Culture, party

Why You Feel Anxious After Drinking (And What To Do About It)

words by Year13

Let me set the scene. You’re on a night out. You go a little bit too hard at pres and your friends wonder if you’re even going to be let in. You go out. From here it gets a little blurry. You’re dancing, buying drinks, having fun. You go for a taccy vom in the middle of the night and feel better than ever. You finish up the night with a cheeky 24 nuggets on the way home and crash hard.

The next morning you wake up. You can barely remember what happened last night, you’re not sure how you got home and your phone is dead. You can’t find your wallet or your keys and the blisters on your feet are making it hard to walk.

When a sick stomach, a gnarly headache and a bad case of bed hair is mixed with actual anxiety, your morning-after can turn bleak. Overthinking about the night before can spiral you into a state of worry, nervousness and not really knowing what you got up to last night. This is an extremely common feeling but one people aren’t that keen to talk about.

You spend your morning racing through blurry memories wondering what you did, who you were with and how you handled yourself; the mystery of it all is crippling. Pairing this with social media and the fear of everything being filmed or drunk texts potentially having been sent, your mental health can be sometimes compromised.

According to Beyond Blue, there’s actually a chemical reasoning behind the 8am freak-out.

There is a science behind post-drinking anxiety. When you consume alcohol the chemical balance in your brain is disrupted. Everyone is different but most people feel more relaxed and less inhibited after a few drinks. The ‘feel-good’ chemical called dopamine is released in greater supply into your brain–resulting in a greater sense of satisfaction than you had before drinking. Alcohol is effectively tricking your brain. You pay little regard to the age-old fact that what comes up, must come down. The next day, your brain is trying feverishly to correct the chemical imbalances from the night before and what do you know–anxiety arises..”

Remember, this is a completely normal feeling, you’re not alone, and there’s things you can do to combat it.

1. Control your breathing

First things first, you need to try and relax as much as possible. Take deep breaths and time them; even a tiny bit of control over your breathing can immediately reduce some of your panic.

2. Control what you can

Right now, you can’t change what you did the night before. I know this might give you a sick feeling in your gut but stressing over things you can’t change helps no one. So, instead, focus on what you can control.

Delete your embarrassing Insta story of everyone doing shots, message your friends and organise to hang out and debrief, drink a bottle of water, brush your teeth and have a shower. Eat something greasy, have a couple of Panadol’s and get some fresh air and sunlight. Have a proper look for anything lost–I’ve had panic attacks about lost bank cards only to find them tucked into my back pocket instead of my wallet and freaked out about missing keys before realising I left them in the door last night.

3. Challenge your self talk

A thought is not a fact. You’re going to overestimate the negative aspects of your night and you need to try your hardest to combat that. Your memories will morph themselves into something they’re not, so try your hardest to stay grounded and not let your thoughts spiral out of control.

This is especially important when you’re thinking about things you said or did to other people. In your anxious state it’s easy to think that you’ve ruined every relationship you have but you need to talk to your mates before you make any wild assumptions about how they’re feeling.

Going out and drinking is fun! And you shouldn’t feel guilty about having a good time. But, if it’s costing you your mental health or genuinely having a negative effect on your relationships and physical health, it’s worth considering having a break. We’ve all claimed we’re ‘never drinking again’ after a particularly bad night but see if you can follow through–it’s possible to have a good time while being 100% sober.

And, if you’re not ready to cut off drinking altogether, think about other ways to manage yourself. Eat a decent meal, drink plenty of water and get a sober friend to hold onto your phone for the night. Give yourself a limit of drinks: if you’re going to a house party only take a couple of cans or, if you’re going out, take just enough cash to cover what you absolutely need. Make rules for yourself if you need to–if you know tequila shots fuck you up faster than anything, make the decision to stick to mixed drinks only, follow every drink with a glass of water and avoid double shots.

Most of all, talk to your mates about it. You’re probably not the only one that feels like this and your real friends are going to want to make sure you’re okay–even if it means a night in watching Netflix over a night out getting blind.

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