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How to Get Rid of an Anxiety Hangover

Updated: May 22

If you've ever had a panic or anxiety attack - and statistics say one in three adults have - you might have experienced an anxiety hangover. That is because you can still be affected from extreme fight or flight response for days or even up to a week after the initial stressor has passed.

This is the effect of the physical and emotional drain on your body such heightened response creates. It can also be due to elevated, residual cortisol that your body has yet to burn off .

You might feel the following in the days or hours after a panic or anxiety attack:

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Inability to sleep past 5 or 6am due to early morning cortisol spikes

  • Low blood sugar, hunger pangs

  • Heightened emotional response

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Feeling on edge

  • Body pains

  • Chest tightness/ pains

So, what do you do about these symptoms? They should dissipate with time, but there are a few things you can do to speed along the process. Here's how to get rid of an anxiety hangover.

  1. Get Some Exercise

Getting outside and going for a walk or hike is a good choice to work off an anxiety hangover. Exercising releases endorphins and helps increase blood flow (vessels constrict during a panic attack). It will also help burn off any excess cortisol leaving you more relaxed and able to sleep sooner. Yoga is an excellent choice as well. In addition to the relaxation stretching brings, the vibrational action of the "om" chant actually stimulates your vagus nerve which will put the body in parasympathetic mode.

Walk to work off an anxiety hangover
Walk off your anxiety

2. Meditate

Meditation takes you into the parasympathetic state, a.k.a. "rest and digest." This is the opposite of fight or flight or the sympathetic state. It also relaxes the brain in a way that is similar to sleeping, so if you've been loosing sleep due to an anxiety attack, it can help. And no, you don't really have to sit up straight, cross-legged, with your fingers just so. Meditation works equally well lying on the floor, in your bed, or on the couch as long as you don't fall asleep. But would that really be so bad? Just don't make it hard for yourself. In fact, make it easy with this guided meditation I have used myself many times.

Meditate to end an anxiety hangover
Meditation doesn't have to be done "perfectly"

3. Eat Nutritious Meals

After such a stressor, your body will need extra nutrition. This means low glycemic-index carbs like sweet potatoes, easy to digest proteins like eggs, organic pea protein powder or lean meats with extra colorful fruits and vegetables. This is not the time to go for low-nutrient, hard to digest, "cheat" foods. So do your best to avoid fried food, low-quality oils and any trigger foods that cause you inflammation. They will likely make you feel even worse.

4. Try Touch Therapy

Trade massages with a loved one or friend. Cuddle with your dog. Cuddle with the neighbor's dog. Head to the spa. Do what you can to experience the touch of another living being. It's not only relaxing, it releases oxytocin, which is "the love hormone." This gives you warm, fuzzy feelings, even if it just comes from someone washing your hair at the salon!

touch therapy for an anxiety hangover
There are many ways to experience touch therapy

5. Treat Yourself

Take a hot bath filled with epsom salts, give yourself a facial or pedicure. Journal about your experience. Read a book or watch a favorite "feel-good" movie. Try to feel gratitude for the ability to do any of these nice things for yourself. Not only does it humble us, gratitude actually put you is in parasympathetic mode.

6. Help Somone Else in Need

Helping other people takes your mind off your own problems and puts a net good into the world. Don't over do it - ie, helping someone move when you are weak, but give of yourself to other people starting with a few small ways. Help a neighbor, volunteer with an organization or simply call someone who could use it. These acts have tremendous power over your mental state and speak to your subconscious. The message your brain receives is that if you are helping others, you must be doing a-ok.


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