Forget Hanxiety, Go Make Something Instead
Written by: JoAnne Pearce
I used to waste a lot of energy worrying what other people thought of me. Did they like me? Did I say the right things? The wrong things?
These concerns would be particularly prevalent when I was battling a hangover. The right cocktail of shame and depleted brain chemistry after a big night could tie me up in knots for an entire weekend. I would hide in bed, obsessively going over everything that happened, or as much as I could remember of it. Did that joke land right? Should I apologize? Ok, I’ll apologize by text. Wait, was that weird? Can you delete a text after sending it? Crap.
Hangxiety doom spirals are no fun. They are also a lot of work.
We’ve already talked about what alcohol does to your brain chemistry to increase feelings of stress, and how a terrible night’s sleep doesn’t help. Despite feeling like tired, wet, hot garbage after a big night, though, it was impressive how much energy I could muster up to self-flagellate and fixate on all my perceived failings. My head would be full of bees and even my blood would be buzzing, like I was powered by a battery that was leaking acid.
This is not the part where I’m going to tell you that quitting drinking will cure your anxiety. It hasn’t fixed mine. I still worry what people think of me, and I still find myself doom spiraling from time to time. The difference is that it happens way less often, and the main reason for this (other than the fact that I’ve stopped playing with my brain chemistry like a kid with gasoline and matches) is that I’m too busy doing cool and interesting stuff.
If you understood the assignment from day five, which was to pursue everything you find compelling or pleasurable for one month, then you will by default start discovering some new (or forgotten) passions and hobbies. Eventually, once you get past the first groggy few days of a sober challenge, you will start looking for something to fill all the extra time that you have. For me, this was mocktails.
It will never cease to astonish me how the universe rewards the curious. Pull at the threads that the universe dangles in front of you, and it will reveal tapestries.
What started as a hobby to kill time and nervous energy at happy hour, has lead me to finding my own personal ikigai. This is the Japanese concept of purpose, where you locate the apex of four intersecting qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. Quitting drinking allowed me to funnel all that anxious energy into one passion project, and I haven’t had a boring day since.
There are drawbacks to monetizing one’s hobbies, and the entrepreneur life isn’t for everyone. I have watched sober friends make such beautiful use of their new time and energy, without striving to make a single cent. They tap dance. They keep bees. They roller skate. They write stories. They make art. They pursue what they love because they love it, and that is enough.
Removing a habit from your life, even if only temporarily, means that you are ready to make space for something new. Taking a month to give yourself more time and high quality rest will inevitably mean that you will want to channel your energy into rewarding pursuits, especially since you will be looking for other ways to scratch that dopamine itch. This month, make use of that energy you would have wasted feeling fuzzy-headed or filled with hanxiety, and go make something instead.
Image credits: Burak The Weekender, Cottonbro Studio, Ketut Subiyanto, Andrew Paul