Recently I’d been seeing questions about struggling with anxiety in the morning. When I first started experiencing anxiety, I noticed that mornings were always the worst for me. As I didn’t really understand anxiety at the time, I thought it was just me but it turns out a lot of people feel the same. So, why do we feel more anxious in the morning and how do we overcome it?
Why do I feel more anxious in the morning?
There are various reasons that mornings can trigger higher levels of anxiety. Every person is different though, so the reasons listed below are the ones that personally have influenced me and those around me.
This is why sleep is so crucial to managing anxiety. When you're tired, your subconscious may be more concerned with potential threats. Take for example driving. If you are awake and alert, it isn’t that stressful. Your reaction speeds are normal and you are fully aware of your surroundings. But now imagine that you are driving when you’re tired. You are likely to get more stressed, miss things that are happening around you, your reactions are slower and it does actually become dangerous.
Obviously, driving is a scenario where there are a lot of real dangers but anxiety disorders stem from triggers that your brain perceives as a threat but actually isn’t. Similarly to driving, if you're tired, your brain will struggle to analyse threats so then more things become ‘dangerous’ and your anxiety rises.
This was always an issue for me. I’m not a morning person so I can’t eat a proper meal first thing. However, whenever I got anxious, my tummy would growl and would emphasise the hunger. Eating heavy foods would make the anxiety worse as would eating anything sugary.
One of the most common reasons for feeling anxious in the morning is fear of what’s to come. You’ve got the whole day ahead of you whether that’s some kind of event or work/school. Just thinking about the hours ahead of you which may be stressful, causes anxiety. Your brain can’t differentiate between a real situation and an imagined situation so if, first thing in the morning, you think of all the bad things that can happen during the day, you will likely feel anxious.
Mornings are when most people rush around to get ready and get out of the house. Ofen you think you’ve left yourself plenty of time but somehow you are still running late. You have to get yourself ready, get any paperwork ready, eat breakfast, prepare food for the day, etc. The list for each person will differ slightly but it is a stressful time of day.
If you get up too early, you will be anxious just sitting around thinking of what’s to come. If you get up too late, you will be in a blind panic of making sure you leave the house on time and don’t forget anything.
How do we overcome anxiety in the morning?
Stretch first thing. It’s a great way to release tension and wake yourself up. Stretching upwards and then down to your toes is the simplest but look up some yoga poses to see if something appeals to you.
Go to bed at a reasonable time. That’s not to say you have to give yourself a bedtime but make sure to relax in the evening and then get yourself in bed between 10pm and 11pm. That should give you enough time to sleep whilst not being too much time so that you wake up during the night. Also going to bed and waking up at the same times every day is meant to be beneficial for anxiety.
Prepare the night before. That means picking out your outfit, packing your bag, perhaps even preparing your lunch. It reduces stress in the morning and means you can stay in bed longer.
Eat quite early. Morning anxiety was the worst for me during university. I used to get up around 6.30am and try to eat straight away, something like egg on toast. It was a hit of protein and I would feel a little nauseous straight after because of nerves but that would go away by the time I had to leave the house (which was around 8am).
Reassure yourself that it is just one day. Focus only on one minute at a time. It’s crazy to think back to when I started university. I didn’t have lectures every day, but rather three days a week. I would be anxious a day before university, then eventually it was just on the morning of, and by the end of my course, I was anxious only in certain lectures. Take one minute at a time and don’t worry too much about what lays ahead for the day.