I woke up feeling like I couldn’t breathe. It was my own fault. I drank too much last night. I’m paying for it today for a number of reasons. Mentally, I’m not focused and I feel like I’m not managing my thoughts very well (negative thoughts seem to creep to the surface when I am underslept). Physically, my nervous system is in over drive, which causes me to worry mentally and feel anxious as shit. It’s a vicious circle.
The most important thing you can do to manage an anxiety disorder is to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. In the beginning, I used to try to mask the pain and rid myself of anxiety with alcohol. What I didn’t realize was that it was making the anxiety worse and worse with every hang over I suffered. I had been prescribed Xanax back then, to take on an as needed basis. Well, it was never more needed than the day after a bender. The worse I felt, the more I drank, and the more I self-medicated to relieve the anxiety from the drinking. Not good.
I found some interesting studies that had been done on the link between alcohol usage and anxiety disorders. From the American Addictions Centers website: A study done by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine showed that excessive drinking can lead to the rewiring of the brain. This can make an individual more susceptible to the development of anxiety problems. While alcohol abuse can increase a person’s risk for a traumatic event that could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, the changes that can occur in an individual’s brain can be enough to increase their risk for anxiety issues as well. The UNC study showed that there is a connection between alcohol and anxiety on a molecular level. I can attest to this being true, I definitely feel the effects after an evening of imbibing too much.
Have I cut alcohol out of my life completely? Apparently not. Instead, I learned how it impacted me, and (for the most part, with the exception of last night and a few others of course) I changed my habits. I no longer reach for a cocktail to induce a state of relaxation when I’m feeling stressed, I meditate or exercise instead. Two of my biggest passions in life are cooking, and wine. I love to discover new wines and new ways of pairing with food. I drink wine for the beautiful smells and tastes. And I drink it when I’m out socially with friends. I know that much more than a couple of glasses will mean an interrupted sleep, and a potentially challenging morning after. I stick with whites and stay away from reds. I found that I was waking in the night sweaty, with a pounding heart, even after just a small glass. I’ve basically learned what I really enjoy, and what I can and can’t tolerate.
So what’s the best way to manage if you find that you have overindulged and you want to crawl out of your skin the next morning? Get up. Don’t lie around in bed. I find I need to get moving and take some form action in order to feel like I’m being productive. Otherwise, I lie in bed with my mind racing a million miles an hour thinking about all the things I need to do, and all the things that I should have done, and all the things, and all the things, and all the things…you get the idea. Even if I’m dead on my feet, I move. I pick a task and as they say “wash the bowl” with my mind. I plan a meal and prepare it, I clean the house, I walk the dogs, and now, I write. If I can bear it, I’ll do yoga or a light workout and then meditate. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically. Of course all of these things are easier said than done if you have to actually go to work the next day.
I also drink a ton of water and I take a magnesium supplement along with a Vitamin C supplement that contains electrolytes. I actually take these on a daily basis. Research shows that magnesium deficiency may contribute to numerous mental health problems, including anxiety. Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral. It regulates the nervous system and can help you cope with stress and helps to prevent anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness and irritability.
So why did I make the mistake of having that one extra drink last night? I was having such a damned good time that I didn’t even think of the ramifications it would have on my day after. The good news, I haven’t had a melt down today. I’ve been easy on myself, feeding my body healthy food vs. the traditional morning after greasy breakfast or giant burger and fries for lunch. I rested and drank plenty of water. I “washed the bowl” and did my laundry. And I read. After a quick nap, I will get a workout in, no matter how painful it might be. I know that it will ensure that I sleep well tonight, and wake up feeling like a million bucks tomorrow. And so this leads to –
Tip #2 – Do not drink in excess to mask the unpleasant feelings that accompany anxiety, it will only feed the negative feelings and help them grow.