Nursing a vulnerability hangover after opening up? How to power through it

Even if you didn’t touch a drop of alcohol last night, you may still be nursing a hangover of sorts.

A vulnerability hangover can feel just like a nasty bout of hangxiety, bringing up emotions like shame and sadness as well as a general sense of dread.

Only instead of beer causing your fear, a vulnerability hangover comes about after opening up emotionally, particularly if you shared things you normally keep to yourself.

The term was coined by storyteller and researcher Dr Brené Brown, and describes regret that can show itself after taking an ’emotional risk’. Rooted in worry we may be judged for baring our soul, it can last for hours or days depending on the gravity of the confessions made.

According to Dr Brown, you make yourself vulnerable ‘any time you put yourself out there when there’s a chance it can all go to hell,’ which can encompass everything from revealing a risky crush to showing off a creative endeavour.

‘When we open up to others we can feel worried about embarrassment, rejection or emotional invalidation,’ Dr Daniel Glazer, Psychologist and Co-Founder at UKTherapyRooms tells 

‘These feelings of shame around expressing emotion can also vary among cultures, contexts and genders.’

It’s perfectly normal to cringe after letting your guard down, but it can be helpful to see things from a different perspective.

The ‘beautiful mess effect’ describes the mismatch in the way we see others’ vulnerability – something that makes them human and builds bonds – compared to our own – something to be ridiculed. Try to remember this whenever you judge yourself harshly.

It’s not fun when you put yourself out there in some way and then your brain decides to tell you all the ways it could go wrong. Just another unique part of the human experience. ? BUT, that doesn’t mean vulnerability is a bad thing. Vulnerability is good, we just need to learn tools to regulate our nervous system to make it feel a little safer. #healingjourney #therapytiktok #howtoheal #vulnerability #vulnerabilityhangover #brenebrown #selfacceptance #selfcarepractices #nervoussystemregulation

‘It takes a lot of bravery to open up about your feelings, and doing so can create opportunities to grow and learn,’ says Dr Glazer.

‘By being vulnerable we open up opportunities for change, be it to our mental health or to our personal lives. And by sharing emotions you offer the opportunity for feedback, help from others, or for you to make changes to your life.’

Sometimes it’s also just a waiting game until you feel better, as Dr Glazer explains: ‘Like any hangover, this will hopefully reduce on its own – and over time you may learn that opening up about your feelings might not have the dreaded consequences you imagined.’

If there’s something underlying that’s exacerbating these after-effects, take some time to consider your personal values in relation to your reaction. Perhaps a negative societal attitude (like the ever-pernicious ‘boys don’t cry’) is fuelling it – and do you really want to hold onto ideologies that hurt you?

It may also be due to the person you spoke to invalidating your feelings, which is completely unfair but not your fault. Ideally you can turn to people who are supportive and non-judgemental, but if this option isn’t available to you right now, consider writing down what’s going through your head as an outlet.

To mitigate emotional hangovers in future, ‘consider what feels safe enough for you to share as well as with who,’ says Dr Glazer.

While dealing with the here and now, though, self-care is essential for powering through.

Dr Glazer adds: ‘Many people are prone to rumination, whether it is after a social event or a moment of vulnerability, where they experience a thought processing cycle which involves repetitive thinking about the moment and over-analysis of the situation.

‘Mindfulness can help in these instances – and this can be more formal mindfulness meditation or even walks in nature or yoga, where our focus can be brought back to the present moment when we notice it wandering to the worries.’

Then, if all else fails, just do what you’d do following a boozy night out: stick on a gooey movie, crack open the snacks, and block the bad thoughts out.

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