Readers have had some interesting threads lately on not being able to destress and trying to deal with an anxiety hangover — so let’s talk about this. (Upon some research, it looks like the phrase we’re searching for is “how to cope with an emotional hangover.”) The idea here is that you’ve had a period of high stress, high anxiety, high emotion, but it’s passed now… and you’re still feeling spent and uneasy. So what is the best way to cope with an emotional hangover and find your equilibrium again?
We’ve had readers complaining because they’re out of the high-stress phase of their jobs and they still can’t sleep, can’t destress, and are otherwise still feeling the after effects of their high intensity period. US News calls this the “let-down effect,” when you get sick or rundown after the stress or anxiety has passed. Thought Catalog has a slightly cheekier take on it, asking, “Have you been feeling stuck lately? As if you’ve consumed several Long Island iced teas, but for your soul?”
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Obviously, talk therapy can help, as can some medications (we’ve talked before about how to make time for therapy), but some other ideas that may be of help:
How to Cope with an Emotional Hangover: Get Caught Up on Sleep
Do what you can to get caught up on sleep by enforcing good sleep hygiene, including as dark a room as possible (temporary blackout shades exist!) (affiliate link), avoiding screens the hour before bedtime, and, for some people, possibly something “extra” like listening to a sleep-related podcast (readers have shouted out Gentle Whispering Maria in the past!), weighted blankets, melatonin, or more.
Personally, I save brain candy books for bedtime to help take my brain off my day — if I’m trying to catch up on sleep I just have to be extra strict with myself to put the book down at the proper time. Here are our most recent posts on the different types of insomnia, how to optimize your sleep, and how to figure out why you’re exhausted and have no energy (because it could actually be a lot of things).
Some great sleep aids if you’re struggling with sleep issues…
Dealing With an Anxiety Hangover? Work It Out
Exercise can be a big help — personally I find that cardio helps the most when I’m stressed, but I like the focus that comes from lifting weights as well.
Oddly enough for me I find that more “restorative” exercises like yoga are harder for me when I’m stressed, particularly with an anxiety hangover like we’re talking about, because I get far too impatient during stretches and my mind starts going through anxiety loops.
Even just throwing yourself a 5-minute dance party can help. (Shake it off!)
Engage Your Senses To Deal With Lingering Stress
Every week during law school I went to the mall to shop — it was my primary way of destressing. I didn’t buy a lot of clothes, but I walked around, touched a lot of fabrics, looked at the colors and prints, and felt my mind drift away from whatever outline I was working on at the time. I didn’t even realize what I was doing, but at the time this was my way of engaging other senses — people who enjoy destressing by baking, particularly kneading dough.
(You can also steal a trick from the kiddos and make your own playdough, or look into the approximately ten thousand “stress fidgets” on the market today — you can play with some thinking putty, buy a fidget cube, or bliss out with some sand art (affiliate links).) This probably isn’t a “one and done” kind of thing, but it can help you manage stress and anxiety as you move throughout your life — this is the idea behind a “sensory diet,” and can help you from getting so stressed you can’t destress.
Journal and Process
I don’t know that I’ve written about it before, but something that often helps me process things that’s perhaps a bit unusual (woo) is to ask myself a question before I go to bed. In the case of a stress hangover, it might be something like, “why can’t I let this anxiety go,” or “why am I really stressed.” Really focus on the question as you fall asleep. Then, the first dream that you remember (it may take a few nights), interpret as the answer to your question.
(Or something that happens a lot to me is I wake up with a weird memory that I didn’t have before, and I interpret that memory as the answer to the question. For example, when I was in college and couldn’t decide whether to go to law school, I focused on the question of whether I should go, and woke up with the memory of how I’d really wanted to take karate lessons in the fifth grade but didn’t follow through because clearly it was too late for me and all the other kids would have been taking karate lessons for years and years at that point. Obviously, this was stupid thinking for a fifth grade… but the adjusted rationale — there’s always time to start something new — fit perfectly as the answer for my question about law school, which helped me stop feeling stressed about law school as an immediate thing I had to decide before I graduated.)
Readers, what are your thoughts — have you felt lingering stress or anxiety symptoms after an intense work period has ended? How have you cured with anxiety hangovers — and what is your best tips to cope with emotional hangovers?
(Another great option: meditative, artsy activities like coloring or cross stitch!)
- 13 Ways To Cure An Emotional Hangover [Thought Catalog]
- The Let-Down Effect: Why You Might Feel Bad After the Pressure Is Off [US News]
- Ways To Cure Your Stress Hangover [Mindful Living Network]
- What You Need to Know About Dealing With ‘Emotional Hangovers’ [The Mighty]
- Emotional Hangovers Are a Real Thing — Here’s How to Cure Them [SheKnows]
- How To Cure an Emotional Hangover [Talkspace]
- 9 Strategies to Cure Emotional Hangovers [Psychology Today]
Stock photo via Shutterstock / Dean Drobot.