1) Down and Out
It’s all fun and games until the morning after the party before. On waking, you’re likely to experience ‘higher levels of noradrenaline,
seen in the fright-fight-flight response,’ says Dr Tony Rao, a mental health specialist at King’s College London. Stress hormone cortisol also tends to be higher during hangovers. Put on a zen playlist and practise some controlled breathing.
2) Feed Your Head
‘When combined with sleep deprivation, [stress] can cause impairments in attention and memory,’ says Dr Craig Gunn, a researcher examining the cognitive effects of hangovers. Meanwhile, low blood sugar can make simple tasks feel impossible. So don’t skip breakfast: protein-rich eggs or oily fish paired with slow- burning carbs will reboot you. One study linked the amino acid L-cysteine in eggs to reduced anxiety, says Dr Rao.
3) Panic Stations
One recent theory as to why drinking can send us into an emotional spiral is to do with two key neurotransmitters: GABA and glutamate. ‘Their functioning may be unbalanced during a hangover,’ posits Dr Gunn, although he says research isn’t conclusive. Don’t trust the voice in your head: low GABA and raised glutamate can set off anxious thoughts. Meditation is proven to help.
4) It’s All a Blur
Barely remember catching the last train? Worried about what you overshared with a new colleague? ‘Alcohol acts on the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making,’ says Dr Rao. It makes us poorer at assessing risk. But don’t bottle it up: ‘Sharing experiences from the night before with friends might alleviate some of our anxieties,’ says Dr Gunn. Things are very rarely as bad as you think.
5) Plan AHead
Practise caution the night before. Dr Rao points to the ‘disconnect from reality through suppression of our frontal lobes’ that tricks us into believing we’re more sober than we are. Setting hourly ‘check in’ alarms to remind yourself to drink water is one strategy. Too late? Walk it off: a 15-minute stroll in a wooded area can reduce anxiety by 23% to 31%*. Leave the hip flask.