Starting your day off with anxiety is never easy. It essentially sets you up for a struggle, because anxiety tends to beget more anxiety. When you wake up with anxiety, you often find that your stresses are all you can focus on, and every little thing that occurs throughout the day only adds to it.
Waking up with anxiety is interesting, because it affects a large number of those with anxiety and yet doesn't necessarily have some type of medical basis. Generally, sleeping should make it a bit easier to cope with anxiety, and your anxiety should instead show up throughout the day. Yet many people still deal with morning anxiety, and we'll discuss some of the possible causes and solutions in this article.
Are You Waking Up With Anxiety?
Waking up with anxiety can mean that your anxiety is severe, or it may be a reflection of your dreams, sleep quality, or experiences you have had in the past. Take my anxiety test to learn more about your anxiety severity.
Anxiety and Sleep
One thing that also plays a role in anxiety creation is sleep quality. Those that aren't getting enough sleep may be more prone to anxiety symptoms, and those that have anxiety may have problems getting sleep. This could affect your anxiety levels when you wake up, especially if you didn't calm down from the day before.
So no matter what, if you're having problems sleeping and you have anxiety, you should get help. Take my 7 minute anxiety symptoms test to find out about available treatments.
Causes of Waking Up With Anxiety
Regardless of your current sleep schedule, there is something unusual about waking up with anxiety. After all, anxiety is based on thought patterns and responses throughout the day. It's not uncommon to feel anxiety early in the day, but when you wake up should be the time that your anxiety levels are at their lowest.
But that's not often the case, and there are many reasons that you may find that your anxiety levels always seem to be on high alert in the mornings. Just a small sample of these reasons includes:
Association With Anxiety Stimuli
Those that wake up with anxiety are very likely to have jobs that cause them significant distress, or other issues that lead to rapid development of morning anxiety.
Your brain often creates associations. If you've ever had a panic attack in the morning, fought with a partner in the morning, or you have a career that brings you significant stress, your brain may have associated waking up with the development of that stress, so when you wake up your body starts to create fear immediately.
First Thought of the Day
Those that deal with intense anxiety often accidentally bring their anxiety on themselves. That's because as soon as they wake up, they notice that they don't have anxiety and worry they'll get it. Immediately this tends to start a chain reaction that generates the same exact anxiety that the person fears they'll get. In many ways it's simply the act of waking up feeling anxious about feeling anxious.
This is actually a common problem for those that suffering from anxiety - when they don't have anxiety, they realize that they don't have anxiety and worry about getting it, which in turn makes them feel anxious. It's one of the reasons that curing anxiety often involves breaking this type of cycle.
Fear of Being Late
Often there are those that have places to be, and have a tendency to either oversleep their alarm or fear oversleeping their alarm. In some cases, this fear also becomes associated with waking up. As soon as the alarm goes off (or even before it) you may experience this rush of "I'm going to be late!" anxiety that wakes you up with a rapid heartbeat and equally rapid thoughts.
Usually you'll be aware of this feeling is causing your anxiety because being late will generally be the first thought you have. But some people may still experience this type of anxiety without any idea why it occurs.
Dreams Causing Anxiety
Anxiety may also lead to more nightmares or more stressful dreams. Often when you are woken up in the middle of these dreams, you feel exactly as you did in the dream - stressed and anxious. Not everyone remembers their dreams even after they wake up, so you may not always realize that your anxiety is associated with your dreams or nightmares.
Coffee has developed an unfair reputation in the anxiety world. While coffee can increase your risk of anxiety symptoms and panic attacks, most people that drink coffee and have anxiety don't seem to experience much of a change, and some even find the clarity of coffee to be calming.
But coffee can still contribute to some feelings of morning anxiety. For example, you may wake up with a caffeine withdrawal headache that causes you anxiousness, or your mind may not feel like it's working properly without coffee - and that can cause anxiety. Further, while coffee may not affect everyone, some people will find that if they drink coffee too fast after they wake up, their anxiety symptoms quickly begin.
All of these are potential causes of waking up with anxiety, and this is not an exhaustive list. It's possible to wake up with anxiety simply because you had several fights with a significant other in the morning. Some people also get panic attacks in their sleep, which is not terribly common but not rare either, and causes a person to wake up significantly distressed. There are several issues related to anxiety disorders that may cause you to wake up anxious.
What Do You Fear Most?
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How to Stop Waking Up With Anxiety
Stopping morning anxiety is complex, because ideally you need to address the cause of your anxiety and how it affects you. A big part of that is trying your best to figure out why you have anxiety. If you're waking up anxious because you fear anxiety, for example, then you need to be aware of this and come to terms with it so that you motivate yourself to make changes. If you fear anxiety because you dislike your job, then you need to find ways to make your job a less stressful place. Here are several strategies you can implement:
- Morning Jog Jogging is an incredibly powerful anxiety reduction tool, and a massively underrated one. If you wake up with anxiety, go for a morning jog. It'll take your mind off of whatever is causing you that anxiety, tire your muscles so that you'll experience fewer anxiety symptoms throughout the day, and release endorphins to help you be more relaxed.
- Journal Writing and Positivity Writing Try an exercise that many find helps. Keep two journals. One is where you write out any thoughts and fears you have in the morning, so that you take them out of your head and put them on paper. Another you write only positive things - good things you expect to happen or that happened the previous day. These exercises may help you focus less on fearing the anxiety and more on what you'll enjoy all day.
- Make Work Fun There are strategies to make work less stressful. You can try to invent games to play with yourself at work, decorate your desk, listen to music, and more. If you make your work a less stressful place, then any anxieties you may have from going to work should decrease.
- Full Meal Anxiety symptoms may not be controlled by food, but the severity often is. Since you usually wake up hungry, make sure that you have a filling meal with a decent amount of hydration. This will decrease the severity of your anxiety symptoms and help you stay focused and energized through the day.
A very important part of dealing with this anxiety is simply recognizing it and why it occurs. By reminding yourself that your anxiety doesn't get to control your life, you may find that your ability to cope with it improves.
You should also start looking for long term solutions that will rid you of these anxieties and fears. I've helped thousands of people overcome their anxiety by starting them off with my free anxiety symptoms test. It will allow you to:
- Compare your anxiety experience to others.
- Get an idea of what anxiety you may have.
- Learn information about treatment options.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jul 09, 2018.