Most mornings, I wake up to the sound of my own heartbeat, thudding around in my chest like it's having a temper tantrum. Yes, before I've even opened my eyes, I've tasted the acid zest of morning anxiety. It comes suddenly and quickly, and usually with no obvious reasoning at all.
People who suffer from general anxiety disorders know that the mornings can be particularly rough — it's the only time of day our defense systems are rendered helpless. During the day, there are all sorts of coping mechanisms you can use to ward off anxious feelings before they develop. But when you wake up with them, you're at a bit of a disadvantage. In your sleeping state, you are unable to wish away the panic. It's as if your alarm system was out and you came home to a burglar in your living room, getting ready to steal your TV. Only in this case, it's your day the burglar is stealing. For, when you wake up with anxiety, often the rest of your day can be affected by it.
Not sure whether or not you have morning anxiety? "Anxiety disorders are heightened when a person obsesses over the future and is not able to bring their focus back to the present. 'Future tripping', as some call it, is when we are consumed with the 'what ifs' of the day or week," Jamison Monroe, Jr., Founder & CEO of Newport Academy Mental Rehab Center tells Bustle. "When someone is focused too much on the future, upon awaking they may be tormented by all the things they have to do, or even worse, all the things that may go wrong."
So when you wake up and you have that sinking feeling in your chest and that knotted feeling in your stomach, you know it's going to be a rough morning. Whether you've been coping with it your whole life, or it's a new addition to your adult life, these are seven things people with morning anxiety know all too well:
Early Appointments Mean Extra Anxiety
If you know you have to be somewhere earlier than usual, falling asleep will be difficult. Your anxiety will kick in before you start to wind down, which will prolong the process. Once you do relax and manage to fall asleep, your anxiety will trickle into your dream land and you will have short, panicky dreams that feel like vignettes from horror movies. You'll end up waking up early, feeling completely unrested and with heaps of anxiety.
Unsettled Feelings At Night Mean Disasters In The Morning
If you're unable to resolve an issue before bed, you're going to pay for it in the morning. You're not the kind of person who could just wake up early and finish your homework before class. You're not the kind of person who can say, "Babe, let's just sleep on it and talk in the morning." You need answers, you need closure, and you need it all before bed or else your morning is going to be a crapshoot.
Big Day? Bigger Anxiety.
No matter how prepared you are, no matter how excited you are — if you have a long day ahead of you, your body is going to slip into freak-out mode. You're going to wake up with the same kind of panic one might feel if they woke up in a burning room. Because you know it's coming, you can try to prepare for it but getting into bed extra early, maybe listening to some calming music or taking a bath.
Alcohol At Night Means Panic In The Morning
Drinking at night is a sure way to queue up anxiety for the morning. Most people wake up with a headache or dry mouth after night of drinking. You wake up feeling like your life is ending and you want to crawl out of your skin. Because of this, you can't overdo it with drinking, especially on weeknights.
An Alarm Is Pointless
No matter how late you went to bed, you will always wake up before your alarm. Maybe an hour, maybe 20 minutes, maybe 30 seconds. You literally don't even know what your alarm clocks sounds like because your anxiety beats you to the wake up call. Because of this, you'd think that you wouldn't worry so much about getting places on time or be scared of over-sleeping. But your anxiety knows no logic.
Sleeping Out Is A Gamble
If you grew up wit anxiety, sleeping at your friends' houses was probably pretty sucky for you. While the other kids could pass out together and wake up refreshed and with energy, you were up all night, tossing and turning and shortly after you finally fell asleep, everyone else is up. All you want to do is be teleported into your own bed so you can get some peaceful sleep. As an adult, you know if you stay over at someone else's place, you're not going to get good sleep. And even if you do, you're going to wake up at the crack of dawn and want to disappear.
Breakfast Is A Struggle
Because you wake up with so much anxiety, your stomach is usually filled with acid and uninterested in a hearty breakfast. But you know the mix of nerves and low blood sugar can make you feel worse, so you force yourself to eat easy foods like oatmeal or fruit, but it's a struggle. Eating is the last thing you want to do when you wake up feeling panicked.
If you'd like to be proactive about your early morning discomfort, Monroe suggests the following for anxiety management:
The best way to minimize the effect of morning anxiety is to develop a meditation routine. Meditation is the most effective way to slow down and bring us back to the present moment. This can be much more simple than many people originally think. The goal is to set aside a minimum of 10 minutes in the morning to meditate. This seemingly daunting task has been made much easier with the help of meditation apps such as ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’. (Make sure you put your phone in airplane mode so you don’t get interrupted!) If you don’t have access to an app, one easy meditation is to set a timer for 10 minutes, close your eyes and simply breathe deeply in and out through your nose. If you are able, say out loud, or to yourself, some positive affirmations such as “I am focused on the present moment” or “I am happy and healthy”. Keep your eyes closed for the duration. Your mind will wonder to a countless amount of places and it may seem like hours the first few times (don’t worry, there is no “good” at meditation), but if you keep to it, the process will become easier soon enough, and you will begin to reap the many mental health benefits that come from a daily mediation practice.
Check out a list of other useful meditation apps here.