Anxiety hangovers aren’t a new thing, and it’s certainly not a term that I created myself, but they are a real thing. And they suck.
An anxiety hangover is the after part of having a panic or anxiety attack. More often than not, people will talk about before they have an attack or what happens during, but I haven’t seen too much about what happens after the fear and the panic. After you’ve come out of the swirling thoughts and the chest palpitations, and how you can take care of yourself. Because that’s what matters most in these moments—making sure that you’re okay.
Everyone’s anxiety hangover is different, just like everyone’s anxieties and fears aren’t the same. Personally, I deal with a mother of a tension headache, feeling like my eyes just want to be glued shut, some mild nausea, and just wanting to curl up in a little ball and wish all the hurt away. Others have said that they just spend the whole day sleeping, or that their stomachs are tied up in knots, or that they fall into a depression after an attack.
And just like coping before and during anxiety attacks, taking care of yourself after is just as important. And the only way that you can do that is to know what makes you happy; it’s that simple. Because if you can distract yourself from the worries and the hurt with things that take your mind off of the past, present, and future, then it’ll help a lot.
The first thing to do is to try to stay away from whatever caused the attack—whether it’s a person, place, or thing. If that means calling into work, skipping class, or staying in your room all day then do it. Likewise, if the trouble is at home then get away for a day. Spend it in your favorite places, or just places where you can calm down and relax. If you’re agoraphobic then do your best to stay in your comfort zone, and if it’s something or someone at home that’s bothering you, tape a note to your door, just be Harry Potter and make no noise and pretend that you don’t exist. Create a safe space for you to be after the chaos of your mind takes over.
Then distract yourself. Keep your mind off of whatever was worrying you. The media is great for this. Watch movies, read a book, draw something—keep your mind occupied. When I watch movies during an anxiety hangover, I make sure to pick ones I haven’t seen, because then I’m completely focused on what’s going on. Other people like their favorites, because it’s like cuddling up in a warm blanket with an old friend. Disney seems to be a popular choice. Try to pick something that doesn’t relate back to your problems—if you’re worried about a parent dying then don’t watch The Lion King.
Let us eat. Some people lose their appetites during an anxiety hangover. Others eat their worries. Don’t fret about it. Eat your favorite comfort foods. Cooking can be therapeutic. I tend to fix mac and cheese, or eat cookies, and drink juice boxes, because that’s me. If comfort food is McDonald’s then do it. If it’s your mom’s chicken soup, call her and get the recipe.
Sleep on it. I try to do this with all major decisions and worries, because it works. A night’s rest can refresh the mind, and help you see things in a clearer state. When panicking, anything seems like a better alternative to whatever is freaking you out, but a day later you’ll realize that moving back home to avoid dealing with roommates was a silly idea. Sleep helps the day after too, because anxiety and panic attacks are exhausting. So take a nap, or sleep most of the day, and relax.
There are other methods too, because coping is such a personal thing, but those are my top choices to offer as advice to those in need of an anxiety hangover cure. Some people go for walks or a swim, others spend the day cleaning the house, but we all need to take care of ourselves when the fear fades and the hangover begins.
Because, just like any other illness, anxiety deserves to be treated with rest and relaxation.