How Alcohol Free Drinks Can Crush Hangxiety
Hangxiety is a new term for the awful feeling that can follow a night of drinking alcohol. I talk to Emma Gilmour, a Sober Coach to find out more.
The term ‘hangxiety’ refers to the anxiety some of experience the morning after drinking alcohol. It’s a common phenomenon, particularly among women. In fact, many of my female customers tell me that increasing hangxiety levels have inspired them to switch to alcohol-free wine.
I wanted to find out more, so I spoke to Emma Gilmour (pictured above), a Sober Coach. She tells me that hangxiety can be pretty brutal. “It’s a tough time! You’re tired, anxious and stressing over what you might have said or done when your inhibitions were lowered the night before,” she says.
There is a chemical explanation for hangxiety. “Drinking alcohol stimulates the body with artificially high levels of the brain’s neurotransmitters. When these levels drop the body goes into withdrawal, which shows up as anxiety,” Emma explains.
She continues: “In turn, as our body works to get rid of the alcohol, our blood sugar level drops, there’s an increase in inflammation – all of which leads to mood and memory issues and, often, nervousness.”
Hangxiety can be a bit of a vicious circle. Emma notes that many of us drink when we’re stressed. “We often mistake the feeling of relief when we meet a craving or anticipation for pleasure. But then hangxiety strikes, perhaps with the realisation that alcohol is taking more than it gives when it comes to our wellbeing,” she says.
Why hangxiety gets worse as we age
It’s no coincidence that as we get older, our hangxiety gets worse. Emma says that it’s down to the “pressure cooker” circumstances that come with middle age.
“Life is pretty hectic in mid-life. We’re currently in a time when there’s a generation sandwiched between hormonal teenagers and ageing parents. It’s quite the combination!” she explains.
All the stress leads to excess production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic stress and burn out. “Then when you add alcohol into the mix, things can go really haywire,” says Emma.
It’s worth noting that anxiety is also a symptom of perimenopause, i.e. the ten year period before we reach menopause. “The poor old liver is responsible for processing both alcohol and hormones, like oestrogen, and as we get older - especially if we’ve been drinkers most of our lives - our liver gets less efficient. It can be a recipe for disaster,” explains Emma.
Alcohol-free drinks can help
Emma is emphatic when she says that there is no safe level of alcohol when it comes to avoiding hangxiety. “If you’re suffering and feeling uneasy with the trade-off between the night before and the morning after, the best advice I can offer is just to try to drink less alcohol or replace it with an alcohol-free alternative,” she notes.
On top of this, Emma adds that the more we understand about alcohol and the way it affects our bodies, the less we’ll want to drink. “Knowledge is power,” she says.
Emma also notes that Alc-free drinks are a great way to avoid hangxiety. “Enjoy the fun of a grown-up mocktail without the hangxiety side-effects, as well as supporting your nervous system with whole food, practices that combine movement and breathing, getting out in nature and getting lots of great sleep,” adds Emma.