How to Deal With Anxiety in the Morning

How to Deal With Anxiety in the Morning
Written by Editor
June 1, 2024

Waking up to a new day should ideally fill us with a sense of possibility. However, for many, mornings are a time when anxiety peaks, casting a shadow over what could be a fresh start. Morning anxiety, characterized by an increase in stress and worry upon waking, can make the start of the day particularly challenging. To help you understand why this happens and how to deal with morning anxiety, keep reading. The following article will provide strategies for coping and insights on recognizing when it’s time to seek professional help. 

Why Do I Wake Up With Anxiety in the Morning?

While morning anxiety isn’t formally recognized as a medical condition, it often feels like an unwelcome guest as you start your day. One key player in this scenario is cortisol, a stress hormone that spikes in the early hours. Typically, cortisol begins to surge before we awaken and reaches its peak approximately 30 to 45 minutes after waking. This process is known as the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). For those grappling with morning anxiety, this surge can exacerbate their anxious feelings since elevated cortisol levels are linked to increased heart rate, blood flow, and adrenaline – all common triggers for anxiety.

With this, individuals who go to bed feeling anxious often have elevated cortisol levels throughout the night, leading to a more pronounced cortisol spike in the morning. This creates a cycle where their evening anxiety sets the stage for heightened morning anxiety. It’s a complex interplay of biological and psychological factors that underlie the experience of anxiety in different individuals.

Moreover, dietary habits like caffeine and sugar intake can influence anxiety levels. In fact, both can lead to heightened anxiety, while low blood sugar can intensify these feelings. Therefore, maintaining a balanced diet with regular, nutritious meals and adequate hydration can play a pivotal role in managing morning anxiety. By addressing these aspects, you might find that your morning anxiety becomes more controllable and less intrusive.

Strategies for Dealing With Anxiety in the Morning

While completely eliminating morning anxiety might not always be feasible, recognizing its symptoms is a crucial step toward managing it effectively. That said, here are some effective strategies for managing morning anxiety: 

Prioritize Sleep Hygiene

If you struggle with sleep, enhancing your sleep hygiene is vital. Stick to a consistent bedtime, engage in relaxing pre-sleep activities like reading or listening to soothing music, and ensure your sleeping environment is comfortable. Quality sleep can significantly reduce morning anxiety levels.

Moderate Screen Time

Excessive TV and social media use, especially before bedtime, can amplify anxiety. Set limits for media consumption to allow your mind to unwind and avoid exposure to content that could heighten anxiety.

Eat a Nourishing Breakfast

Starting your day with a balanced meal can stabilize blood sugar levels, influencing your mood and energy throughout the day. A healthy breakfast sets a positive tone for your morning.

Create a Consistent Morning Routine

Waking up at the same time daily can reduce the likelihood of waking up anxious. Planning your day ahead and setting clear priorities can help you manage anxiety more effectively.

Incorporate Mindfulness Practices

Resist the urge to immediately check your phone upon waking. Instead, engage in mindfulness practices like meditation, deep breathing, or light stretching to help lower anxiety levels.

Increase Your Physical Activity

Exercise is a potent anxiety reliever. Starting your day with physical activities like yoga or walking can energize you and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Limit Caffeine and Sugar

High intake of caffeine or sugar can exacerbate anxiety. Reducing these can lead to noticeable improvements. Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and adequate hydration.

Mindful Alcohol Consumption

While it’s tempting to use substances to cope, they can negatively impact your overall well-being. Reducing alcohol intake can help you approach the day with clarity and focus.

Cultivate Gratitude

In the midst of anxiety, it’s easy to overlook the positives. Make a conscious effort to acknowledge what you’re grateful for each day, whether it’s small joys or significant blessings.

Counteract Negative Thoughts

When negative thoughts spiral, challenge them with positive alternatives. Anxiety journaling can be a helpful tool for reframing anxious thoughts.

Concentrate on What’s Within Your Control

Focusing on aspects of your life that you can control can bring a sense of calm and reduce anxiety about unpredictable events.

Anticipate Positive Experiences

When anxiety peaks, redirect your thoughts to something you’re looking forward to. This shift in focus can reduce anxiety’s grip on your day.

Set Boundaries for Anxious Thoughts

Allow yourself a set time to acknowledge your anxious thoughts, then consciously redirect your focus. Recognizing these thoughts and then moving on can help you tackle anxiety more directly.

Recognizing When to Seek Professional Help for Anxiety

While the strategies mentioned can be effective in managing morning anxiety, it’s crucial to recognize when professional help may be necessary. Here are some signs that it might be time to seek support from a mental health professional:

  • Persistent Symptoms: If your anxiety is constant, occurring most mornings, or lasting throughout the day, it’s essential to consider professional help.
  • Impact on Daily Life: When anxiety starts to significantly impact your daily activities, work performance, relationships, or overall quality of life, it’s a clear indicator that additional support might be needed.
  • Physical Symptoms: Anxiety can manifest physically, such as through constant fatigue, headaches, or gastrointestinal issues. If these symptoms are recurrent, seeking help is advisable.
  • Increased Substance Use: If you find yourself increasingly relying on substances like alcohol or drugs to cope with your anxiety, it’s vital to talk to a professional.
  • Overwhelming Negative Thoughts: If negative thoughts become overwhelming and hard to manage independently, it’s time to consider professional intervention.

The Power of Conversation

Talking about your anxiety can be profoundly therapeutic. Whether it’s with friends, family, or a mental health professional, opening up about your experiences can lead to relief and a sense of being understood.

Talking to Friends and Family

Sometimes, simply sharing your worries and fears with someone you trust can make a big difference. They can offer support, understanding, and, occasionally, a different perspective that can help you cope better.

Professional Therapy

Speaking with a mental health professional offers numerous benefits. They provide a safe, non-judgmental space to explore your feelings. Furthermore, therapists can offer coping strategies, help you understand the root causes of your anxiety, and guide you toward lasting change.

Find Support at Mente

Battling morning anxiety can be tricky, but you’re not alone. Mente is here to help. If you’re in Seattle or Portland and seeking relief from anxiety, our team offers the understanding and guidance you need. Reach out today and start your journey towards a calmer, more balanced life. Don’t struggle in silence; let Mente be your ally in overcoming anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions: Dealing with Morning Anxiety

Why does my anxiety start in the morning?
Morning anxiety can be triggered by various factors. One common reason is the accumulation of stressors overnight, causing anxious thoughts to surface upon waking. Changes in cortisol levels, the body's stress hormone, can also contribute. Additionally, sleep disturbances or sleep-related disorders can affect your overall mood and anxiety levels in the morning. Identifying specific triggers and implementing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness can help manage morning anxiety effectively.
What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety?
The 3-3-3 rule is a mindfulness technique used to alleviate anxiety. When you feel anxious, take a moment to acknowledge three things you see, three things you hear, and three things you can touch or feel around you. This exercise helps ground you in the present moment, diverting your focus from anxious thoughts and promoting relaxation. It's a simple yet effective way to manage anxiety and regain a sense of control over your emotions.
What are good coping skills for anxiety?
There are several effective coping skills for managing anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Journaling allows you to express your thoughts and emotions, providing clarity and perspective. Regular physical exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Seeking support from friends and family, along with cognitive-behavioral techniques to challenge irrational thoughts, are also valuable coping strategies. Finding the right combination that works for you is key to managing anxiety effectively.
Why won't my morning anxiety go away?
Morning anxiety can persist due to various factors. It may be linked to unresolved stressors or worries that resurface upon waking. Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or restless sleep, can contribute to heightened morning anxiety. Additionally, if you have an underlying anxiety disorder, it might manifest more prominently in the morning. Seeking professional guidance can help identify the root causes and develop tailored strategies to manage and alleviate morning anxiety effectively.
What medication is best for morning anxiety?
The choice of medication for morning anxiety depends on individual factors and the severity of symptoms. Common options include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) for long-term treatment. Short-term relief can be achieved with benzodiazepines, although they are generally prescribed cautiously due to the risk of dependence. Consult with a healthcare provider or psychiatrist to determine the most suitable medication and treatment plan based on your specific anxiety symptoms and needs.
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