The Answer: Morning Anxiety
Wide awake, but feeling wired, anxious, AND tired,Negative thoughts,What will the day bring?
Sadly, morning anxiety seems to be a common experience, given personal stories from family and friends, descriptions from clients, and the plethora of articles with titles like, Early Morning Anxiety, and Morning Panic. There are many possible contributing factors. Listed below are some explanations and ideas that will help:
How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Anxiety
Alcohol acts as a sedative, so it can help you feel more at ease. It may make you feel more socially confident at a party or help you forget your worries.
However, these benefits are short term. When we drink alcohol it disrupts the balance of chemicals and processes in the brain. The relaxed feeling you experience when you have your first drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol causes in your brain. The alcohol starts to depress the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition5.
But these effects wear off fast and the pleasant feelings fade. If you rely on alcohol to mask your anxiety problems, you may find you become reliant on it to relax, which may lead to alcohol addiction.A likely side-effect of this is that the more you drink the greater your tolerance for alcohol will be. Over time you may need to drink more alcohol to get the same feeling. In the long term this pattern of alcohol use may affect your mental health.
Avoid Drug And Substance Abuse
Drug and substance abuse can lead to a mental disorder hence causing one to be anxious. Morning anxiety and drug abuse have similar signs and symptoms such as headache, tiredness, fear of outcomes etc.
People who abuse drugs are more prone to morning anxiety. This is because drugs are addictive and getting out of them is difficult.
A combination of substance abuse and anxiety can make someone have very low self-esteem. Those who abuse drug try to end the anxiety by using more drugs. Drugs and substance abuse will never end anxiety, instead, it adds more salt to the wound.
Avoiding drug and substance abuse is a success on its own and it helps conquer waking up with anxiety.
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What Is Morning Anxiety
Although not a medical term, morning anxiety refers to waking up with feelings of stress and worry. If you are dealing with excessive anxiety, worry, and stress in the morning, theres a good chance you may also have generalized anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive and uncontrolled worry that pervades daily life and occurs frequently for at least six months. People with GAD typically worry about everyday actives such as work, money, family, and health.
The symptoms of morning anxiety often mimic those of generalized anxiety disorder. If you are struggling with anxiety upon waking, you may be experiencing:
- feeling restless, on-edge, or wound up
Morning anxiety can be caused by many factors that may also contribute to an anxiety disorder. Since morning anxiety is a reaction to excess stress and worries, there are several potential causes that may contribute to your symptoms.
The stress hormone cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress. Researchers have studied the cortisol awakening response and have found that cortisol is highest in the first hour of waking for people with an increased level of stress in their lives. This helps explain why you may experience an increase in anxiety in the morning.
If you go to bed worrying or wake up during the night with anxious thoughts, you are likely to feel anxious and concerned about your day in the morning.
Why You Wake Up With Anxiety
Theres no definitive explanation for what causes morning anxiety, but psychologists have theories.
When you first wake up, your defenses are down, which means you are much more vulnerable to an ambush of negative thoughts, explains Tsilimparis. These thoughts, if not properly managed, could lead to anxiety.
Anxiety originates in the amygdala, a section of the brain that regulates emotions, Pittman explains. One of the amygdalas jobs is to register danger, and when it IDs a threat, it mobilizes the body into fight or flight mode to help you combat the danger or run to safety . Your heart starts pounding, blood flows to your extremities, and your thinking skills may become impaired. The thing is your amygdala cant distinguish between an immediate danger and perceived danger it activates the same physiological responses either way.
So waking up and immediately worrying about your day, or other chronic stressors in your life, can jolt your amygdala into fight or flight, and that, in turn, leads to anxiety.
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How To Tell Whether You Have Morning Anxiety
Maybe you wake up feeling extremely on edge and your chest is tight. Or perhaps your mind is racing and your stomach hurts before youve even gotten out of bed. People experience anxiety in a lot of different ways, explains David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard and founder and director of the Center for Anxiety in New York. There are cognitive symptoms of anxiety, like excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, and racing thoughts. There are also physical symptoms, like chest tightness, heart palpitations, constricted breathing, sweating, nausea, and shakiness. If you experience a combination of both mental and physical symptoms in the a.m., you likely have morning anxiety.
Anxiety isn’t the same as run-of-the-mill stress, which is what a lot of folks experience as they get ready for a busy day ahead. Stress occurs when we don’t have enough resources to deal with the demands of our day, explains Rosmarin. Say, for example, you have a work presentation due in four hours, but you estimate it will take you at least six hours to finish it. Or you have to pay a $500 bill, but you have only $300. Those scenarios would trigger stress.
How To Get Rid Of Morning Anxiety
Rather than load you up with a bunch of tips, techniques and tools for dealing with morning anxiety, Id like you to instead consider the following two scenarios. I will be using a parent/child relationship in these examples.
As you read these scenarios, I ask you to ponder the following questions:
Read more:Learn about anxiety and stress dreams that often wake people at night.
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Set Out Your Clothes For Tomorrow
Your closet might be packed with items you love but all of those options can lead to decision fatigue, or the exhaustion and stress thats associated with having too many options to choose from. Getting dressed in the morning sounds like a simple task for any adult, but for some, it really can be wearing. If this sounds like you, try setting out your outfit the night before to see if doing so can help combat some of that morning stress. This process is you looking out for your future self, alleviating some of the jitters that come after sunrise.
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Other Treatments For Anxiety
Our guide to how to calm anxiety may answer lingering questions about other treatment options if you want to dive deeper, but for now, one of the best recommendations we can make for anxiety when you wake or before you go to bed is to consider therapy.
Therapy is designed to take the isolation out of the symptoms of anxiety youre experiencing its an effective foundation for talking out those struggles associated with anxiety, with the goal of creating a coping plan that may include relaxation exercises and relaxation techniques like deep breathing, or physical activity during the day to keep your brain and body healthy.
And studies show that anxiety disorders respond well to therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy , which helps people gain control over anxious moments by learning to recognize behavior patterns and providing them with the tools to cope accordingly like self-defense training for your mental health.
We explore CBTs benefits in more detail in our guide, What Is Psychotherapy & How Does It Work?.
Therapists and therapy professionals might also suggest changes to your lifestyle or relationships, and they may suggest ways to address other common stress factors like career or bedtime habits that may impact your morning mental health.
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Nataliya 33 Writer And Digital Content Consultant
“Before I was diagnosed with a generalised anxiety and panic disorders a decade ago, I genuinely believed everyone woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach every day. I’d heard people speak of anxiety, so I thought it was normal, but now I know that being anxious and having an anxiety disorder that requires medical attention aren’t the same thing. Anxiety is a normal feeling in the body, like happiness, sadness, or jealousy. There’s a big distinction between anxiety and anxiety disorders.
“I genuinely believed everyone woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach every day”
My anxiety was especially bad in the morning because I struggled to deal with the day ahead. Waking up meant I had to organise my day to ensure I didn’t miss anything or say anything that would make me ruminate all night. I went through the tasks in my head over and over. If I was doing something new or unusual that day, I’d wake up too early with anxiety. Everything new spelled fear, especially when it centered around people or expectations I had to fulfil. Talking on the phone felt awful and socialising was a huge task.
Nataliya is the founder of Styletomes.com.
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:
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Everyday Anxiety Vs Gad
An individual experiencing everyday anxiety will spend time worrying about a specific event, assignment, or task. Theyll also have trouble sleeping or concentrating during stressful times, and theyll experience physical aches and pains from specific situations.
An individual with GAD will experience ongoing general worry about vague, often imagined threats that interfere with daily life. Theyll also experience frequent trouble sleeping or concentrating and experience physical aches and pains for more than six months without a specific cause.
What Are The Morning Anxiety Signs To Look Out For
Number one on the list of symptoms: racing thoughts. Mentally, youll feel as if there are problems you need to solve or that you cant possibly solve, and your mind will try to create solutions, Wallace says.
The anxiety these racing thoughts create can also lead to physical symptoms including:
- Tense muscles
While it may feel as if the physical symptoms start first , thats not the case, Wallace says.
In addition to racing thoughts, if youre regularly experiencing any of the following emotions or behaviors when you wake up, theres a chance you have generalized anxiety disorder that’s presenting in the morning:
- Overthinking worst-case outcomes constantly
- Worrying about things that are out of your control
- Blowing a scenario out of proportion with reality
- You’re terrified of making the wrong decisions
- You’re unable to let go of a worry
With generalized anxiety, your thoughts are racing, and you’re trying to come up with solutions to problems that may not be realistic or might even be catastrophic, she says. And then those physical symptoms can come upheart racing or fatigue, for example. When all of this is going on in your body, you’re exhausted.
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Coffee And Sugary Morning Foods
Coffee has developed an unfair reputation in the anxiety world. While coffee can increase your risk of anxiety symptoms and panic attacks, many people are able to drink coffee without too many problems and some even find the clarity that coffee brings to be calming.
But coffee can still contribute to feelings of morning anxiety. Studies have shown that coffee increases cortisol levels, which may trigger a physiological anxiety response. This might also involve an elevated heart rate, and for those that are sensitive to how their heart feels, that increased heart rate may trigger further anxiousness.
But coffee is not the only culprit. Many people eat foods high in sugars, from donuts to cereal to juice, and high sugar foods can also contribute to nervousness and jitters. All of these scenarios may indicate that your diet could be affecting morning anxiety.
Why You Feel More Anxious In The Morning
There are several proposed explanations that point to why anxiety levels are higher in the morning.
The stress hormone cortisol is at its peak for the first 3045 minutes youre awake. This is known as the cortisol awakening response , where the adrenal glands release cortisol in response to fear or stress.
Higher levels of cortisol can increase adrenaline, blood flow, and heart rate, which keeps your body on high alert and contributes to excessive worry.
Another possible culprit? Your sleep patterns.
Sleep is essential for recharging your body for the next day, yet many of us have trouble with it. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of U.S. adults report that they get less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
Lack of sleep can also lead to elevated levels of cortisol, which can affect . This can lead to brain fog, lower energy, irritability, and poor concentration all of which provoke anxiety.
Research suggests that anxiety levels are significantly higher in people with insomnia.
Because anxiety starts in the amygdala , any perceived threat whether real or imaginary can activate the fight, flight, or freeze response and jumpstart your anxiety.
Try not to get discouraged when you wake up with anxiety. There are a few self-care strategies you can use to ease your symptoms in the morning.
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