For some, mornings are blissful parts of the day when you get to have a second for yourself before daily chores swallow you whole. However, the blissfulness of such routines can be ruined by seemingly unexplainable morning anxiety.
It can cause your heart rate to rise and fill your mind with scary thoughts that have no merit. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Table of Contents
- 1. Do I Have Morning Anxiety?
- 2. Morning Anxiety: More than Waking Up in a Bad Mood
- 3. What Causes Anxiety in the Morning?
- 4. Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine and Fend Off Anxiety in the Morning
- 5. Fight off the Increase of Cortisol
- 6. Changing Your Mindset
- 7. Caffeine is Not Always Your Best Friend
- 8. Get a Pet: a Companion to Improve Your Mornings
- 9. Faith as a Way to Battle Stress
- 10. Possible Behavioral Changes You Can Make Today
- 11. You Can Get Through This!
Do I Have Morning Anxiety?
You now might think: I wake up anxious and irritated almost every morning! Do I have morning anxiety? Not necessarily. Many people might simply feel annoyed because they have to get up early for work or face some unpleasant events in their schedule.
Nevertheless, morning anxiety is very real (not a made-up monster), and people should be informed about how to deal with it safely and effectively. If you are waking up anxious, do not let it define your life any longer. However, before we jump to possible solutions, let’s figure out the meaning and symptoms of anxiety in the morning.
Morning Anxiety: More than Waking Up in a Bad Mood
Let’s briefly discuss a scenario relatable to people that battle the morning monster with every breaking dawn and ask: why do I wake up with anxiety?
A loud alarm clock wakes you up. Startled, you look around and try to turn it off.
Soon enough, you feel anxiety creeping in, together with some negative sensations. You start to sweat. Might experience some “lovely” panic attacks that make you feel exhausted before the day even begins. You might also feel on the verge of throwing up or suffer from stomachaches. You feel hot and start gasping for air.
Such hot, panicky, and devastating mornings are a regular nightmare for many people. However, waking up with anxiety is not something that you should accept as the norm. It can get better. And you are not alone! Many people suffer from anxiety in the morning, with the intensity of their condition ranging from mild to severe. Here are some common symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Inability to eat or throwing up immediately after eating
- Racing heart
- Intense fear that something might go wrong
- Paranoia about events and plans
- Extensive sweating
What Causes Anxiety in the Morning?
But why do I wake up with anxiety? In some cases, uncontrollable anxiety might be related to the hormone levels in your body. Yes, science can explain the symptoms of morning anxiety by connecting it to cortisol.
The latter hormone is responsible for many vital processes in our bodies: digestion, hunger, sleep/wake patterns, the way you handle stressful situations, etc. Therefore, cortisol has a nickname of “stress hormone”.
Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the University of Southampton explains that the “increased levels of cortisol in the morning might reflect an enhanced need for energy to meet demands.”
Additionally, the researchers from Southampton suggested that “it is likely that individuals with an excessive number of duties and tasks already engage in the process of coping with these duties as soon as they wake up in the morning.”
Therefore, researchers concluded that this process would make the person feel stressed and increase circadian cortisol very early in the day.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc., for people suffering from morning anxiety, the most important thing is identifying the issue. The healing journey can come from a simple realization: I am not crazy. My feelings are just a simple physical response to the hormones in my body.
Of course, this realization might and probably won’t be enough, but it is a start. You need to start somewhere, right?
One of the most unexpected cases I have read included an unexpected culprit behind the symptoms of morning anxiety: a new mattress. It has been reported that some mattresses cause the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC) that might cause symptoms similar to morning anxiety: dizziness, nausea, sweating, etc.
Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine and Fend Off Anxiety in the Morning
Waking up anxious might seem illogical for people who do not experience it. Lucky folks, you might think. Just relax, they say. Stop feeling anxious, they suggest. A piece of mind-blowing advice that is guaranteed to cure you, right?
However, the more you think about how not to feel anxious, the more anxious you will become. If you wake up and feel the calm mindset quickly slipping away, you should not focus on the fact that you are about to feel anxious.
Instead, there are some effective tips that people recommend as a distraction. In some cases, you might need to change your regime and adapt it to a healthier lifestyle. It won’t be easy: stopping morning anxiety from attacking you takes some determination and a serious change of attitude.
Fight off the Increase of Cortisol
Cortisol is a natural part of your body. As I have mentioned, it controls many processes, but people mostly relate it to stress, mood, motivation, and fear. Normally, the cortisol increases under stress, but when the worrying situation passes, it is supposed to return to its regular levels.
But what happens if you are constantly stressed? Then, the increased levels of cortisol might cause anxiety, especially in the morning, when they are already bound to be higher than usual. Specialists list several tips that are supposed to help you manage the levels of cortisol in your body.
- Get enough sleep every night. It would be best to sleep for 7–9 hours to keep yourself energized. Sleep deprivation might be one of the reasons behind higher levels of cortisol as well.
- Start taking advantage of various relaxation exercises that can help you feel more at ease. One study proved that deep breathing could be very helpful. Another research revealed the benefits of massage therapy in terms of reducing the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and, yes, cortisol. You can also try yoga or meditation.
- Music is the answer. Tapping your foot to a pleasant rhythm is not the only thing you can do. You can also lower your cortisol levels by listening to calm music or whatever floats your boat. After autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) became a trend, you can easily find videos to soothe and calm you down.
Changing Your Mindset
Survivors of the morning anxiety often claim that they needed to change their mindset to get better. Your mind and body construct the horrible fear you experience every morning. Therefore, you should understand the techniques that work for you to reduce the unpleasant sensations.
If you are waking up with anxiety for a long time, you might start to trigger your anxiety by being afraid of the state it puts you in. It is a vicious circle: the more you fear anxiety, the more likely it is to make you crumble like a cookie.
Never blame yourself. I am mad. There is something wrong with me. I want to crawl into a hole. Instead, you should replace these negative statements with something positive.
Yes, I am anxious, but I know how to deal with it. Anxiety is normal. I can use my relaxation techniques. I can calm down. I am in control.
Many people who wake up to morning anxiety as their flatmate indicate the upcoming events of the day as the main trigger for anxiety. Specialists recommend focusing your thoughts on the present. Think about your current actions. For instance, look outside the window, smell your favorite perfume, focus on the taste of your food, or simply pay attention to your breathing.
For some, positive thinking is much harder to achieve. Therefore, you might want to consult experienced therapists that will help you treat your anxiety disorder and function without unnecessary fears and doubts. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a recommended option. In this case, a psychotherapy treatment would help you change your attitude towards morning anxiety and help you cope.
Caffeine is Not Always Your Best Friend
Coffee is one of the glorified hot beverages. It becomes the companion of many, especially since caffeine is capable of helping you get through a hard day. People boast about drinking three cups a day and post beautiful Instagram pictures with other caffeine-filled foods or drinks. However, this substance is not only addictive but also the fuel for anxiety.
Caffeine can make you even more nervous or lead to panic attacks. Therefore, one of the best practices would be not to overuse caffeine-packed food or beverages. Remember that caffeine is present in some of the soft drinks or tea, so be aware of that as well. Try switching up your morning routine by drinking camomile tea instead.
However, caffeine might not be a potential trigger for all. Some tolerate this substance and experience very minor side effects or not at all.
If you are fighting anxiety or do not drink coffee regularly, caffeine can make the situation worse by leading to the same anxiety symptoms of accelerated heartbeat, sweating, etc. Giving up coffee or minimizing its use is beneficial not only for people that suffer from morning anxiety. Anyone can benefit from switching to healthier options.
Get a Pet: a Companion to Improve Your Mornings
Pets can be a wonderful addition to your household, given that you are a responsible individual who is ready for this commitment. In addition to seeing the wagging tail and teaching your pet some tricks, dogs are actually said to reduce cortisol levels.
In the morning, when the cortisol levels are naturally higher, dogs can help you feel more at ease, and serve as a distraction (taking your dog for a walk as an example). Therefore, if you have enough patience and responsibility, you should consider getting a furry friend.
Faith as a Way to Battle Stress
Having faith means that you believe in the higher power, in God, in ultimate salvation, and finding consolation through prayer. In terms of morning anxiety, prayers have been reported as a helpful tool. If you value your religious beliefs, do not be afraid to use prayers as a block to avoid negative thoughts and fears.
If you do not support the religious concepts and do not identify with any of the constructs, you can interpret faith as spirituality. Try to be kinder, volunteer at various non-profit organizations to make yourself busy. By doing something nice for others, your self-worth will increase, and you will become more confident.
Possible Behavioral Changes You Can Make Today
During episodes of morning anxiety, when cortisol is going through the roof, it might be challenging to fight off some of the rising urges. For instance, people crave sweets to calm down and satisfy themselves. However, this is a very short-term solution (until another baffling episode hits).
Refined carbs are another enemy for people who suffer from anxiety in the morning. Try to follow a healthier diet to reduce the high levels of cortisol.
However, while we sleep, the blood sugar level decreases significantly. As a result, some people might wake up anxious. The simplest tip is to eat something soon after you get out of bed. In other cases, you might keep a snack or a drink next to your bed.
Find distractions that will move your thoughts away from anxiety. For instance, instead of dwelling on your fears during breakfast, try to read, play a game, or other activity that might be interesting enough to keep your mind occupied for the time being.
You can also try getting up earlier, giving you plenty of time to start your day in a more relaxed fashion. You can meditate, do yoga, or exercise. However, intense exercise can actually increase cortisol and lead to you waking up with anxiety. Try to keep it light (like stretching exercises) and avoid some exercise regimens such as cardio.
To feel less anxious, try to plan out your day. For instance, you can select your clothes for the day beforehand to avoid the stress of picking a suitable outfit in the morning.
Focus on the good things that happened, not bad. Let’s say someone praised you for doing a great job. Concentrate on that instead of that time in the ninth grade when you spilled juice all over yourself in front of the whole school. Yes, the past can be dark and full of wonder.
Collect music for your personal soundtrack. Make sure that it contains songs that will help you relax in stressful situations.
If you wake up by the sound of your alarm, make sure that the alarm does not startle you too much. One of the reasons for being anxious is being suddenly woken up by irritating music. Try to pick something more mellow.
For some, medication might help to ease the symptoms of morning anxiety. With the right treatment, you can manage your anxiety more effectively. However, you must consult doctors to find the best possible treatment for you.
Some people that have experienced morning anxiety state that writing a journal improved their lifestyle. Practice writing down your feelings and giving yourself pep talks. Try to define the reason behind your morning anxiety. Then, you can aim to find logical solutions.
You Can Get Through This!
While morning anxiety is scary and might make you feel isolated from the rest of society, remember that you are not alone. Try to build a safe support system that understands, supports, and does not judge.
Your feelings are completely normal: you simply need to learn how to prevent them from defining your life. Start asking yourself: why do I wake up with anxiety? If you have your answer, you should start making some changes to your routine and improve your life!
Scientific References Contributed by Peggy Sealfon, Personal Development Coach
1. Daniel J. Powell, Wolff Schlotz: 'Daily Life Stress and the Cortisol Awakening Response: Testing the Anticipation Hypothesis'
2. Kenneth P. Wright, Amanda L. Drake, Danielle J. Frey, et al.: 'Influence of Sleep Deprivation and Circadian Misalignment on Cortisol, Inflammatory Markers, and Cytokine Balance'
3. Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P: 'The role of deep breathing on stress.'
4. Christopher A. Moyer, Lacey Seefeldt, Eric S. Mann. et al.: 'Does massage therapy reduce cortisol? A comprehensive quantitative review'
5. Polheber JP, Matchock RL: 'The presence of a dog attenuates cortisol and heart rate in the Trier Social Stress Test compared to human friends.'
6. Boelens PA, Reeves RR, Replogle WH: 'The effect of prayer on depression and anxiety: maintenance of positive influence one year after prayer intervention.'