Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.
But when it happens often when you find yourself waking up before your alarm clock, contemplating and worrying over everything you have to accomplish that day, it can be exhausting. You might find yourself wishing you could just open your eyes and start your day when you wake up without your chest tightening.
Instead, your morning anxiety has you staring at the ceiling with your heart racing and your stomach turning because of your negative thoughts, all before you’ve even had your morning coffee.
After a while, this can take a serious toll on your mental health, so it’s important to address it efficiently.
Having anxiety in the morning can stem from work, school, or relationship issues. It’s also possible that a person who wakes up feeling anxious could be experiencing symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), as well.
So, how do we stop waking up with anxiety in the morning? Let’s look at the possible causes first.
What causes you to wake up with anxiety?
If you have a stressful day ahead, it’s normal to wake up with a bit of anxiety. It’s also possible that if you go to bed worried and stressed, you will also wake up feeling that way as well.
As you contemplate everything you have to do and, additionally, everything that could go wrong, it can leave you with a sense of dread that you might not shake until later. These thoughts can easily be traced back to the cause of your symptoms of anxiety.
However, biologically, there is also a reason for this: the cortisol awakening response (CAR).
Cortisol awakening response (CAR)
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone.
When we wake up, cortisol levels naturally spike within our bodies, causing us to feel these stress hormones as we wake up. Unfortunately, this is our body’s natural response to waking up and getting prepared for another day.
The levels are highest during the first hour we are awake, which, in turn, is usually when we are getting dressed, having our morning coffee, and thinking, which can also be a source of stress.
Caffeine can exacerbate stress, so it’s essential to have a great morning routine to balance out some of those hormones that contribute to morning anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Additionally, those who wake up with anxiety can also be experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Having an anxiety disorder is different from feeling generally anxious. Anxiety stems typically from an apparent cause or event, while a disorder can cause the person to feel anxious for days, weeks, and months, both before and after an event.
GAD is a feeling of worry that affects every facet of that person’s life. This feeling can be associated with everything from finances to relationships, safety, and health.
Those who have a family history of anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to developing one over time. It’s important to talk to a professional if this is the case, or you may suspect that your anxiety lasts longer than normal.
Symptoms of morning anxiety
Anxiety is usually associated with both physical and mental cues.
Here are some symptoms of anxiety in the morning:
- feeling on edge
- lack of concentration
- tightness in the chest
- tense muscles
- constricted breathing
- difficulty calming down from the stress/worry
- sweaty palms
- fatigue or exhaustion
- Stomach aches and diarrhea
These symptoms can stem from both generalized anxiety disorders, CAD, and feelings of morning panic.
How to calm morning anxiety
Although morning anxiety can feel like something you will never combat because life continues to throw curveballs at your mental health, it is possible to adapt your routine to lessen the feelings associated.
If you struggle with morning anxiety, take a look at these tips and see which ones you can implement to wake up feeling better.
Acknowledge your anxiety
Acknowledgment is often the first step when trying to understand your feelings. Try not to shove your anxiety and the symptoms it brings under the rug.
Although you may want just to ignore them and get your day started to the best of your ability, it’s important to realize where or what the feelings may be stemming from, so you can address them effectively.
Get better sleep
You may be familiar with YouTubers that share their calming night routines in vlogs. Although it can seem mostly for aesthetics, some of these activities to “decompress” before bed are highly effective in curbing stress and anxiety.
To get ready for the morning, try not to spend a lot of time scrolling on your phone as you’re getting prepared to go to sleep. Not only is the blue light harmful, as it can keep you awake for longer but ingesting negative social media articles before bed can feed your anxiety.
Try a relaxing cup of tea and a book in lower lighting so that your body can start to associate these calming activities with sleep.
Stray from turning to alcohol or other forms of self-medication to get a better night’s sleep, as this can lead to a form of addiction if not addressed or monitored.
Follow a morning routine
In addition to a nighttime routine, a morning routine can also be incredibly beneficial. Instead of all of our worries being the first thing in the morning that we think about, we can associate the morning with a yummy breakfast and quiet time with ourselves before work or school.
Anxiety can be triggered by excessive caffeine intake. While coffee may make you feel more ready for the day you have ahead, it can also give you some of the symptoms associated with anxiety, such as increased pulse and difficulty concentrating. Try a decaf alternative or switch to tea or matcha to lessen that chance.
Additionally, low blood sugar can also cause us to feel stressed. Eating breakfast before you start your day can be helpful to control anxiety and its symptoms.
Exercise is an excellent form of self-treatment for symptoms associated with morning anxiety.
If possible, try to get in a small exercise session in the morning, anywhere from 20-45 minutes can be beneficial, a few days a week. Not only will this do great things for your physical health, but your mental, as well.
If you’re not a morning person, you can also exercise another time of day. The benefits are moving your body and regulating your nervous system to control your anxiety and the symptoms it produces.
Anxiety introduces a plethora of racing thoughts.
When we are anxious, our body is in constant fight or flight mode, which essentially means it senses danger, even if there is none present. It can be hard to focus on anything when our minds are constantly running on negative thoughts in this way.
If we focus on the present, we are less likely to worry about life events that are further away, as anxious people are generally worried days or weeks before something happens.
Practicing mindfulness is a great form of self-care and can be accomplished in a few different ways:
If your anxious thoughts feel as though they are inescapable, try writing them down. When you get these thoughts from your head to the page, they can feel more tangible and easier to deal with.
This is an excellent practice for the morning time. Instead of lying in bed awake, try to spend a few minutes addressing your concerns for the day.
First, what is stressing you currently? Then, what are some easy ways to combat the stress you are feeling? Validating or acknowledging these feelings by writing them out can help you to overcome them eventually.
In addition to journaling how you feel, you can also try writing down a list of tasks you need to accomplish that day to save yourself some worry later. If you have everything already planned out, there’s less surprise or uncertainty about what needs to be done.
Meditation helps us focus our minds and our breathing which, in turn, can help calm our anxiety.
Try to take 5-10 minutes after you wake up to get into a quiet headspace. You can repeat a calming phrase to yourself or picture a landscape that gives you a sense of peace.
These few moments can curb some lingering anxiety from the night before and even help with the raised cortisol levels that the morning brings.
Another form of meditation, or breath focus, can come from doing yoga.
Yoga can be a form of exercise for both the body and the mind. Most classes or videos suggest that you try to clear your mind as you settle into the moves, which can help you relax and manage some of the stress you feel.
It can seem intimidating at first, but there are plenty of classes and poses for beginners. Some poses focus on flexibility, so it can be a great alternative to stretching after you wake up!
Seek professional advice
Of course, if you are new to the techniques mentioned above, it may take you a second to get your footing and feel the benefits they offer.
However, if you feel that your morning anxiety won’t lessen despite your efforts or that it gets worse, it can be beneficial to seek the help of a professional. They can help pinpoint possible causes of morning anxiety and better ways to deal with feeling anxious.
If you find yourself waking up to racing thoughts and an uncontrollable sense of dread before you’ve even gotten out of bed, you may be experiencing morning anxiety.
Waking up with anxiety can be exhausting. Although it can occur in those without an existing anxiety disorder, it can stem from existing mental conditions and exacerbate some of those symptoms, accelerated breathing and pulse, chest tightness, etc.
Although anxiety symptoms can seem like a never-ending battle, there are some things we can do to try every day to help. Meditation and exercise are incredibly beneficial and journaling our anxious thoughts and getting better sleep by following a morning or night routine.
Remember that uncertainties are a part of life and that it’s okay to be afraid of what they may bring. When those worries consume our lives and keep us from living fully, they become a source of negativity and can develop into a disorder.
Seek advice from a health care professional who can help you understand some of your anxiety symptoms and get you on the path to long-lasting mental health.