Imagine waking up feeling worried, anxious, and concerned as soon as you open your sleepy eyes. The anxiety is so intense that you fear starting your day and feel symptoms similar to a panic attack – racing heart, sweaty palms, and difficulty breathing. What’s happening? It could be morning anxiety, a common experience many undergo when they wake up. If you experience this anxiety, you may worry it will last forever. Thankfully, it is treatable, and with a few tips and hacks, you can take back control and prevent it from ruining your day.
What Is ‘Morning Anxiety’?
Morning anxiety isn’t a formal diagnosis but rather an unpleasant stressor that creates feelings of dread, panic, and stress first thing in the morning. Typically, it lasts while you’re still in bed and decreases as you move on with your day. Yet, it can be so intense that some have anticipatory anxiety at night and worry they will experience morning anxiety upon waking up.
3 Common Causes of Morning Anxiety
There are various factors that may explain why you’re experiencing anxiety, especially in the morning.
- Stress. Your stress hormone cortisol peaks in the mornings and causes an increase in dread, panic, and worry.
- Low blood sugar. Your blood sugar is typically at its lowest first thing in the morning. And running on low fuel causes your brain to enter the “fight, flight, or freeze” stress response more frequently.
- Environment. Morning anxiety can be a symptom of a deeper problem – generalized anxiety or another anxiety disorder. Additionally, your sleep routine and environment can aggravate anxious feelings if you mentally don’t feel comfortable as you doze off or awaken.
15 Symptoms of Morning Anxiety
While we all experience morning anxiety from time to time, no two people are the same with their symptoms. For example, one person may feel anxious and on the verge of a panic attack, while another may battle extreme fatigue and irritability. But increasing your awareness towards this common experience, will help prepare you to take the first step towards positive change.
- Feeling weak or faint
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Tense muscles
- Experiencing sweats or chills
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Feeling paralyzed
- Racing thoughts
- Poor concentration
- Feeling a loss of control
8 Tips to Manage Morning Anxiety
1. Sleep hygiene is a priority
Prioritizing your sleep quality is a must when combatting morning anxiety. Firstly, your emotional regulation is more intact and functions properly when you receive 8 hours of sleep. And secondly, if you are sleep deprived, you will struggle to start your day, and may experience increased anxiety as a result.
Therefore, evaluate your habits and change them if necessary to ensure your sleep quality is not impacting your anxiety.
2. Create a morning routine
Having a morning routine that you enjoy will pull you out of bed and out of the dreaded anxiety spiral. Here are a few suggestions;
- Prioritize a morning meditation to set the tone for the rest of the day
- Squeeze in a quick workout or yoga session
- Or listen to your favorite podcast while making your bed and breakfast
Whatever your routine looks like for you, start small and build over time. Starting small will allow flexibility and any possible failures to prevent triggering your anxiety any further.
3. Listen to your body
When you wake up with physical discomfort, you may assume it’s anxiety, especially if you’re prone to anxious thoughts. But interpreting signs of back pain, muscle tension, or headaches as anxiety may produce more worry. Furthermore, just because these physical symptoms can come from anxiety, it doesn’t mean they always share a connection.
It could be poor posture, a poor mattress, or even insomnia. Therefore, listen to your body and evaluate the potential source of the pain by brainstorming different causes. It can serve as a coping mechanism to prevent your discomfort from transforming into full-blown anxiety.
4. Begin with intention
Similar to creating a morning routine, beginning with intention involves setting up your day for more inner peace. For instance, upon waking up, do you tend to scroll through your social media, watch the news, or check your phone?
These habits can create more anxiety behind the scenes and don’t always serve your best interest. If you notice they add more worry, begin with a morning meditation, a gentle stretch, or repeat the things you’re grateful for to shift your anxious thoughts.
5. Plan ahead
A part of what is causing your morning anxiety may be the personal and work stress you are anticipating. You may have thoughts about how you will tackle your to-do list, projects you are procrastinating, or family obligations. One way to address this overwhelm is to create a specific to-do list before bedtime.
When creating your list, organize it to list the top priorities first. These priorities should be the tasks you have to do. Then, write any others you want to complete. This simple tip will help you not only to rest better but will reassure your brain that you are in control of your stress.
6. Normalize your anxiety
Worrying about your anxiety is a vicious cycle that only produces more anxious thoughts, catastrophizing, and unpleasant experiences. Additionally, when you worry about worrying, you teach your brain that anxiety is something to fear. This puts your brain into a hyper state of focus that becomes more sensitive to stress.
Instead, remind yourself that even though your anxiety is uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean it’s dangerous, or an indicator something awful will occur. You can repeat a morning intention to help you gain control, “Even though I feel anxious, I know this means something bad won’t happen. If I begin my day, I will feel better”.
7. Challenge your thoughts
Getting out of bed with an unrelenting case of morning anxiety can feel next to impossible. As a result, you may feel tempted to stay in bed all day and avoid your responsibilities. While this is often recommended from time to time, you may have a list of tasks you simply can’t avoid. When this occurs, challenge your thoughts. Thoughts are not always accurate representations of the world around us, despite how powerful they feel.
Bring awareness to your anxious state and start questioning their source. You can also replace one thought with a positive alternative to feel better. Remember, challenging your thoughts isn’t always easy, and it may take time – but it will help you receive agency over your internal dialogue.
8. Focus on what you can control
Shifting your attention and understanding what you can control will give you more peace of mind when your anxious thoughts take the wheel. For example, you can control your breath. Focusing on inhaling and exhaling is a great way to practice mindfulness and cope with your morning anxiety.
Waking up with morning anxiety is a painful yet common experience many undergo. If you struggle with anxiety, practice the tips in this article and above all, be patient with yourself. Challenging your thoughts and changing your habits are part of a long journey. Over time, you will experience more relief, peace, and happiness.
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