Waking Up Stressed? How to Cure a Stress Hangover

If You Are Hit With Stress In The Morning, Here Is How To Reset Your Day

Morning stress and sleep deprivation
Leftover morning stress doesn't need to color your day. Atli Mar Hafsteinsson/Cultura/Getty Images

Have you ever felt like you’ve had “one of those days” before the day has really even begun? Some days can be so stressful that we still feel stressed when we wake up the next morning, though all we’ve experienced for the last several hours is sleep. At times, the stress of a day can plague your dreams so your night feels anything but restful as the challenges of the day become characters in your stress-fueled dreams. Other days are set up to be so busy or challenging that we feel the weight of them as soon as we wake up. How can we manage these “stressed before we become stressed” feelings and have a better day? The following strategies can help you to make the most of each day, and let the stress roll off your back.


Meditation itself is a powerful tool for stress relief. It can be a particularly powerful tool to combat that “stress hangover” feeling because it can pull you out of what you are thinking and feeling, and provide some mental and emotional distance between you and the stressors that are troubling. Certain meditation techniques can be particularly useful for the early morning hours because they can set you up to experience positive feelings for the rest of the day. I recommend the following meditation techniques for those mornings when you’d like to feel less stressed and more positive. See which work best for you.

Cultivate Gratitude

Cultivating a feeling of gratitude can help you to feel more peace throughout the day, and is particularly useful at night. If you wake up and feel stressed already, it can be very helpful to counteract that with feelings of gratitude.

Try to keep a gratitude journal

You can count the things you are looking forward to in the day, the things you’re already grateful you have, or the people who make your life better, and feel more positive as you focus on it all. If you habitually wake up feeling stressed, a little pre-bedtime gratitude journaling can be an effective buffer between you and stress.

Try keeping a gratitude journal, and write down a list of things that you're grateful for each night. You may find that you experience more peaceful sleep as a result.

Set Goals

When you wake up feeling overwhelmed from the day you have ahead, sometimes making a plan can mean the difference between a day of low-grade anxiety over how everything can get done, and a day that is merely busy. If you wake up feeling generalized stress, setting goals for the day can help you to find a focus that can motivates you to be productive and feel less stressed. If you wake up ruminating about negative situations from the day before or anxious about challenges to come, focusing on goals can help to take your mind away from these things as well.

Try these goal-setting tips

Make a To-Do List

Having a list of things that need to be accomplished for the day can be stressful, especially if that list only lives in your head. Taking a few minutes each morning to get your to-do list out of your head and onto paper (or smartphone) can help you make a plan so you feel less stressed and anxious about the day ahead.

Use Music

The act of listening to music, whether you’re doing so actively or have it on in the background, can lower your stress levels almost immediately. Because of this, music is a very convenient and powerful tool to help with stress relief: it can help you to feel more energized, more peaceful, more cheerful, or more of many stress-combating emotions.

Because music can affect your physiology and your mood with very little conscious effort from you, it’s great to have on in the car while you start your day, or in your house when you get ready to go. (If you anticipate a difficult morning, consider using a song that will put you in a good mood as an alarm!) The following are specific guidelines to follow to make the most of music as a stress relief tool.

See how to use music as a stress relief tool.

 Get Some Exercise

Exercise can boost mood, change focus, and leave you feeling good for the rest of the day. It’s also great for your health, so incorporating quick workouts as part of your morning routine can be helpful in many ways. Think about what type of physical activity might work best for you: walking, jogging, or a home gym routine can all be convenient options for the morning. (If you’re very busy, high-intensity interval training can provide virtually the same benefits of longer workouts in a fraction of the time, so exercise need not take up your whole morning.) Exercise allows you to clear your mind and prime your body for the day ahead, so it’s highly recommended as a stress reliever for those difficult mornings.

Press Play for Advice On Clearing Your Mind

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to clear your mind when your thoughts keep racing. Click below to listen now.

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 Build Rewards Into Your Day

Sometimes the key to a stressful start to a day is knowing that things will get better. The act of anticipating a positive experience can infuse greater joy into the hours until it happens, so the key to brightening your morning can be making a plan to reward yourself at the end of the day. There are many incentives you can give yourself, and you probably already know what you’d like: dinner at your favorite restaurant, watching a re-run of your favorite show, a chat with a friend, or whatever you enjoy. Give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the day and you’ll enjoy the day more as you go!

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.