The way you wake up can often set the tone for the entire day to follow. So, if you find that you often wake up with intense anxiety, it doesn’t bode well for a productive and enjoyable morning and evening.
Unfortunately, waking up with morning anxiety is common – as is experiencing anxiety as you go through the first part of your morning routine.
Morning anxiety can be a symptom of a condition such as panic disorders, chronic stress, obsessive compulsive disorder or another mental health conditions.
In many cases though, it is simply a symptom of generalized anxiety.
If you are someone who is generally stressed and anxious a lot of the time, then it may simply be that you feel worse in the morning.
There are a few reasons for this and therefore a few different things you can do to try and combat morning anxiety.
In this post, we’ll look at 6 of things you can do to reduce morning anxiety and explain how each of them address different aspects of the problem.
1. Low Blood Sugar
When you wake up first thing in the morning, you essentially do so in a fasted state.
You have been asleep for 8 hours, and during this time you haven’t eaten anything. Therefore, your blood sugar will be low and that in turn can cause a cascade of different physiological changes.
When sugar is low, tryptophan is low. And when tryptophan is low serotonin is low, cortisol is high and your mood is poor.
This is also why people might tend to be on the cranky side when they first wake up. Ever heard the phrase "waking up on the wrong side of the bed"?
The obvious solution then, is to try and keep your blood sugar higher throughout the night.
One way to do this is to eat some form of slow-release carbohydrate or fat.
Honey is often recommended for those that struggle with this issue, seeing as it contains sucrose and fructose – a combination of fast and slow release sugars.
When you combine these two, the result is that you have all the energy you need throughout the night, improving your sleep and helping you to wake up without those morning jitters – at least not to the same extent.
You could even try waking yourself up an hour before you need to get up, eating something and then dozing back to sleep again.
Another issue is dehydration. This can have a similar effect and likewise wreaks havoc on a number of our key systems.
Drink LOTS before you go to bed then, keep a glass of water by your bedside and consider eating chia seeds before you doze off.
Chia seeds will gradually release fluids throughout the night as they are able to absorb several times their weight in water.
2. Wake Gently
There’s another reason that many of us deal with morning anxiety and wake up feeling stressed. And it has to do with the process of waking up itself.
You see, when we wake ourselves in the morning via an alarm, what we are actually doing is hacking our body’s stress response.
You see, when you sleep, you can still actually hear what is going on around you during many stages of your sleep cycle. This enables us to keep listening out for danger.
When we hear something like an alarm however, we are actually activating our fear circuits by introducing a sound that isn’t natural and that our brain doesn’t inherently recognize.
In other words: in nature, this sound would never occur!
Thus we are startled awake, ready for ‘fight or flight’.
This slingshots us out of the deepest stages of sleep into a pitch dark room – so we’re starting the day with an elevated heart rate from which many negative emotions can arise.
There are a few things you can do to try and avoid this effect:
- Use a daylight alarm – These are alarms that create a natural light that has similar properties to the sun. The light comes on gradually as it gets closer to time for you to wake up, which slowly stimulates you to wake up.
- Use sleep trackers and try to wake from lighter stages of sleep – Waking from stage one sleep or REM will be significantly less jarring than waking out of the deepest stages of ‘slow wave sleep’.
- Wake yourself a little before you actually need to get up, so that you aren’t starting your day in a rush.
3. Avoid Coffee
One of the worst things you can do if you struggle with morning anxiety is to start your day with a large cup of coffee.
And yet, of course, this is something that a huge number of people do.
The reason for this is of course that they are looking for a pick-me-up.
But now think what actually happens when you use a pick-me-up. Caffeine is a stimulant.
That means that once again, it works by hacking the fight or flight response.
Specifically, caffeine blocks adenosine, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. And when adenosine is decreased, this means there is more activity across your entire brain. When there is more activity, that means that you become more alert.
Your body responds by turning on all your other systems: your heart rate, breathing, muscle tone etc. Cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine all increase.
In other words: coffee is a stress response in a cup!
Cut it out of your routine if you want to start feeling better in the morning.
4. Sleep Better
Another reason you might struggle with morning anxiety is that you aren’t sleeping well. In which case, you’ll begin your day feeling sleep deprived. And if there's one thing your body needs and craves, it's sleep.
Look into sleep hygiene techniques you can use to improve the quality of your sleep, from keeping light out of your room, to taking warm showers before bed, to avoiding phone screens half an hour before you doze off.
Check out our video below for some quick and easy tips to sleep better.
Moreover, if this seems to be a persistent problem, speak with a doctor about potentially having your sleep monitored. It may be that you are struggling with sleep apnea or a similar type of issue.
5. Improve Your Mornings
Another big part of the problem is that so many of us start our days badly.
If you start every single day in a negative mood, then of course you’re going to get to the point eventually where you start to have a negative response to mornings in general.
Did you know for instance, that the sensation of having someone or something move toward us is one of the only truly universal phobias/fears? So, if you commute to work by walking through crowded stations, then your morning will be very stressful. The same goes for traffic, or heading to work that you don’t enjoy.
So, what can you do?
One answer is to give yourself a morning routine.
All these things can set your day off on the right track and prevent negative emotions.
If you really want to perfect your morning routine, we highly recommend reading The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod.
Some of the most successful people in the world have used the lessons in that book to completely transform the way they look at mornings.
6. Fight Stress
The biggest reason that people suffer with morning anxiety is that they are experiencing anxiety and stress during their days.
As such, when they wake up, it’s like being hit with a huge wave of emotions – a reminder of all that stress that has been on hold while they were asleep.
So, what can you do in order to prevent stress affecting you this way at any time of day?
One tip is to look into ways to manage your stress.
Often stress is less about what is happening to us and more about the way we are reacting to those things.
If you feel stressed and anxious, then it might be that you’re too focussed on the negatives in your life and you struggle to turn your brain off. Learning cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and meditation can all help you to get back on track.
But of course, sometimes you do need to address aspects of your life.
Maybe you just need a vacation, or maybe you need longer-term solutions to whatever it is that’s making you unhappy.
You might feel better if you consider changing jobs, negotiate working fewer hours, commit yourself to fewer activities outside of work etc.
Morning Anxiety Can Be Cured
Ultimately, there is nothing that is worth starting every day in a state of stress and unhappiness. If you're struggling with morning anxiety, then you absolutely need to do something to change it.
Start with the small improvements to your routine and your sleep, then look into methods you can use to improve your ability to cope with stress.
But if none of those things work? It’s time to start thinking seriously about big changes to your lifestyle.