How to Minimize Morning Anxiety

Distressed woman sitting in bed
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Many people with an anxiety disorder wake up feeling so worried and full of dread that they just want to curl up under the covers and not face the day ahead. Try not to get discouraged, though, as there are a host of ways to minimize morning anxiety and wake up excited to start the new day.

Consider Your Sleep Habits

Getting proper shuteye is extremely important for your mental and physical health. In fact, sleep problems like difficulties falling asleep and/or staying asleep are known to cause a variety of psychological and physical complaints. These include headaches, decreased energy, poor concentration, short-term memory problems, irritability, and anxiety.

Some healthy sleep habits to consider adopting include:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Keep your bedroom cold (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit) and dark (invest in room-darkening shades or curtains).
  • Avoid stimulating activities two to three hours before bedtime (for example, watching TV, working on your computer, exercising vigorously, and drinking caffeine).
  • Engage in a relaxing activity before bedtime like curling up with a good book or getting a back rub from your partner.

If you find you're unable to sleep well despite practicing good sleep hygiene, talk with your doctor.

Examine Your Morning Stressors

There may be parts of your morning routine that are anxiety-provoking, such as an alarm that jolts you awake and sends a rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins. If that's the case, consider changing your alarm to one that wakes you with soothing music. 

Your a.m. anxiety may also be worsened by the long list of tasks you need to complete. To avoid feeling frenzied, give yourself plenty of time in the morning (hitting the snooze button, which can throw off your sleep cycles and your schedule, is a no-no) and complete some chores the evening before (for instance, packing lunches or preparing clothes).

Do Some Relaxation Exercises

Starting your day relaxed and focused can provide a sense of emotional balance that carries you through your day. Some techniques to try include:

  • Deep breathing. Shallow breathing can upset your body's natural oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, signaling a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks. Breathing properly can help ensure that your blood is being properly oxygenated.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This simple technique involves tensing and relaxing all of your body's major muscles in order from your head to your feet.
  • Guided imagery. Through visualization, you use your imagination to picture yourself in a more calming and serene environment, such as at a beach or in a flower-covered meadow.
  • Meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that involves focusing your mind on your experiences (like your own emotions, thoughts, and sensations) in the present moment.
  • Journaling. Journal writing is the act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions regarding your life events. Used as a coping technique, journaling can be a helpful way to explore your fears, manage your stress, and enhance your personal well-being. 

    Think Positively

    If you’ve been dealing with morning anxiety for some time, it’s possible that you have developed automatic negative thought patterns that can fuel your anxiety. This means that your mind awakens, and without any conscious effort on your part, worried thoughts take center stage, leading to more anxiety.

    It takes practice, but you can change these negative thought patterns and replace them with positive thoughts and behaviors.

    First, identify the thoughts that need change, and then develop your own positive counter-statements. For example, let's say you wake up and your first thoughts are, "I feel terrible. How am I going to drive to work today? I’ll never get through the day. What’s wrong with me?"

    You can replace these negative thoughts with positive statements, such as: "Yes, I feel anxious this morning, but I have felt this way before and have been able to handle it. If I have trouble with anxiety during the day, I can use relaxation techniques that will calm me down. I am in control. Anxiety is a normal human emotion, and it's my cue to relax."

    If you find it useful to change your thought pattern, consider seeing a therapist who is trained in treating anxiety disorders with cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy that focuses on making connections between thoughts, behavior, and feelings. If face-to-face therapy isn't an option for you, there are online programs you can utilize where a therapist communicates with you through email or telephone.

    Consider Your Diet

    Research suggests a link, albeit complex, between diet and anxiety. In other words, what you eat has the potential to either trigger or ease anxiety. In addition, research has revealed that people with mood disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, tend to have poor diets—that is, ones that are low in fruits, vegetables, and protein, and high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. 

    Under the guidance of your doctor and/or a nutritionist, try changing your diet to one that's balanced in protein, omega-3 fats, and fruits and vegetables. Choosing low-glycemic index carbs at each meal will help avoid glucose spikes and dips that may contribute to symptoms of anxiety. While the science is still not robust on this theory, it certainly may be worth a try.

    Lastly, when it comes to diet, don't forget the role of caffeine, a common and well-known anxiety-producing culprit. Even if caffeine isn't causing your morning anxiety, it's a powerful stimulant that can fuel anxiety—so consider eliminating or at least cutting back on coffee and tea to see if your symptoms improve.

    A Word From Verywell

    If your morning anxiety affects your daily functioning or quality of life, be sure to see your primary care doctor or a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

    It's best to not carry the burden of your worries on your own shoulders. Let someone who's trained in treating anxiety disorders help you feel better and get well.

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