Do you struggle with morning anxiety? Do you want to know why? If so, read on, because this article describes potential causes and solutions to morning anxiety.
Some anxiety in the morning is normal because morning is when there is a sudden shift from the peaceful and relaxed state of sleep to a state of awareness, alertness, and planning.
So, a little bit of morning anxiety is expected. For some people, however, mornings are a time of severe stress and worry—of racing thoughts about what they will need to accomplish during the day and worrying about all the different ways things could go wrong.
These individuals may also experience uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, nausea, and abdominal cramps. Worrying about somatic symptoms, in turn, can worsen anxiety.
But, as described below, there are ways to manage morning anxiety caused by worry.
Some ways to reduce your worries include:
- Planning your day the night before.
- Have a Plan B in case something unexpected happens.
- Practicing better time management skills.
The last point needs emphasis. To reduce worries, it is essential to learn how to use time effectively. Indeed, when you are not in a rush, you feel more in control and thus experience less anxiety.
Having discussed a psychological source of morning anxiety, we turn to a discussion of biological sources, beginning with a well-known stimulant: caffeine.
Many of us like to start our day with a hot cup of coffee or black tea. Both contain caffeine. Caffeine is also present in chocolate, energy drinks, and certain medications.
Caffeine is a psychoactive substance, meaning it stimulates the nervous system. As a paper in Practical Neurology explains, caffeine has a variety of effects on the body, some beneficial and some detrimental.
For instance, caffeine can increase alertness and improve mood. However, a large amount of caffeine—or even small amounts, for those sensitive to caffeine or suffering from anxiety disorders—often causes anxiety, nervousness, shakiness, and a rapid heartbeat.
If you are an anxious person or sensitive to caffeine, limiting caffeine intake can help reduce your morning anxiety.
If you must drink coffee in the morning, drink it slowly. This allows your body to adjust.
And do not compensate for a morning without caffeine by drinking more tea or coffee in the evening. Why? Because caffeine in the evening can cause insomnia and potentially worsen next-day morning anxiety.
Another biological source of morning anxiety is cortisol.
Cortisol is called the “stress hormone” because it is often elevated during stress.
Cortisol has a diurnal pattern and usually peaks earlier in the day. Specifically, there is a 50-100% increase in cortisol levels in the morning. The peak is reached about half an hour after awakening. Compared to individuals who wake up later in the morning, those who wake up earlier experience larger increases in cortisol.
Solutions for Morning Anxiety
If you are under chronic stress and have high levels of cortisol, you might benefit from relaxation training.
Set aside sometime each day to center and calm yourself by performing breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness meditation, or doing yoga.
These practices reduce morning cortisol levels. Indeed, research shows that one of the mechanisms through which yoga reduces stress likely involves cortisol.
Regardless of its causes, if your morning anxiety feels unmanageable, consider seeing a mental health professional. Your doctor will determine whether medications, medical issues, or mental health conditions are contributing to your morning anxiety. And he/she will offer treatments that address these causes before they endanger your well-being.