Have you ever woken up in the morning and immediately felt your heart racing? Thoughts of persistent worry entering your mind? Morning anxiety is definitely something that most can experience at times. It can be uncomfortable and truly unravel the rest of your day once it spirals. But why is it that we can experience increased anxiety at the start of our day?
Morning anxiety stems from cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone." Cortisol levels are typically higher during the first hour after we wake up. This can increase feelings of anxiety. Any worry that we may have experienced the night before can also make us more likely to wake up feeling anxious. What we eat and drink in the morning can also contribute to anxious feelings. Caffeine and sugar have been shown to increase symptoms of anxiety. Symptoms of morning anxiety can include the following:
Rapid heart rate
Although morning anxiety is something that can be very uncomfortable, there are ways that we can make it smaller. I always share with my clients that anxiety is unfortunately not something that we can completely get rid of. Anxiety isn't necessarily a bad thing. It helps us to act fast when there is an outside and imminent threat. Anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes persistent and there isn't a real threat. The goal isn't to eradicate anxiety but to simply develop a relationship with it so that you can manage it. Here are different ways that you can cope with morning anxiety:
#1 - Exercise
By exercising in the morning, we are able to flood our bodies with endorphins (the feel good hormones) while also distracting ourselves from our anxious thoughts. Exercise is also a great way to get your day started on a high. See my previous blog on the benefits of morning workouts here:
#2 - Mindfulness or Meditation
By utilizing either mindfulness or meditation, you are able to soothe your nervous system through your breath and quiet your racing thoughts.
"Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind. Thus rejuvenating the body." - Deepak Chopra
#3 - Hydrate before your coffee
Caffeine can kick start our body's stress response. When our bodies are dehydrated, they become stressed. When your body experiences stress, anxiety and depression can follow. Water has also been shown to have calming effects, likely due to your body and brain responding to hydration. Even when you aren’t finding yourself feeling anxious, drinking enough water can help promote a relaxed state in your body.
#4 - Assess and limit sources of stress
It is always important for us every once in a while to pause and assess different areas of our lives that may be creating imbalance. Although work/life balance may be impossible, we can always strive for work/life harmony.
#5 - Shift the focus to areas that you have control
Unfortunately there are many things that we have no control over in life, which is something that anxiety thrives off of. By symbolically "making our world smaller," we can shift the focus to the things that we have control of. That can look like compassionately reminding yourself to drink water, being mindful of the content that you are consuming, and limiting screen time.
#6 - Utilize anxiety grounding techniques
The 3-3-3 Exercise, 4-7-8 breathing, and the 5-4-3-2-1 technique are a few grounding practices that I teach my clients that struggle with anxiety. Here is a reel that I created of the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise:
#7 - Check in with a loved one for support
It can feel good to be emotionally held by someone that we love and feel safe with during difficult moments.
Always remember that although anxiety can be uncomfortable and seem bigger than our own bodies, it is something that we can manage. Again, the goal isn't to make anxiety go away but to develop a relationship with it where you are able to recognize it, name it, and make it smaller. In my psychotherapy practice, anxiety related challenges are a specialty of mine. Let's set up a complimentary consultation to see if we are a good working fit for one another and get you started on the road of beginning to live life on YOUR terms.
The anxious brain : the neurobiological basis of anxiety disorders and how to effectively treat them / Margaret Wehrenberg, Steven Prinz.
Managing chronic anxiety with mindfulness / Ronald Siegel, PsyD.
Exercise for mood and anxiety : proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being / Michael W. Otto and Jasper A.J. Smits.