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Last Wednesday was, without a doubt, one of the most monumental days of my life.
In those 24 hours, two things I never imagined would ever occur in my life both took place. I appeared on the Ten Percent Happier podcast with Dan Harris on Wednesday morning, and that evening, I was featured on Nightline.
Freaking amazing, right?
I should have been on top of the world Thursday morning. Flying high and just over the moon with excitement.
An incredibly strange thing happened instead. I found myself in the midst of the worst hangover I’ve ever had in my life even though I haven’t drank in over six years. This was worse than anything alcohol ever made me feel.
This was an emotional hangover. A personal vulnerability hangover.
Why wasn’t I grinning from ear to ear and just buoyant from such incredible achievements? WTF was going on here? And how do we get through an emotional hangover so that we can actually enjoy and appreciate those achievements?
I took a minute to look back and analyze just what had happened and understand why I felt so bereft after such a momentous day.
An emotional hangover occurs after going through a particularly stressful day. Our bodies can’t differentiate between good stress and bad stress. And we all know that the good comes with the bad. We look forward to going on vacation but the lead-up—planning, preparing, and packing—often leaves us exhausted before we’ve even hit the road.
That’s exactly what happened here. The appearances were the culmination, the achievement. The high point. Getting there though was incredibly stressful. I have incredible appreciation for the process behind these productions now and how much work goes into producing a seven or eight-minute segment of news.
So, there was the physical stress from just the sheer amount of leg work required to make these things happen but the bigger component at play here was the mental game. The personal vulnerability that, by doing this, I was exposing myself to. What spin would they take with the stories? How would what I was saying be received? What if I end up just making a fool of myself and letting everyone down?
Now take that emotional stress and multiply it by two.
It’s no wonder that I was having trouble getting to the celebration. I was bogged down in the five o’clock traffic that was swirling through my brain.
Knowing why I was feeling the way I did helped some, but I really did want to be able to get to enjoying what I had just experienced. How can we take something stressful and process it in a way that allows us to get past the hangover and find value in it?
For me, that comes back to the three layers of emotion:
You have the Affect, Meaning, and Judgment.
Affect is our physical feelings. We are born with those—hunger, thirst, pain, anxiety, fatigue, etcetera. Control of our physical feelings is somewhat limited. We can respond to those needs, but we can’t altogether prevent them.
So, I certainly had some physical feelings in response to the stress I’d experienced. Oddly enough, those physical feelings were quite similar to what an alcohol-induced hangover would feel like. Anxiety, fatigue, and even pain as the tension in my muscles let itself be known. It’s amazing how our bodies physically react to emotional triggers.
The next layer is meaning. Meaning is where things can get messy and increase the affect—the physical feelings. Meaning is derived from all of our past experiences or future expectations. It is where we give that physical feeling meaning. I could pick which past experiences to derive meaning from here.
In all my years of doing this, I’ve really only had one or two times where an article didn’t portray This Naked Mind or The Alcohol Experiment in the positive light I’d been hoping for. Hundreds of others have been supportive and helped encourage so many other people to curb their drinking.
Once I processed that thought pattern, I could look more objectively at the affects I was feeling and choose which meaning to assign them.
Fatigue was easy—I was tired from the sheer amount of work that had gone into these experiences and also from the anxiety that had probably caused a few sleepless nights along the way. Next, the anxiety I had needed to be processed. What meaning could I assign there and where would it take me?
My anxiety could be attributed to believing that after these shows aired, everyone was going to come after us. Our inboxes would be flooded with angry messages, we’ll be lambasted with hateful comments on social media, and everyone on our team will just feel so let down after we had all worked so hard.
Or my anxiety could be because our message could potentially help so many people to change their relationship with alcohol, and I’m so excited for those people and to see that all the hard work we put in has come to fruition.
Talk about a difference in meanings there!
If I went with option A, all the negative affects I was feeling would just increase. I was going to be stuck in this cycle of stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. However, if I chose option B, the fatigue and the pain would fade away with a good night’s sleep. Meanwhile, the anxiety would be alleviated by seeing and hearing the success stories as people heard our message and reached out for help.
Finally, the last layer is judgment. That is where we take these emotions, these affects, and the meaning we are feeling, and we judge ourselves for it.
I like deconstructing emotions this way—even in the midst of an incredible emotional hangover—because it’s incredibly empowering to realize that we have such power and control even after such stressful situations.
If I’d chosen option A in meaning and continued the negative spin our minds are chemically wired to choose, the judgment I assigned to it would have also been negative. I’d be beating myself up for failing myself and those around me. I’d have a major case of imposter syndrome and would probably be loathsome to even continue on helping people in this way.
Thankfully, because I allowed myself to talk it out, to deconstruct my emotions, and to process everything that had just occurred, I chose option B and my judgment was way more positive. I gave myself the grace to feel nervous and anxious for what was to come—after all, how many normal people like me can say they appeared on two major media outlets like that in one single day? I don’t do things like this daily so it stands to reason that I’d have some anxiety during this and after.
And my next judgment was pride. I was incredibly proud to be given the opportunity to do this. To have so many people believe in me and my message that they wanted to hear more about it and that hopefully it would inspire so many more to join in The Alcohol Experiment, to talk about their relationship with alcohol, and to choose emotional hangovers over alcohol-induced ones in the future.
The great thing is that after processing an emotional hangover, you can find the joy and the happiness from what you just experienced without setting yourself up for another hangover. I could never say the same when sipping a mimosa to get over a hangover from the night before.
If you’re ready to kiss your hangovers goodbye, consider joining us in The Alcohol Experiment. You will receive encouraging and mindset shifting daily videos and emails and an incredible community of 200,000+ people also experimenting with their alcohol intake. It is completely free (and always will be) at The Alcohol Experiment.
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