Everyone experiences anxiety differently. There are people that wake up and already struggling with significant anxiety. While they experience most of their anxiety in the mornings and it tends to last all through the day, it is almost never as bad as it is when they get up.
But there are others that experience anxiety that gets worse in the evenings. Many still have anxiety throughout the day, but it is during the evening hours when their anxiety tends to become far more overwhelming.
Causes of Evening Anxiety
Anxiety that gets worse in the evenings may be caused by several issues, including the association of bedtime with stress, a lack of distraction forcing you to think about your anxiety, and simply being drained from the day.
The causes of evening anxiety are somewhat unclear, in that there is not anything in particular about anxiety that should cause it to increase in the evenings. This means evening sufferers likely have a specific cause to their symptoms. Possible causes include the following:
- Post-Work Stress - Many people experience considerable anxiety after work, because of the lasting experience of their work day. When suffering from repeated work-related stress, it is not uncommon for tension to build, increasing the potential for late-night anxiety.
- Morning Distractions - Throughout the morning and afternoon, you tend to be very busy. Distractions serve as an important tool for relieving anxiety. So those who are busy at work and/or in the morning tend to be less likely to dwell on stress. But once all the busyness subsides, so do the distractions, allowing anxiety to bubble on the surface.
- Sleep Therapy - Sleep is its own natural form of therapy, and anxiety is a cumulative condition. So it is possible that every time you sleep your anxiety dissipates, and then over time as you go throughout your day it builds itself back until you sleep again.
- Restless Leg Syndrome - Restless leg syndrome is a condition that starts in the evenings and can lead to pain and discomfort in the legs. It may make it harder to sleep and stimulate anxiety symptoms whenever it reoccurs.
- Late Night Associations - For many, anxiety becomes associated with events. For example, if you often fight in bed with your spouse, then going to bed will create more anxiety even if you are not currently fighting. It is possible that you have had several arguments or problems around dinner time or later, and so when you start to approach that time of day your body becomes anxious in anticipation.
- Physical Responses - Some people find that they are more prone to hyperventilation in the evenings, as well as experience more aches, pains, and fatigue. Those with anxiety attacks may react to these feelings with heightened anxiety. Since each person has their own triggers, those with evening anxiety may have more evening triggers.
This list is only preliminary. It is also possible that some individuals are more prone to biological responses as well. Brain chemistry fluctuates based on energy levels, time of day, diet, and other factors that may differ at night compared to during the day. Also, some people become their own mental enemy in the evening.
As soon as you start to wonder whether or not you are more prone to evening anxiety, you are also psyching yourself up to anticipate evening anxiety. As strange as it sounds, the very realization that you have evening anxiety may make evening anxiety more likely.
The most likely reason is simply the lack of distractions. Anxiety tends to take over when we are lost in our own thoughts, and unfortunately, most people have little to think about at night that prevents them from focusing on their anxiety. But again, it may be any combination of causes.
How to Prevent Evening Anxiety
There are some very simple ways to reduce evening anxiety, at least comparatively. Overall, the only way to guarantee that you do not get anxiety in the evenings is to manage your anxiety altogether. But in the absence of that option, there are strategies that can help you break the cycle of anxiety at night. These include:
- Staying Busy - The first thing you need to do is try to stay busy. No matter how tired you are from work, make sure that you have planned several things to do once you are off work that you enjoy. This will reduce the time spent moping or lost in your own head, which is important for reducing anxiety.
- Post Work Exercise - You should also make sure that you are physically active. One of the best short-term anxiety cures is aerobic exercise. If you can get yourself exercising right before or while your anxiety hits, you will find that your anxiety symptoms decrease and your ability to cope with stress improves.
- Creating a Boring Routine - If staying busy and exercising is not something you can do, a boring routine may help. Routines are all about comfort. As long as your routine involves doing something, you will find that the act of knowing exactly what you are doing at all times can be very calming to the mind and body.
- Goal Setting - You should also consider giving yourself goals - goals that you can work on every night. This relates to staying busy, of course, but they also ensure that each night is spent focusing on the future, not just the present. Even if one of those goals is to finish a jigsaw puzzle, as long as you are working on it, you will improve your ability to cope with anxiety.
- Self-Awareness - Finally, make sure that you are aware of your anxiety and its triggers. The more in-tune you are to the way you feel, the more you can break the anxiety cycle. When you start feeling anxiety at night, do not try to fight it. Acknowledge it to yourself, try to examine what you are actually doing during your anxiety, and then work on figuring out how to manage it. Fighting anxiety exacerbates it, but accepting it and moving forward can significantly reduce its impact.
These are all tools designed to break the evening anxiety cycle. They are not going to cure your anxiety altogether, because they are not anxiety coping skills. Instead, it will work towards helping you properly assess evening anxiety and possibly reducing it.
You will still need to partner any of these strategies with a long-term anxiety treatment. It ensures you experience less anxiety overall, not just at night.