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Why is my anxiety worse in the morning?

Do you wake up and and experience your heart pounding, a tight feeling in your chest and thoughts racing through your mind ? When that feeling of impending gloom washes over you, it's not the greatest way to start your day and you may find this has a knock on effect on the way the rest of your day pans out.

But please know that you are not alone in experiencing these feelings. In fact, they are actually quite common as most people find that their anxiety is worse first thing when they wake up.

There is actually a biological reason behind this...

Cortisol, a stress hormone, is naturally at its highest in the morning because its job is to help you to be alert and focused. However, if you are experiencing high levels of stress then your adrenal glands will be working overtime at pumping out cortisol and adrenaline and your body is waking up in a ‘fight or flight’ response at the thought of another anxiety-filled day ahead.

This can lead to a spiral of negative thinking which adds further to your anxiety.

Going to bed anxious can also cause your cortisol levels to spike too early, which result in you waking up with a racing mind. In addition, your blood sugar levels play a role in this: they are at their lowest first thing in the morning, and for people who are prone to anxiety, it can be a trigger as their brain panics at the lack of energy available.

So what can we do to help manage this morning anxiety?

We can't completely stop cortisol in our bodies as we need it to get us up and help us to focus but we can lower the amount so it doesn't peak too high, causing unnecessary anxiety and worry.

Daily Tips:

  • Avoiding (or at least lowering) the amount of caffeine you have - I know this won't be popular with many of you... but it can take up to 10 hours for caffeine to completely clear your system. This means if you drink a cup of coffee after midday the chances are it will still be in your system by the time you are ready to go to bed. This will disrupt the quality of sleep you have, making it harder to deal with the stressors in your life.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. It may appear that having a drink helps you fall to sleep quickly but it does impact the quality of sleep you get. As your liver enzymes metabolise the alcohol consumed and the blood alcohol level decreases, you are more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreases in sleep quality.

  • Take time for self care - I'm not saying run a bubble bath and slap on a face mask every day (hey if you have the time for that then go you!) but spending a short amount of time taking care of you will make you feel better. This could be as simple as working through your facial routine, putting on some makeup or doing your hair. You're also more likely to be focusing your attention on these tasks rather than ruminating and catastrophising your problems, making your anxiety worse.

  • Move - any kind of physical movement is great: go for a walk, do a workout or even put on some music and dance around the house.

  • Do things that make you happy - read, spend time with your friends and family, make time for your hobbies... whatever it is you enjoy doing, do more of it! Scheduling time to do these things means that you'll have something to look forward to which helps to break that cycle of negativity.

Before bed:

  • Prioritising good quality sleep. Clients will know that I regularly talk about us all having a 'stress bucket.' Things pile into it daily and the only way to empty it, is to get good quality sleep. This results in us feeling less stressed and anxious.

  • Limit eating or drinking after 8pm (and avoid completely skipping meals for that matter) as it will put a strain on your digestive system, leading to lower blood sugar levels.

  • Journal or keep a notepad by your bed so you can do a brain dump before sleeping. By writing down any important things you need to remember or worries you have before you sleep, means you get them off your mind and you do not need to think about them until the following morning.

  • Listen to a guided mediatation or relaxation track before bed - I like guided visualisations as they allow me to focus on what is being said rather than the 101 things that are on my to do list. You can find plenty of them on InsightTimer, the Calm app or I have recorded one myself that I am more than happy to share if you drop me a message.

Upon Waking:

  • Avoid checking your phone straight away - social media constantly bombards us with a whole host of information, bad news and unrealistic expectations which can be overwhelming.

  • Breathing exercises - deep breathing first thing in the morning can help take the focus off of your negative and anxious thoughts and turn your focus and energy towards your body.

  • Write down positive things - these can be things that happened the day before, things you are grateful for or even something you are looking forward to in the day. This gives you a boost of serotonin which helps you to manage your emotions.

Want further help?

Living with anxiety can feel like a vicious cycle of worry. But it doesn’t have to take over your life. If you're finding that your morning anxiety spills into the rest of your day and is negatively impacting your life then the next step would be to seek some help and support.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is effective in helping people manage their anxiety without having to unpick the underlying problem. Contact me to find out more or to book a free Initial Consultation where we can discuss how I can help you.


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