You’ve had a hard month and feel you deserve a night of fun, and that includes copious amounts of alcohol. Then you find yourself awake the next day, not remembering anything. Your heart starts beating faster. You may have difficulty breathing, too.
These are the symptoms of hangxiety, according to Hired Power, a professional transition service. It’s the anxiety you feel during a hangover, when you worry about the things you said the night before because you don’t recall anything!
Clinical psychologist Sarah Zehan says that when a person consumes alcohol, the chemicals in their brain alter and the “worry” chemicals are suppressed. That’s why you’re more relaxed when you’re drinking. But what most people don’t realise is that the brain works extra hard to bring the chemical levels back to normal once the alcohol subsides. That surge of worry chemicals in the brain can cause anxiety.
The ones who are likely to feel ‘hangxiety’
Based on research, people who are shy by nature will be more likely to experience hangxiety. A perfect fictional example for this is Raj from The Big Bang Theory and how he always needs an alcoholic drink to be able to socialise with the ladies. Alcohol makes you feel less inhibited and more confident interacting with new people. However, this can take a turn the day after when the shy person starts worrying about his or her words and actions when intoxicated.
Katyana Azman, a psychologist based at Pantai Hospital KL says when a person is pressured to take part in social activities like partying and drinking even though it goes against what they want, they’re more likely to experience hangxiety. It’s because they feel like they have less control over the situation and become worried AF the next day.
Know your tolerance levels
Only you know yourself best so make sure you can hold your drink when you’re out — literally! Don’t accept that extra glass if you know you can’t handle it. It should go without saying, but there’s absolutely no shame in saying no to a drink when you’ve had just enough to enjoy the night and not be totally out of it. (And if you have friends who disagree, take that as a warning sign.)
If you’re unsure of your limits, try drinking at home first or at a house party with friends there who you know you can trust. That way you can stay the night at your friend’s place if you’ve gone over your limit. Katyana says, “The only way to avoid hangxiety is to ensure that you have nothing to feel remorseful about in the first place.”
“When a person is pressured into partying and drinking, they’re more likely to experience ‘hangxiety’.”
not just in the mind — it’s biological
Just having the awareness to know that the uneasy feeling you have is a biological response to alcohol can be enough to keep anxiety at bay. Sarah suggests that when you feel the anxiety creeping in, it can help to give yourself that reminder so you don’t worry as much about the drinking.
Just wait it out, knowing that it’s just your body reacting naturally to the substance, not a sign you did something terrible the night before.
just chill out
When you experience hangxiety, this might be a good time to treat yourself to a relaxing day and do something you enjoy. Some of Sarah’s suggestions are doing breathing exercises, taking a long bath or progressive muscle relaxation. Doing these things may help to calm down the anxiety you’re feeling.
Accept your shyness
Since research has shown that hangxiety happens more easily to shy people, Sarah suggests that it starts with accepting that you’re a little more on the reserved side. It’s totally fine not being the social butterfly your BFF is.
Don’t worry about fitting in and just do you. The more you accept your personality and the way you are, the less you’ll need to rely on alcohol to help you relax in social situations.
make a change
Another way you can go about it? Transition to a healthier lifestyle. Sarah says start small so you can transition into a life without the need for alcohol (no shame in the teetotaller life!). Having a good heart-to-heart with someone you trust will also be helpful because you can talk out how you’re feeling.
You’ll find that you’re not the only one who feels this way. Finding a hype girl (or guy) who can support you through your lifestyle change is great! But it all comes down to your own awareness and wanting to change the habit of drinking to relax.
Engaging in a hobby and surrounding yourself with supportive, like-minded people will give you a similar sense of pleasure that you feel from drinking alcohol. “Physical activity has also been shown to release similar endorphins and chemicals within the brain,” explained Katyana.