anxiety.
Anxiety is often related to the stress of modern life. Our evolution as a species cannot keep up with the fast pace of changes in how we live.
We are not designed to wake up to the city noises of buses, trains, honking car horns, crowds, and the pressing anxiety that we must get dressed and out of the house to get to work on time. Every day, we face the same stress that our ancestors felt when being chased through the woods by the occasional angry bear.
Suddenly, we find ourselves caught up in the rat race of a life, feeling constantly stressed with having to get things done. And, at the end of the day, there is alcohol to provide a quick fix.
However, one thing that humans have evolved to handle modern stress is an advanced brain that is prepared to adapt to nearly any situation. Our brains are also particularly good at problem solving if we give them a chance.
So, instead of reaching for the bottle when you are stressed after a long day, why not reach for a pen and paper instead? Start writing some things down to figure out where you are and how you got there.
Why are you living in a loud city, being rushed off to a job you hate that leaves you feeling as if you have to drink on the weekends, or even on weekday nights? Or, why are you allowing people into your life who cause so much stress, you feel as if you have to drink to feel better?
Putting things in writing can help you to be honest with yourself and put your life into perspective. You may start to see what your problems are and how you can work towards long-term solutions.
Sometimes the answers are not obvious at first. For example, the better paying job may not be as good for you as the job you love to do.
Also, consider choices that give you either less freedom or more freedom. Is it worth it, working at a job where you never get to see your children, just to be able to drive a nicer car or live in a fancier house?
Going for therapy can help you to unravel issues that you have been avoiding for a lifetime. If you are in recovery from addiction, you should also consider going to see a therapist, such as a doctor of psychology.
Sometimes, making life decisions that help you to feel less anxiety are not obvious. While your therapist can help you to get to the root of important issues that cause you to feel stress, there are decisions that you will have to eventually make on your own.
Generally you may want to make decisions that lead to you living a life where you are surrounded by positive people who are supportive of your health and happiness and where you have the freedom to decide what you want to do with each day. Getting there may not be easy, but like any other journey, it involves taking one step at a time in the right direction.