Are you waking up anxious? Here’s what to do about it
Are you waking up with a pit in your stomach, racing thoughts and a rapid heartbeat that just won’t calm down? If you find yourself panicking about the future before you’ve even brushed your teeth, you might be suffering from morning anxiety. Why do I have anxiety in the morning? There are a number of […]
Are you waking up with a pit in your stomach, racing thoughts and a rapid heartbeat that just won’t calm down? If you find yourself panicking about the future before you’ve even brushed your teeth, you might be suffering from morning anxiety.
Why do I have anxiety in the morning?
There are a number of reasons why you might be waking up feeling anxious, starting with a lack of sleep the evening before. Sleep is crucial for regulating the physiological aspects of our mental health so if you’ve not got enough shut-eye you’ll be starting the day at a disadvantage.
Once you emerge from your drowsiness, chances are that yesterday’s worries and today’s to-do list come flooding into your consciousness. Whether you’re dealing with a particularly stressful situation or are simply overwhelmed by the events of the day, morning anxiety is an inevitable product of living too much in the past or the future.
There’s a biological process at play, too. The stress hormone, cortisol, tends to rise shortly before we wake up and is highest in the first 30-45 minutes after waking. This can lead to a faster heartbeat and higher adrenaline, both of which can trigger heightened anxiety.
Although you might not be able to totally prevent that anxious feeling you get when you first wake up, there are ways of easing the physical and mental symptoms. Here’s how to improve your bedtime and morning routines to help you start the day feeling calm.
Brush up on sleep hygiene
An anxiety-free morning starts the evening before. Work on creating a healthy bedtime routine to set yourself up for a great night’s sleep. While a bedtime routine can look different for everyone, it should have a few constants. Put devices on silent or turn them off at least half an hour before bed to give your brain a break from constant notifications and harsh blue light (the group chat can wait until morning). Then give yourself some time to wind down before you turn off the light, whether that’s with a bath, some meditation or a good book.
Ditch your phone
Raise your hand if the first thing you do after your alarm goes off is grab your phone and open TiKTok (us too). It might be painful at first but ditching your morning phone habit is one of the best things you can do for your anxiety. Using your device first thing exposes you to stressors from the outside world before you’ve had a chance to properly wake up. Try charging your phone away from your bed to help you resist the urge to scroll.
As hangry people know, nothing is worse for the emotions than low blood sugar. Fuel up to face the day with a nutritious breakfast, preferably including foods with magnesium, which has been shown to reduce anxiety. Blend almonds or cashews into a smoothie or sprinkle them onto porridge, opt for a bran cereal, or try scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and sugar
Starbucks on tap? Not great for anxiety. Overdoing it on caffeine or sugar during the day can have a knock-on effect on your mood and sleep, which in turn makes it more likely that you’ll wake up feeling anxious the next morning. Try swapping out that second or third coffee for a glass of water or herbal tea and balancing the biscuits with more fruit and veg. And while it can be tempting to reach for a beer to help us relax in the evening, alcohol affects your brain’s chemistry and can lead to increased anxiety the next day, so drink responsibly.
Spend some time meditating
Meditation is one of the most recommended practices for tackling anxiety – and for good reason. It doesn’t have to mean sitting in blissful silence for hours at a time. You don’t even have to get out of bed! Just a few minutes spent on a simple breathing exercise will help focus your mind and relax your nervous system. Try inhaling to the slow count of four, then slowly exhaling for the same count. Apps like Headspace or Calm offer great introductions to meditation, as well as practices specifically designed to counteract anxiety.
You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from journaling. Keep a pen and notepad next to your bed and start the day by free writing two or three pages, allowing whatever comes to mind to pour onto the page. You don’t have to write in full sentences or make much sense – you can even draw pictures to express your feelings – but just the act of putting pen to paper should help to clear your brain of niggling worries.
Move your body
Exercise can be a helpful way to get out of your head, especially if you struggle to sit still for long enough to meditate. Doing something physical not only gives your brain something specific to focus on but also releases cortisol, helping to manage stress. Whether you head out for a walk, go for a run, hit the gym or practice yoga, getting up and getting active is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body.
Acknowledge your anxiety
Trying to ignore your anxiety or pushing it away will only make it more intense. By telling yourself that you have to get rid of it, the anxiety becomes another thing to be anxious about! Instead, practise acknowledging and accepting how you feel. Saying “I am feeling anxious right now” doesn’t mean that you’re giving up or that you’ll always feel this way. It will help you to be present in the moment and remind you that you’re in control of your thoughts, not the other way around.
Ask for help
If your symptoms aren’t getting any better or if your morning anxiety begins to affect your ability to function throughout the day, it’s always worth going to see a medical professional for advice and further support.
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