Morning Anxiety: What It Is and How to Manage It
Experiencing occasional morning anxiety due to stress about upcoming tasks or responsibilities is a common occurrence for many of us. However, if this anxiety becomes a frequent and persistent presence, interfering with our daily functioning, it may be good to consider seeking therapy to address it. Recognizing the impact it has on our overall well-being and understanding when additional support is necessary can be crucial in managing and alleviating morning anxiety.
What is morning anxiety?
While “morning anxiety” is not a clinical term. It commonly describes the experience of waking up with feelings of stress and worry. If you constantly find yourself dealing with excessive anxiety, worry, and stress in the morning, it is possible that you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Generalized anxiety disorder is a recognized mental health condition characterized by persistent and uncontrollable worry that extends across various aspects of daily life. Individuals with GAD often experience excessive worry about common activities such as work, finances, family, and health. To receive a formal diagnosis of GAD, these symptoms need to be present for at least six months and significantly impact daily functioning.
What causes morning anxiety?
When you wake up in the morning, your body undergoes a natural increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. This rise in cortisol, known as the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). This usually happens just before you wake up and reaches its highest point within the first 30-45 minutes of waking. In the case of individuals with morning anxiety, this surge in cortisol can contribute to heightened levels of anxiety. Elevated cortisol levels can result in a faster heartbeat, increased blood flow, and a release of adrenaline, all of which can act as triggers for intensified feelings of anxiety.
Additionally, individuals who struggle with anxiety before sleep often have higher cortisol levels in their bodies. This results in an increased release of cortisol upon waking. This intensifies their feelings of anxiety in the morning. These findings underscore the intricate interplay of different factors and mechanisms that contribute to the occurrence and experience of anxiety in individuals.
Moreover, there is a clear connection between caffeine, sugar, and anxiety. It seems that consuming higher amounts of these often leads to increased anxiety levels. Similarly, low blood sugar can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to make morning anxiety manageable.
How do you manage morning anxiety?
Although it may not be possible to completely eliminate morning anxiety, acknowledging its symptoms is a crucial initial step in addressing the issue. To alleviate morning anxiety, set attainable and actionable goals that can help bring about a sense of calmness.
Eat a healthy breakfast.
After a night of fasting, low blood sugar in the morning can lead to symptoms that resemble anxiety, such as sweating and negative emotions. To help reduce anxiety, experts recommend incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet. It is believed that magnesium has been shown to have anxiety-reducing effects. Examples of breakfast-friendly foods that are high in magnesium are almonds, cashews, whole grain toast, oatmeal, and smoked salmon.
Practice good sleep hygiene.
If you are experiencing difficulties falling or staying asleep, it may indicate the need to improve your sleep hygiene. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can be helpful, including engaging in relaxing activities before bed. Consider options such as taking a soothing bath, reading a light book, or listening to calming music. These practices can promote better sleep quality, potentially leading to a reduction in the intensity of morning anxiety.
If you have a habit of immediately turning on the TV, or checking your phone, and you find that these activities increase your anxiety, it might be worth considering a different approach. Instead of doing these, you can try starting your day with a brief meditation, deep breathing exercises, havening, or gentle stretching. These techniques have the potential to help decrease your anxiety levels and set a calmer tone for the rest of the day. Setting aside time in the morning for exercise can be a beneficial way to reduce anxiety, stress, and tension. Allocating around 30 minutes for activities like walking or engaging in moderate exercise that suits your physical abilities can set a positive tone for the rest of the day.
Develop a morning routine.
Creating a consistent routine for the first two hours of your day can help alleviate morning anxiety and promote a smoother start. By interrupting negative thoughts and fostering a sense of control, this routine can reduce anxiety levels. Start your day by preparing a nutritious breakfast. Incorporate exercise or mindfulness practices into your morning routine, like a 10-minute walk or 5 minutes of meditation. Take a relaxing shower, allowing the steam and soothing music, if desired, to enhance your relaxation. If you are commuting to work, allow sufficient time to get ready for the day to avoid feeling rushed.
Increase your physical activity.
Engaging in regular exercise has a positive impact on regulating the central nervous system and can effectively reduce anxiety. While exercising in the morning can be advantageous, regular exercise at any time of the day is associated with a lower risk of anxiety. A study conducted in 2020 revealed that exercises incorporating mindfulness techniques can be particularly beneficial for managing anxiety.
Minimize sugar and caffeine intake.
Consuming excessive amounts of coffee or sugary foods can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. That is why it is advisable to limit or avoid them as much as possible. By making this change, you may observe a reduction in your anxiety levels. Prioritizing a healthier diet can contribute to overall well-being and effective anxiety management.
Practice gratitude to reduce morning anxiety.
Amidst the overwhelming presence of anxiety, it becomes challenging to divert our attention to anything else. However, it is a big help to make an effort to shift your focus towards gratitude each day. This serves as a reminder that not everything is negative or stressful. This practice can be as simple as acknowledging a small smile from a loved one or expressing gratitude for aspects like your health, financial stability, or having a roof over your head. Feel free to take note of whatever naturally comes to mind in the present moment.
If morning anxiety starts to interfere with your life and well-being, it is important to seek support from a healthcare professional. Visit Mindshift Psychological Services. Reach out to our mental health specialists to start your journey to managing your anxiety. Remember, you do not have to face the burden of your worries alone. Seeking help from someone trained in treating anxiety disorders can provide you with the assistance you need to feel better and work towards recovery. Contact us at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.