What is Anxiety?
What is Anxiety?
It’s 5:30, I don’t have to get up for work for another two hours, but I’m wide awake. My heart is pounding in my chest, as if it wants to burst, and my thoughts are racing wildly.
I live with an anxiety disorder, so this feeling isn’t new, but it’s surprising. Typically, anxiety doesn’t wake me up at this time, especially when I went to bed late like last night.
Why am I so anxious right now? I pick my brain for clues. I had a bad dream? Did I dwell on the future or the past without realizing it? I am dying?
In all my rummaging for reasons, I don’t consider one piece of information very significant: I drank alcohol last night while out with friends. I didn’t drink to dull the excess, but I drank enough to get tipsy and went to bed without washing off my mascara.
Drinking alcohol the previous night is why I’m anxious. There’s no clinical term for it, but there’s a slogan for this hangover anxiety…”anxiety” – which is defined as nervousness, agitation and discomfort after a night of drinking.
The symptoms of Hangxiety are no different from normal anxiety symptoms: heart pounding, thoughts racing, and a general sense of unease.
“You may also feel shaky, irritable or moody,” said Jennifer Surak-Zammitti, a psychotherapist in New Jersey.
Anxiety can occur once we’ve had one too many – it’s simply the way our brain works. And women may be more prone to these feelings because they are more so sensitive to the effects of alcohol as they have less fluid in their bodies which means more alcohol stays in their bloodstream.
What is anxiety and why does it occur?
“Alcohol affects the chemical GABA in our brain, which is a chemical that has a relaxing effect,” said Surak-Zammitti. “When we have a small amount of alcohol, it increases GABA, making us feel relaxed. When we have a large amount of alcohol, it depletes GABA, causing a feeling of panic. This type of anxiety can last up to 24 hours, depending on how much you consume.
Anxiety affects approx 12 out of 100 peopleand Surak-Zammitti noted that anyone who drinks, depending on the brain’s sensitivity to alcohol, could experience it to some extent, although people with mental illnesses such as anxiety may feel it more acutely.
“If you’re predisposed to any mental illness, not just anxiety, substances trigger it,” Surak-Zammitti said. “Imagine a screen on a screen door where the mesh is very tight. When we drink alcohol, the screen becomes loose and allows those diseases to creep in. So if you are prone to anxiety, alcohol will make it worse.
Alcohol interferes with sleep
“Alcohol can put you to sleep, but you don’t sleep well because it affects your REM (rapid eye movement),” said Surak-Zammitti. “You will wake up groggy and restless.”
This lack of restful sleep can also contribute to anxiety.
How to prevent anxiety
Besides abstaining from alcohol altogether, how can you prevent anxiety?
Surak-Zammitti said you should start with being aware that drinking to the point of becoming tipsy can cause anxiety. This can help you brake and drink less. You can also avoid drinking alcohol, which can make you feel feeling more intoxicated more quickly what a beer.
“Think of it like playing chess,” he said. “You have to be one move ahead of your opponent.”
And in this case, your opponent is alcohol.
How to treat anxiety
Anxiety is a natural consequence after a night of drinking, but there are ways to tame it as it sets in.
First, Surak-Zammitti said it helps to acknowledge that you’re anxious because you were drinking. Often, asking yourself what makes you anxious makes you even more anxious. If you tell yourself it’s because you were drinking, you break out of that cycle of questioning that often fuels your anxiety.
Taking charge of your thoughts is another method of quelling anxiety and anxiety in general.
“We have to work on our thoughts and come up with new mantras,” she said Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D.a psychotherapist, noting that women are often prone to perfectionist thinking, which can lead to more ruminative thoughts the next day, which can agitate anxiety.
According to Steinberg, you can calm your anxiety by telling yourself that occasional, and not excessive, drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle if it remains enjoyable. “We can have agency on our experience and not think it’s going to spiral out of control.”
It is also helpful to have remedies on hand that can help you relax.
“What makes you feel calm?” asked Surak-Zammitti. “Maybe it smells like lavender or lemon. Maybe it’s taking a bath with different salts, and if it is, prepare the bath.
It’s also a good idea to skip the energy drinks and large cappuccino, even though you might feel like you need a boost. Stimulants usually only make anxiety worse.
But the best way to beat anxiety is through exercise.
“The way alcohol leaves our bodies is through our pores,” said Surak-Zammitti. “So exercise is the best thing you do for anxiety. Do some yoga or go for a walk or run.”
In other words, try not to sweat on the night you’ve been drinking, but try to get it out of your system.