January 1, 2017. Some of us may be feeling virtuous and optimistic, either because we drove to the party the night before, we are teetotal, or are one of the lucky 28 percent who don’t experience hangovers.
For the rest of us – this Spa Spy included – every new year begins with a bit of a sore head. With at least 20 New Years under my belt, I still haven’t worked out how to prevent this sorry state of affairs. Even having children and a mortgage doesn’t seem to change anything: hence the hangover’s over-riding feeling of remorse, the feeling that I have enacted a Greek Tragedy when all that occurred was some embarrassing mum dancing and telling friends (plus a few vague acquaintances and a couple of people I just met) how much I love them.
Of course, we’re not supposed to drink so much, but it’s hard to say ‘no’ when you are imbibing something that, by its nature, suppresses your ability to say ‘no’. One idea inspired by Guy Pearce’s character in the movie Memento would be to tattoo reminders on one’s body – ie 'mixing champagne with red wine makes you sick' on your drinking hand, or 'you are a 38-year-old-mother-of-two' upside down on a thigh, so I might see it when I go to the toilet.
I could just not drink (insert scream emoji). Sometimes, I toy with the idea that I could be the one to offer to drive, then – after some internal wrestling – abandon it, mostly because, well, when else do I get to dance to pop tunes with people my own age? The eve of the new year is surely not the time to be sensible.
And nor is the dawn of the new year. The first tip to coping with a New Year's Day hangover – do not attempt to stick to resolutions today. Do not detox, diet, or indulge in any form of self-flagellation. Today is a day to love yourself, and maybe your family if they’re not being too annoying. If they are, head to your nearest spa.
Here are the Spa Spy's hangover tips, to be conducted at an actual spa if you are smart enough to book one for New Year’s Day, or at home if you can barely walk.
Fact: there is no cure. More than 3,000 years ago, the ancient Indian medical textbook Susrata Samhita mentioned a post-drinking condition with no known cure, calling it paramada. Millennia later, the NHS states “Hangover cures are generally a myth.”
You have a hangover and it will depart in its own sweet time. What matters now is how you ride it.
2. Love yourself
Ignore the critical voices in your head: you had fun and fun hurts. “Research shows that people who are able to be kind to themselves rather than harshly self-critical tend to have better mental health and higher life satisfaction,” says Dr Mark Williamson, Director of think tank Action for Happiness
An Ayurvedic consultant at CHI, The Spa in the Maldives told me to hug myself and say I love you three times every morning. He wasn’t talking about a hangover cure at the time, but since shame plays its part in morning-after misery, a self-hug might be just the thing.
3. Call your friends
Generally, I find laughing at human foibles lessens the pain: which is possibly the basis of all comedy as well as good friendships. Friends love and share your peccadilloes, helping us to love them too.
4. Embrace hygge
Pronounced ‘hoogah’ this is the Danish approach to winter, which is basically cosying up and eating what you want. As my fellow Spa Spies said when I called out for hangover cures: Netflix, duvet and crisps. Fill your home with the healing scents of a spa candle to disguise the aroma of sloth.
5. Get up
Having said that, wrapping yourself up in your duvet, as desirable as it seems, only prolongs the hangover. Behaving like you’re ill reaffirms the feelings, so get up, take a shower (sitting down if you must), have a body scrub to get your circulation moving. At some point take yourself outside and go for a walk, even if it’s to the shops and back to stock up on hibernation treats. Then curl up on the sofa and pretend it’s night-time already.
6. Hair of the dog
The oldest known cure tends to divide opinion. The argument for is that a dose of booze the day after stops your body metabolising methanol into toxins such as formaldehyde and formic acid – this is what makes you ill. A glass of prosecco while wallowing in a spa whirlpool of self-pity might help take the edge off. Having said that, the NHS site says doctors advise you wait 48 hours before you drink again, giving your body tissues time to recover, and generally advises against getting into the habit of drinking alcohol in the morning.
Hangovers dehydrate, so you need to rehydrate. Drink water, coconut milk (contains electrolytes) and bouillon broth (contains potassium, salt and various minerals). Most importantly if you don’t want to look like a member of The Walking Dead, rehydrate your skin with a face mask. Either head to the spa to have it done properly, or try these products. Your skin will thank you.
8. Eat unhealthily
The Romans ate raw owls’ eggs, the ancient Assyrians believed in the power of ground bird beaks and myrrh, while Mongol warriors ate pickled sheep’s eyes. It is said that fried food makes you feel better, while eating carb-heavy meals helps restore blood sugars to normal. Some people swear by smoothies and juices, others by caffeine-rich fizzy drinks and painkillers. I have tried everything, but nothing heals better than…
Which is an argument for sleeping, or spa-ing off your hangover. Let’s just say 2017 begins on January 2nd.