How to Cure an Emotional Hangover

Dr. Purushothaman
January 13, 2014


Seven Steps to Curing an Emotional Hangover:
1. Recognize it. We tend to overreact when something happens to us that we don't understand. Once you've accepted that you'll experience these hangovers from time to time, they become much more manageable. It's never fun to feel sad or anxious, especially when you have no idea why. Knowing and understanding why is always half the battle. Next time you feel this way, assess your symptoms and come to grips with it. Nothing else can be done until this happens.

2. Try to Understand it. Get out your journal and start writing. If you don't have one, then now's the time to stop into a bookstore and pick one up. I recommend a Moleskine. I write more when I'm alone after a big event than any other time. Write down what happened over the past few days. What was so exciting, invigorating and memorable about your experiences and interactions? What do you wish you could continue? Who do you want to see again? Maybe there's even a special girl or guy you connected with-this will make the hangover especially intense and makes understanding it even more important.

3. Get Grateful and Dive into an Emotional Flood. Right along with understanding it comes being massively grateful for your experience. For the people, the stories, the fun and the excitement. What are you proud of from the event? What went right? Who made you feel special and how? Now expand it outside of this event to your life in general. Who are you so thankful to have in your life? What life situations, emotions and interactions could you not live without? Write them down. See them in your mind. Picture the sounds, the voices, colors, pictures, smells. Soak it all in. Flood yourself with positive emotions. Spend at least 5-10 minutes but perhaps an hour or more. The longer the better. When you're feeling intensely grateful, it's very difficult to feel negative emotions like fear and stress.

4. Move and Breathe. This is my solution to most challenging things I come up against. Stress and anxiety can be caused by something as simple as taking short quick breaths and focusing on the wrong things. Oxygenate your body and your mind. Take some big deep breaths. Start by walking and breathing. Maybe 5 counts in, hold for 20 counts and 10 counts out. Then really start to move. Go for a run, do some yoga or hop on your mountain bike. You pick. Ideally stay outside where it's fresh and the scenery is soothing. Just about everything feels better after a workout. Who cares what it is. Just move. This can be an excellent time to get grateful too. There's nothing wrong with doing them at the same time. This isn't a bad way to cure a normal hangover either.

5. Eat Foods that Serve You. Most of you know what this means. Do things that support your body and your mind. Eating is one of those things where your actions can be so dramatically different based on whether you're thinking short term or long term. If you're stuck in your hangover, you're likely to treat your body poorly. But if you've just gone for a nice run and gotten incredibly grateful, you'll want to nurture your body properly. Just take Michael Pollan's advice and eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I would stick to mainly water-rich vegetables. Grab a big salad and a nice glass of water. Easy on the meat, cheese and cream dressing though. If you already feel emotionally heavy, those will feel like adding a 50lb weight to your back. Your body and emotions will thank you.

6. Ease Back Into it. When feeling drained, alone and down and out from one of these hangovers, the immediate thought is to get around more people. You're craving stimulation so this is natural. Just like an alcoholic will tell you the quickest way to feel better after too many drinks is to drink a little more (you can imagine how slippery that slope can be), that only prolongs the inevitable. If you over stimulated for a few days then take your medicine. Be by yourself and take time to understand your emotions.

My first thought after my emotional hangover was to set up dinner plans with someone, anyone. I racked my brain with whom to meet. Then I stopped myself and decided to enjoy a nice meal out all alone. I had my journal and a book. That was all I needed. You will be craving connection. Resist the urge to start calling, texting, tweeting or facebooking. None of that chatter will help for more than a few seconds. Then you'll want even more. Be happy being alone for a while. Then reconnect slowly by finding a close friend or significant other.

7. Be Conscious for Next Time. Now that you understand a bit more about your emotions, what happened and how you properly dealt with it, be aware of the fact that it will happen again. As sure as you'll spend more time with people you care about, you'll have another emotional hangover. There is nothing wrong with this. Unlike the ones that come from too much booze, I believe an emotional hangover is a perfectly normal and healthy part of the human spirit.

The path to improvement often starts with experiencing, followed by understanding and finishing with action.

We all have experienced emotional hangovers to some extent. Maybe yours are trigged by things different than mine. Take some time to understand what leaves you feeling empty so you can recognize it and take action.

Most people fear and dread what they don't understand. This can trigger quite the unhealthy emotional cycle. Crush the fear with understanding. Take a few minutes right now to write down what you've noticed produces your emotional hangovers. Realize what you've done to exacerbate or remedy them. Have a plan for what you'll do next time.

And do yourself a favor. Don't be so hard on yourself next time you feel your emotions have overdosed on the one thing we all crave-human stimulation and connection. After all, that's the best part of life.

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