I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in a major funk this summer. (I’m sure it’s partially related to being cooped up indoors due to these insanely high temperatures.)
When I get in a funk like this, I usually take a look at my lifestyle and see what could be contributing to the problem. Recently, I started paying attention to the way I feel after drinking alcohol. Depending on the amount of alcohol I drank, I noticed a definite uptick in my anxiety. I set a goal to go one month without drinking any alcohol, mostly to prove to myself that I was capable, but also to observe the effects on my mental and physical heath.
The Science behind “Hangxiety”
If you feel extra anxious the day (or week) after drinking, you’re not alone. Apparently, your body reacts to a hangover the same way that it handles anxiety. In fact, it’s so common that some have adopted the term “hangxiety.” According to Self, alcohol has an effect on several neurotransmitters, most notably GABA, the neurotransmitter known to regulate anxiety. When stimulated, it can cause feelings of relaxation, but too much alcohol can cause the opposite effect. This is the reason many of us experience feelings of guilt or overthinking the day after drinking.
Changes I’ve Noticed During My Alcohol-Free Journey
More Energy & Clear Thinking
The first thing I noticed was that I had waaay more energy—I already have ADHD, so at first, it almost felt like too much energy. I couldn’t even sit down on my lunch break at work. Over time, I learned how to channel this energy into positive outlets. I also observed that I felt clear-headed, and it was easier for me to make decisions quickly. Overall, I started to feel more like myself.
More Intentional Family Time
I noticed that I was spending more intentional time with the kids and not thinking about having a glass of wine on the couch once they went to sleep. I also noticed that I wasn’t as quick to anger during our everyday routines.
It’s been amazing to wake up on the weekend without a headache. As a result, I’m able to focus on things that I enjoy (like exercising, reading, or journaling). I have also been able to prioritize my health/self-care in other ways, like drinking a glass of herbal tea at night, giving myself a manicure, or having a heartfelt conversation with my husband (that isn’t influenced by alcohol).
Tips & Tricks for Avoiding Alcohol
Substitute Alcohol for Another Beverage
For me, one of the reasons I tend to drink in social interactions is a need to have something in my hand. If my hands are empty, I feel awkward and out of place. I’ve replaced my usual beer or wine with a Topo Chico (any non-alcoholic beverage will do), and I’ve found that it really helped. During a recent get-together, my friend even bought us nonalcoholic beer to drink!
Support from the Ones You Love
Speaking of supportive friends, a good friend of mine is also taking a month-long break from alcohol, and it has helped tremendously to have someone to lean on during the hard days. If you’re planning on giving up alcohol, discuss your goals with the ones you love. It always helps to have support.
There are also apps, such as Reframe, designed to help you cut back or eliminate drinking. These apps are especially helpful if you don’t have a great support system otherwise.
Keeping track of your progress is important. Journaling is also a great way to manage your emotions in a healthy way.
My Next Steps
My goal was to go one month without alcohol (I have three days left). However, once the month is up, I don’t intend on reverting back to the same old ways. My plan is to drink absolutely no more than once a week and to reserve drinking for special occasions. I also plan on setting an intention on how many drinks I’m going to have beforehand to avoid unintentionally over-drinking.
I enjoy drinking alcohol on occasion, and I don’t want to swear it off forever, but the key is moderation. It’s also important to be in the right headspace in order to drink it responsibly. My ultimate goal is to be the best mom and person that I can be, and in order to do that, I felt the need to take a break from alcohol, evaluate the effects it has on my life, and decrease my consumption in the future.