There are many people who wake up with anxiety and this conditions them for the rest of the day. Even so, few people know what morning anxiety is, what its symptoms are, or why it occurs. Therefore, in this article today we are going to explain all of the above and, in addition, we are going to give you some guidelines to improve if this happens to you.
What is morning anxiety and what are its symptoms?
Anxiety, as we have already discussed in articles such as “generalized anxiety: symptoms and treatment” or “anxiety attack: symptoms and treatment”, is an annoying sensation that generates a lot of impact on the person who suffers from it.
Before explaining morning anxiety, we are going to discuss some of the most common symptoms of anxiety: concentration problems, blanking out, irritability, sleeping problems, headaches, tiredness, restlessness, appetite problems, muscle aches, etc. (DSM-5; APA, 2013).
Now, morning anxiety is a type of anxiety that, as its name indicates, occurs in the morning. In other words, it happens when we wake up with anxiety. It is quite an unpleasant feeling because it can condition us and cause us to spend the rest of the day with anxiety, negatively interfering in our day to day.
As for the symptoms, they are more or less the same as we have described before. In this case, they would occur just when we got up or open our eyes and would consist of: agitation, nervousness, tachycardia, not wanting to get out of bed, malaise, obsessive and negative thoughts about what the day will bring us, weakness, tiredness (even though we have been sleeping for many hours), Stomach problems (diarrhoea, appetite problems or nausea), etc.
Why does morning anxiety occur?
There are different factors that could cause morning anxiety to occur. We will discuss them below:
Anticipations and catastrophic thinking. Anticipations are often a great source of anxiety because we tend to negatively or catastrophically anticipate what is going to happen in the rest of the day. For example, imagine you have an important presentation at work. If you wake up in the morning and automatically think that this presentation is going to go horribly wrong, it’s probably giving you a lot of anxiety.
Having gone to bed with anxiety. When we go to bed with anxiety, we usually also wake up with anxiety, considering that we have been lucky enough to sleep. Continuing with the previous example, if you go to bed thinking about how badly the next day’s presentation will go, you will probably wake up with the same thoughts and the same anxiety.
Copious dinners and intake of exciting. It is crucial to go to bed with a good stomach, not totally empty and also not excessively full. Eating abundantly is something that can also cause us to not rest well and wake up with anxiety. In addition, other habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking a lot of coffee (or other similar drinks) will also play against it.
Not spending time on self-care. If we barely get up without time, running and without time to enjoy things such as breakfast, we will also be more likely to manifest this type of anxiety.
Elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, since it is the one that is present when we have anxiety (Aguilar et al., 2014). That is, the more anxiety we have, the more levels of this hormone we will have because it is what makes us respond to “threats”. In morning anxiety, what happens is that if a person is under stress, they will release more cortisol in the morning, causing this type of anxiety to be created.
We have discussed some of the most important causes, but there may be others such as high levels of self-demand, financial problems, stressful life events, family problems, health problems both for oneself and those close to us, etc.
Recommendations to reduce morning anxiety
Once the most important causes have been identified, it is essential to analyze what we can do to improve the situation and reduce these levels of morning anxiety. In this section we will give you some strategies:
- Have good sleep hygiene. It is vitally important to have good habits related to sleep. Although we already talked about it extensively in the article “sleep hygiene guidelines for insomnia”, it is necessary to highlight that: you must have fixed schedules, the bed should only be used to sleep, you must avoid screens in the moments before before going to bed, do not take stimulants in the afternoon, naps must be avoided, the room to sleep must have adequate conditions, etc.
- cognitive restructuring. As we have seen, anxiety can be caused by negative and catastrophic anticipations that we may have about the day to come. Therefore, it is relevant that you try to restructure these thoughts, with the aim of finding thoughts that are a little more realistic.
- Healthy morning routine. Give yourself a prudent time to wake up, shower, eat breakfast, etc. Do not go with the right time because this will only increase the anxiety we have in the morning. For example, waking up knowing that we only have 15 minutes to get dressed, have breakfast, and leave the house is not the best thing to do and is a source of anxiety.
- Relaxation techniques before going to bed and when getting up. Both when you go to bed and when you wake up, you can take a few minutes to do some relaxation or breathing technique. This will, on the one hand, make you fall asleep more relaxed and, on the other hand, make you face the day with greater peace of mind.
Likewise, it is also essential to practice physical exercise the day before (without it being just before going to sleep), have a good breakfast, etc.
Morning anxiety is anxiety that occurs in the morning. The symptoms are similar to those that occur in generalized anxiety or panic attacks. There are many recommendations that we can follow so that it does not dominate our day. However, if you feel that it is something that limits you and interferes excessively with your daily life, we recommend that you contact a mental health professional. At PsicoGlobal, you can find a great team of professionals who can help you through online therapy.
- Aguilar, MJ, Sánchez, AM, Mur, N., García, I., López, R., Ortegón, A., & Cortés, E. (2014). Salivary cortisol as an indicator of physiological stress in children and adults: systematic review. Hospital Nutrition, 29(5), 960-968.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (5th ed.). Washington, DC.