I don’t know about you, but I become much more confident after a glass of wine. Drop me into some awkward, social interaction, and I’ll be fake laughing and secretly wishing I was back home in my pyjamas, with my cat and a tub of ice-cream. But wait until the drinks kick in, and soon enough I’m the life and soul of the party.
This is a common side-effect of drinking alcohol. People get a bit louder. A bit sillier. A bit more fearless. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve all done stupid shit under the influence – but it seemed like a good idea at the time, right?
That’s until the morning. We roll out of bed, our heads thudding and our stomachs gurgling, and grab our phone from the bedside table. “I sent what to Alex last night? I did the YMCA?! I don’t remember that…”
In flood all the awful, cringeworthy memories of the night before, and you feel your self-esteem shrivel up and crawl back into bed. “Why did I do that? Why did I think that was a good idea? It wasn’t even funny.”
What you are experiencing is a classic case of ‘hangxiety’. This is the overwhelming feeling of guilt, anxiety, and stress after a night of drinking.
Despite seeing alcohol as a confidence-booster, it is actually a depressant. Psychiatrist Aparna Iyer explained in Self how, as the buzz from booze begins to fade away, your dopamine levels drop. This can affect your mood and increase anxiety.
The thing is, regardless of what many think during a fun night out, alcohol can have a bad habit of actually enhancing negative feelings. If you’ve decided the best thing to take your mind off a bad breakup is to get well and truly smashed, that might be a risky move. Don’t be surprised if, what started off as a good night, ends with you blubbering in a pub’s grotty toilets, with makeup smeared across your face and the regrettable urge to ring your ex.
Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with drinking alcohol. As long as you aren’t going too crazy, and you’re doing it in a safe environment, many of us enjoy an alcoholic beverage here and there. Have a drink when you want to celebrate! But using it as a way to forget about your problems will only haunt you the morning after when the hangxiety kicks in.
If you’re going through a tough time, work through it with exercise, relaxing music, a good bath – whatever makes you happy, really. Yes, it sounds cheesy, but anything that releases endorphins, such as a run around the park or a few laps of the local swimming pool, is a much more promising way to cheer you up than a bottle of vodka. Even some deep breathing and meditation can help to release your happy hormones.
I get it – it’s all very well telling you to smile and breathe your way through a breakdown, but that’s easier said than done. And in the moment, a good night out is just fun. But if you’re more prone to social-anxiety, alcohol isn’t always your best buddy. You may be thankful that it sticks around for the night, but you’ll wake up feeling used and empty the morning after.
I am one of the most awkward people I’ve ever met, and I still drink. You do not need to commit to sobriety if you’re prone to hangxiety, but just bear in mind that you should be drinking for joy and not as a form of self-destruction. Think about your head. Think about your health. And think about your happiness.