Morning anxiety is surprisingly common. It has no clinical definition, but most people define it as anxiety either immediately after waking up or anxiety that tends to build over the first hour or so upon awakening.
Morning anxiety is incredibly stressful because it tends to start your day off on a negative note. You'll have some days where morning anxiety fades as the day wears on, but often you'll find that when you start your day with anxiety, some type of stress or anxiety persists until you go to sleep.
How Severe is Your Morning Anxiety?
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Different Types of Anxiety - All Common
Most cases of morning anxiety are simply generalized anxiety. You wake up feeling anxious or stressed about your day, but otherwise, you don't necessarily have specific attacks or actions. You're simply stressed every time you wake up.
But some cases of morning anxiety are exacerbations of other anxiety disorders, like panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Take my free 7-minute anxiety test if you haven't yet to learn more about your anxiety.
Morning Anxiety Causes
Often the causes of anxiety are too complex to guess. Anxiety is something that's forged over decades of experiences, genetics, and life choices. There are so many factors to what leads to anxiety that it may be impossible to ever figure out exactly what led to your anxiety symptoms.
But in general, morning anxiety is actually a bit easier to understand, because it's not necessarily its own type of anxiety. Rather, it's a reaction to anxiety that has its basis in a number of potential causes. These include:
- Anxiety Association The absolute most common reason that people experience anxiety in the mornings is because they experience stress throughout the day. When they wake up, their body essentially floods them with anxiety over what their day is going to be like. It's especially common for those with stressful jobs but may affect those with panic attacks and other daily stresses as well. Waking up makes their body feel tense over the probability of a stressful day, and morning anxiety is the result.
- Poor/Bad Sleep Anxiety and stress can also affect sleeping habits, and that may lead to a lower quality of sleep. Those that aren't sleeping tend to wake up with more anxiety because their body is struggling to recover from the stresses of the past. Nightmares and panic attacks may also contribute to this feeling of stress and anxiety upon awakening.
- Negative Morning Experiences While most people experience anxiety because of the stresses that will happen later in the day, some people get morning anxiety because they've experienced some very significant stresses in the mornings of the past. For example, if you've woken up several mornings in a row and fought with your partner, then you may start waking up on high alert and have the act of waking up flood you with further anxiety.
- Coffee, Diet, etc. - Finally, some people drink coffee or eat fatty foods immediately in the morning, and these can lead to a feeling of anxiety and jitteriness that may make your mornings more stressful. This is much less common (small amounts of coffee do not usually cause anxiety), but it does occur nonetheless.
The reality is that most cases of morning anxiety occur because your mind and body are afraid of the stresses of the day, or the anxiety that you experience throughout the day. It's an unfortunate consequence of living with anxiety, but sadly one that is all too common for those with anxiety symptoms.
Morning anxiety is also self-sustaining. Once you've started feeling anxiety in the mornings, you tend to feel it every morning because your body wakes up anxious for the anxiety it expects to feel. That makes curing it without outside help or life changes a bit more difficult.
How to Stop Morning Anxiety
Stopping morning anxiety involves several important things:
- Breaking the connection between the morning and anxiety.
- Reducing your fear of the day ahead.
- Changing your routine to make the morning less stressful.
- Stopping your daily anxiety and stress.
Remember, most morning anxiety comes from your mindset over what the day is going to be like, and from your stresses that occur later in the day. That's why the following are all useful strategies for preventing future morning anxiety:
The first thing you have to do is exercise each morning. This is the single most important strategy you can implement. Exercise - especially jogging, if you're physically capable of it - burns away stress hormones, increases the release of relaxing neurotransmitters into your brain, tires your muscles and otherwise leads to better overall mental and physical health.
Daily exercise has been shown in several studies to be as powerful or more powerful than some of the leading anxiety medications. When you wake up in the morning, your body has all of this extra energy from sleeping and all of this anxiety that needs to be reduced for your day to go better. Immediate exercise - running, biking, or anything else that you can do - is the fastest and best way to cut down on that anxiety dramatically.
Reduce Your Daily Stresses
Your next step will be a little more complicated, but no less important. You'll need to make sure that you're looking forward to every day, and not experiencing a great deal of stress. Morning anxiety is directly related to the amount you're looking forward to your day. When your day is stressful, your anxiety increases as a result.
So what can you do? That depends on what's causing you the stress. For example:
- Making Work Fun If work is what is causing you so much stress, then you need to make sure you're looking for more ways to enjoy your work. You may work at one of the worst places in the world, but there are almost always ways that you can improve the quality or enjoyment of your work if you do it right. Try to make work more fun, and the stress you experience will decrease.
- Getting Out There Maybe you're stressed because you don't feel as though you're doing enough or having enough fun. That means that your next step is to make the changes you need to address that. Join clubs, spend more time with your friends - what you do depends on what you enjoy, but getting out there and enjoying life is the obvious solution.
- Relationship Troubles Those with relationship issues should be making sure they're addressing them as well. Sitting around and hoping things will change is foolish. If you're so stressed during the day that you're waking up with anxiety, then you need to make changes right away if you want your morning anxiety to go away.
Obviously, all of these are just examples. What you ultimately decide to do is based on what is causing your stress and anxiety. Only then can you make sure that you're taking the necessary steps to prevent it. But the point is that addressing your overall stress is the only true way to make sure that you're not going to associate waking up in the morning with a stressful day.
Positive Thinking Exercises
Similarly, morning anxiety suffers from a problem of negative thinking. You're waking up assuming that your day is going to be stressful, and you experience anxiety as a result. You may not even realize this assumption is occurring, but it's one of the key factors in creating this idea that you should feel anxious to start the day.
So you may need to try some positive thinking exercises. These exercises are something you need to commit to - they do not work right away, and for some people, they can take months to work effectively, but they are known to help improve overall positive thinking so that when you wake up, you won't find the day to be as frightening. A few quick examples include:
- Positive Journaling One thing to do is write in a journal every night or every morning where all you write about are the genuinely great things that have happened to you or will happen to you. You'll need to set yourself a minimum so that you force yourself to think of positive things, and eventually you'll start to see them more often during the day.
- Affirmations Affirmations are not for everybody, but they can be effective. Affirmations are positive phrases that you repeat to yourself when you're feeling down. At first, they seem sort of silly to do, but they do have a tendency to improve overall outlook once you've done them for long enough.
- Morning Notes You can do this yourself, or have a partner do it for you, but another thing you can try is waking up every morning with a positive note posted somewhere around the house. These notes should change all the time, and should say something like "smile today" or "you'll do great!" These morning reminders of happiness work like affirmations, except they're a bit more fun and can say anything you want.
- Goal Setting Finally, make sure that you're setting goals for yourself, with numerous sub-goals listed along the way. Each subgoal should have a date that you're gunning for, with everything planned out on a calendar. Goal setting gives each day more of a purpose, which is highly beneficial for addressing some of the main causes of anxiety and negativity - feeling as though you're not working towards anything.
Are these going to immediately create a positive mood? It's difficult to say. But the more positive you are, the more you're going to feel better about each day, and the more you feel better about each day, the more likely you'll experience less morning anxiety.
Finally, the most obvious step is to address your overall anxiety. So many people look for a quick fix when it comes to controlling their anxiety, but anxiety reduction is simply not something that happens overnight. Whether you need to seek outside help or commit to an at-home anxiety cure, you need to make sure that you're dedicated to living a life free of anxiety. Once you do, you'll experience less morning anxiety as a result.
I've helped thousands of people with morning anxiety cure their anxiety forever. You absolutely have to start with my free 7-minute anxiety test. This symptoms test will give me and you the information that you need to figure out how to overcome your anxiety, and what you can do to live a better overall quality of life.
What are you waiting for? Click here to start the test.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Dec 06, 2017.