Sometimes anxiety can strike hardest in the morning, just after waking up — which seems counterintuitive. How can you be anxious when you've just been lying asleep for hours? And more importantly,
how can you stop morning anxiety?
Part of it has to do with biology: cortisol levels, which are associated with stress,
are highest in the morning when we're most alert, and decline throughout the day. If you happen to have anxiety that raises your cortisol levels in general, the cortisol rush you experience upon waking may send your anxiety into overdrive. However, there are things to do the night before that can help to alleviate the issue — and while some of them require a little commitment, they're all geared towards making you more relaxed throughout the night and into the waking hours.
Relaxing at night when you have an anxiety disorder is a very good idea, because
high anxiety levels tend to disrupt restful sleep, and that can create a chain reaction where exhaustion fuels anxiety levels during the day. People who experience restless sleep and a racing mind because of their anxiety will welcome the chance to relax before bedtime — but it's also possible to help morning anxiety with those evening actions. Make some simple changes today to help your anxiety at dawn tomorrow.
Make Sure You're Waking Up In A Calm Environment
Healthy Place notes that the
way in which you choose to wake up, and the environment of your room in the mornings, may not be helping your anxiety. "Although these may not be the root of your morning anxiety, your bedroom surroundings can aggravate an already bad situation. Imagine sleeping in a dark room, in an uncomfortable bed and then suddenly a noisy, loud alarm clock scares you into reality. Soon harsh bright lights and the chill of getting out of bed welcome you to your worst day ever."
To mitigate the anxiety-provoking elements of your wake-up routine, make sure your room is warm around your wake-up time, and use a calming alarm tone or an alarm clock that imitates natural light to waken you naturally. Shocks in the morning are not conducive to low levels of anxiety later.
Schedule Time To Worry The Night Before
Prone to waking up and immediately switching into worry mode? "Worrying schedules" can help. "It can be very helpful to set aside some time during the day to address your stressors. This is sometimes called '
scheduled worry time'", explains Very Well Health. The principle is pretty simple: set a small amount of time in your calendar — say, 10 minutes — every afternoon to think about or write down the things that are causing you stress, and then think about things that will help you feel better. Creating this space for worrying during the day means you're less likely to ruminate on anxious thoughts at night or when you wake up in the morning.
Try Visualized Storytelling Rituals
As you fall asleep, it's a good idea to make sure you're getting as much rest as you can; even if you feel like you're getting enough hours, your anxiety may be interfering with the depth of your sleep and how rested you feel. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that
lying in bed doing a visualization exercise might help you get off to sleep and wake up feeling relaxed: "Begin to visualize a scene, memory, or story that you find calming." They say anything from a memory of you hanging out at the beach to a scene that quells your anxious thoughts can help. "The key is to find something that allows you to focus your attention and let go of other thoughts. Begin to create this scenario in your mind. Visualize all the details of the image or story, as slowly and carefully as you can."
Practice this a few times and track your feelings of anxiety the next morning.
Try Working Out Earlier In The Evening
Exercise can be a good relaxation technique, both for anxiety-driven insomniacs and those who experience morning stress. It can exhaust you, guaranteeing better sleep. However, timing is important. "Make sure your more intense workouts aren’t too close to bedtime," suggests the National Sleep Foundation. "If you find that your treadmill runs are keeping you awake at night, hit the gym
at least three hours before you turn in." This gives your body temperature enough time to return from hot to normal, which will help you sleep.
Keep To A Bedtime Schedule
Keeping a rigorous bedtime schedule, where you do the same activities and fall asleep at the same time every night — yep, even on weekends — has been shown to improve sleep quality overall and reduce anxiety. Make some changes to keep a routine and a good sleep environment. Harvard Health suggests, "
Reading, listening to music, or relaxing before bed with a hot bath or deep breathing can help you get to sleep." And if you can't sleep, they suggest that you give yourself 20 minutes, get up and repeat the ritual until you feel sleepy.
If visualization isn't really your style, breathing deeply before you go to sleep may help. Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests a
breathing exercise known to reduce anxiety and help sleep quality. "Breathe slowly in and out for about five minutes. As you inhale, breathe down into your belly. Focus on your breath. If you’d like, repeat to yourself, 'Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am coping.'" Do this in bed before you go to sleep, and if necessary, when you wake up in the morning as well, to feel its calming effects.
Do Some Mindful Movement
The Foundation for a Mindful Society suggests that if you experience anxiety in the mornings, you may want to practice a bit of
mindful movement before you sleep, and make it part of your regular routine. They suggest tai chi or yoga, but the exact method is less important than doing it regularly, a review of research found.
Five to 10 minutes of mindful movement as part of your bedtime routine — after you've brushed your teeth, for instance — can help dissolve morning anxiety. If you find it works best as a morning activity, shift your practice to the morning, or do it twice a day. Work with whatever seems to create the best results for you.
Writing down all your cares and stresses before bedtime can help diminish their effect on your anxiety in the morning. Calm Clinic suggests doing it well before you go to bed, and making the physical act of writing a part of your ritual: "Once you do this,
shut the book and imagine you are symbolically shutting away all the cares and thoughts from the day until you next want to open the journal and look at them." Symbolic actions like that can keep your worries at bay until the next day.
Anxiety in the mornings is pretty common, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. Shift your evening routines and try a few different techniques that might create a calmer morning space, and soon you could be waking up smiling.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website , or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( SAMHSA ) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.