It’s all happened to us at one point or another – your alarm goes off on the morning of a big interview or test, and your heart is already racing just thinking about the day ahead. Morning anxiety is pretty common, especially in our high-stress modern lives, but it affects some people more than others.
One of my childhood friends is the very definition of a successful woman: she has a high-paying job in a respected industry, a fun and active social life, and a loving family. I thought she had it all. But during a brunch get-together, she confided in me that she wakes up every day with terrible anxiety.
What is morning anxiety?
In layman’s terms, morning anxiety is that feeling of stress or restlessness you get upon waking up. Instead of feeling excited or even just neutral about the day, you feel worried or unmotivated to start the day.
Anxiety is so common, everyone’s experienced it at least once in their lives. It’s healthy to have some level of anxiety, since it motivates you to prepare for things and work hard. However, once you find yourself excessively worrying about non-threatening daily tasks, anxiety can actually hold you back.
Anyone can get morning anxiety, but it’s much worse for people with anxiety disorders.
Why do I feel more anxious in the mornings?
Because different people worry about different things, your morning anxiety could have multiple causes.
Anxiety is often a reaction to stress triggers. You are more likely to wake up with anxiety in the morning if you have something to do that day that you’re not looking forward to, whether it’s a big project or some errands you’ve been putting off. You get anxiety when you feel unprepared or unmotivated to do something you know you have to.
Just like most other mental and physical issues, your diet could also be the culprit. Caffeine and sugar can aggravate anxiety symptoms. Having low blood sugar or being hungry could also make it worse.
Going to bed anxious means that you’re more likely to carry that over to the next day. You could also have vivid nightmares and dreams that make you feel a wide range of negative emotions, and bring those feelings into your waking life.
A lot of people suffering from anxiety also don’t get enough sleep. Thinking about our lives – like our financial or health situation – could keep you up at night. Not getting enough sleep means you’re more likely to wake up tired. Your alarm could also be a stress trigger, since it interrupts your natural sleep cycle and makes you more irritable and anxious in the mornings.
Symptoms of morning anxiety
If you regularly feel any of the following symptoms right after waking up, you might be suffering from morning anxiety.
The symptoms of morning anxiety include:
- Feeling irritable
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Spacing out or not being able to focus
- Difficulty controlling negative emotions
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Tightness in the chest
- High heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
How to deal with morning anxiety
Do you frequently wake up full of fear and dread? Here are some tips on how to cope with morning anxiety.
Allow yourself to feel it.
This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s not healthy to push away and ignore your feelings of anxiety. Instead, take a few minutes to acknowledge and feel what you’re really feeling. But you can’t allow yourself to wallow in it either; set a timer for 5-10 minutes, and once the time is up, go on to the next thing you have to do.
Get enough sleep.
You’ll wake up more relaxed and refreshed if you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep every night. You’ll also have more energy to get things done, which will reduce your anxiety in the future.
Stay away from processed foods and sugar, which could exacerbate some of your anxiety symptoms. Swap out coffee for a milder, calmer tea like chamomile or green tea.
Physical activity comes with a lot of benefits. Besides your overall health, exercise promotes the production of happy hormones in your body. It can also help you relieve stress and relax tense muscles. Plus, it will help make your body strong enough to combat physical anxiety symptoms.
Establish a healthy morning routine.
Anxiety can be caused by uncertainty, so a regular morning routine can help you start your day with something predictable and familiar. Stretch for a few minutes, take a shower, go for a walk, listen to music – your routine can be anything, as long as you stick to it.
Prepare the night before.
Lighten the load every morning by preparing in advance. Set aside your clothes or pack your lunch the night before, and you’ll have fewer things to worry about in the morning.
Sit down in a comfortable, quiet spot, and try to focus on your breathing. Even five minutes every morning can do wonders to clear your head. Refer to some of the best-guided anxiety meditation videos on Youtube.
Write about your feelings.
A journal is great, but even a piece of paper will do. Write down how you feel and why you think you feel that way. There’s no need to be eloquent or edit what you’ve written; this is for you and no one else. Being able to articulate your emotions gives you control over them. It will help you pinpoint exactly what you’re going through and why, instead of just feeling a general overwhelming anxiety.
Think of at least three things you’re looking forward to, or reasons why you’re grateful to be alive.
It can be as small as “eating that slice of cake in the fridge” to “having a solid support system in my friends and family”.
Thinking positive can prime your mind to be calm and relaxed throughout the day.
Finish a minor task.
If your daily tasks are the cause of your anxiety, finishing something easy can jumpstart your day with a sense of accomplishment. The key is to start small, like making your bed or throwing out the trash.
Write a to-do list.
Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you have to finish. Having a concrete to-do list will help you stay organized and on track. Plus, crossing an item off the list will provide some relief.
Resist the temptation to jump on your phone first thing in the morning.
Spend the first 30 minutes offline.
Don’t check your emails or social media. You can get a head start on your to-do list without accidentally wasting your entire morning scrolling through Facebook.
Talk to a therapist.
If your anxiety is already negatively impacting your life, talk to someone. There’s no shame in admitting that you need professional help. A therapist will be able to get to the cause of your anxiety and come up with the appropriate treatment plan, whether that involves additional coping strategies or medication.
Most of us aren’t morning people to begin with, but morning anxiety makes going about our day even more difficult than it has to be. Fear not – morning anxiety and depression doesn’t have to be a daily reality. There are many things you can do to stop waking up stressed or worried. Hope this article has helped you find ways to stop anxiety in the morning.