Taming Morning Anxiety
Do you ever experience a sense of dread and nervousness upon waking up, making it difficult to start your day? Do you feel overwhelmed by the day ahead, worrying about work responsibilities and personal issues? These feelings are known as morning anxiety, and they can manifest in racing thoughts, panic, physical symptoms like a racing heart or upset stomach, or a general sense of unease. If left unaddressed, morning anxiety can negatively impact your overall well-being.
6 Common Causes of Morning Anxiety
- Stressful life events: A significant life event, such as a divorce or separation, job loss or change, a new pregnancy or baby, a move, financial worries, trauma, or the death of a loved one, can lead to waking up with a morning experience of anxiety. Our body registers stress, our natural response to changes, and supplies us with increased cortisol to help us cope. We feel the adrenalin of this response which makes our anxiety feel worse.
- Societal expectations: Women are often expected to juggle multiple roles, such as being a perfect mother, wife, and employee. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, especially when starting a new day. It’s essential to recognize that no one is perfect and to set realistic expectations for yourself.
- Trauma: Women who have experienced traumatic events, such as reproductive trauma, sexual assault, or domestic violence, may develop morning anxiety as a coping mechanism. Trauma can have a profound impact on mental health, causing feelings of fear, anxiety, and hypervigilance. Morning anxiety can be a way for individuals to prepare for the day and anticipate potential threats or triggers.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can cause mood swings, irritability, and anxiety in women. The hormonal shifts during these times can also contribute to morning anxiety, making it important to keep track of your menstrual cycle and consider the impact on your anxiety potentially related to hormonal shifts during pregnancy or postpartum.
- Sleep disturbances like insomnia or nightmares can contribute to morning anxiety. Experiencing morning anxiety after a bad night’s sleep is not uncommon. Having an occasional bad night and anxious morning is normal, but when it happens more often than not, it might be a sign of underlying issues.
- Substance or alcohol use: Alcohol misuse can cause us to feel anxious upon awakening. Sometimes people use alcohol and substances to relax or as a distraction from life’s problems at night. This increases the risk of morning anxiety and can lead to addiction. (Learn more about anxiety and addiction)
5 Effective Coping Strategies for Managing Morning Anxiety
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall well-being. Research suggests that even a few minutes of exercise can help decrease anxiety symptoms. The recommended minimum exercise for anxiety reduction is 10-15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. However, even a few minutes of exercise can be beneficial if you’re short on time. Try incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going for a short walk during your lunch break, or doing a quick yoga or stretching routine in the morning. The key is finding physical activities you enjoy that can fit into your schedule.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation. If traditional meditation feels challenging, try this accessible form of active mindfulness. Set a timer for just 5 minutes, and instead of focusing on your breath or thoughts, listen to the sounds around you. Notice the different sounds, from the gentle rustling of leaves to the distant hum of traffic, allowing yourself to be fully present in the moment. This practice can anchor your attention and bring a sense of calm and awareness to your day.
- Sleep hygiene: Getting enough sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene can help reduce anxiety symptoms. This includes consistent sleep schedules, avoiding electronics before bed, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. (more sleep hygiene tips)
- Journaling: Journaling has been shown by research to help decrease stress and anxiety symptoms. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process them and gain perspective on your worries. Journaling can also help you identify triggers and patterns in your anxiety, leading to more effective coping strategies. Journaling can be your way to connect with your inner process – your needs, wants, fears, and aspirations. If you are not a natural writer, try visual journaling. It is a creative practice that combines writing and artistic expression to explore and process your thoughts and feelings. (learn more; about how to start art journaling)
- Social Support: Social support can be a powerful tool in managing anxiety symptoms. Connecting with others who understand and empathize with your struggles can help reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging. Whether through therapy, support groups, or simply talking with friends and family, social support can provide comfort and encouragement on your journey toward better mental health.
When Morning Anxiety Persists
Dealing with persistent morning anxiety can be challenging and discouraging, even when you try your best to manage it. If your daily life is negatively affected, it may be time to seek extra assistance. Talking to people who support you and informing them about your anxiety can help determine what you need. Contacting a mental health expert, like a counselor or therapist, is also worth considering. They can offer tailored guidance to help you identify the root causes of your morning anxiety and develop better-coping mechanisms.
Starting Your Day Right
Experiencing anxiety in the morning does not have to set the tone for our entire day or negatively impact our mental health. By recognizing its presence and identifying the root causes, we can respond to morning anxiety with kindness and care. Prioritizing self-care, seeking support, and committing to our mental well-being can help us effectively manage morning anxiety and foster a positive outlook for the future.