The sex hangover

GW-blog-image-adventure hangover

It’s seven in the morning. You’re waking up and something doesn’t feel right: your head is pounding, you feel sad; you just want to pull the blankets over your head and never get out of bed again. What’s happening?

We all know what a hangover feels like – that unpleasant combination of tiredness, dehydration and nausea is one almost all of us have experienced at some point in our lives. It makes us declare ‘never again!’ to our friends the next day, as we’re downing coffee (or Berocca.) And then as soon as the opportunity arises, we’re back out there again having fun. That’s how it works for me, anyway.

Sometimes I see my clients in such a headspace, and it’s not always about drinking. As I’m getting ready to leave a booking I’ll notice sadness about them, or hear about it the next day when we exchange post-booking emails. Sometimes I discuss it with new clients, who describe feeling down the day after seeing someone new. There’s more than one type of hangover. Here are the most common…

The Regular (Drinking) Hangover

Do your kidneys hurt? Got a headache? Feeling tired? Did you drink a lot last night, and have a lot of sweaty, energetic sex? You may have a regular old hangover. Drink lots of water and take your vitamins! You’ll feel an improvement within hours.

Although it’s common to want to have a few drinks to steady the nerves before a big date, sometimes the experience can be more fun when you’re closer to sober. Maybe consider how many it too many, next time you’re in the same situation?

The Adventure Hangover

The idea of a ‘comfort zone’ – that place that feels easy and familiar and habitual – is pervasive in self-help literature. We’re always being told to ‘step out of your comfort zone’, as though we’re not living unless we’re continually pushing ourselves to be adventurous. I agree with this principle in theory – there’s nothing more important than challenging yourself. But I think the idea lacks balance. Not only do we need time inside our ‘comfort zones’ to recharge, there is also the possibility of stepping too far out. When we move beyond what is familiar we are exposed and vulnerable. It’s a great experience but there’s also danger – the unknown, the possibility of things going wrong. Committing to this risk is necessary if we want to gain new and rewarding experiences. But is there such a thing as ‘too vulnerable’, ‘too scared’ or ‘too challenged’? I think there is.

This is what we call the ‘edge’ of our experience. It’s great to push into new territory – going to a new social event, or asking someone out on a date. For others it might take the form of trying a new kink, or putting yourself out there with a work of art, an idea at work, a business venture, or a new piece of writing (yes, I’m referring to myself here!) How far we push, or how scary things get, is a matter for our own judgement. If we step out a little we feel challenged. If we step too far, we may find ourselves feeling fearful.

Fear exists for a reason: to keep us safe. I have a friend who is continually pushing himself past his fear, as he believes it’s the only way to overcome it. Men in particular are taught that it’s important to be courageous, to challenge their fears or possibly even deny that the fear exists at all. Guys aren’t even supposed to feel scared, right? Except that they do – we all do. Fear is there to protect us. It is our bodies’ way of telling us that we may be moving into dangerous territory, and it’s time to put some risk management practices into place.

Whenever my friend comes up against a situation where he feels fear, he forces himself through it. Often this is in social situations, especially sexual situations. Sometimes he uses drugs or alcohol to take the edge off his fear so that he can keep going. I don’t think this is a good idea. Fear is there as a warning sign – not necessarily to stop, but to evaluate safety before we move forwards. It might be letting us know we are moving too far out of our comfort zones, and exposing ourselves to physical or emotional risk.

What happens when we step too far out? This is the aforementioned ‘adventure hangover’, the thing that happens when you’ve gone and done something ‘crazy’ and you’re feeling the repercussions. For a lot of my friends, stepping ‘too far out’ means trying a challenging kink that they haven’t done before, rushing into social situations without the necessary time to prepare, or getting sexual with someone new before trust has been established. For my clients, it could mean meeting an escort for the first time – it can be a super scary experience. Are you beating yourself up a bit the next day? Do you feel like you took things a bit too fast?

And adventure hangover isn’t a sign of failure. In fact, it shows that your body and mind are working as they should, to protect you from experiences that might be too much. Treat it as a learning experience – you may have stepped too far out of the circle, but you learned something about your limits.

We need to take things at a safe pace. Move back to a ‘comfortable level of discomfort’ and you may find that in months or years, the thing that seemed ‘too scary’ and gave you such a bad hangover will become natural and comfortable.

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