How to help morning anxiety

Why Do I Feel Anxious When I Wake Up in the Morning?

Do you ever experience racing thoughts or anxiety in the morning before you even have a chance to hit snooze on your alarm? If you do, you’re not alone.

While some anxiety is considered a normal part of life, excessive worrying about daily tasks or situations that others see as nonthreatening may indicate an anxiety disorder.

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, there’s a good chance you may also have generalized anxiety.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 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”
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • signs of a panic attack, such as tight chest,
    tense muscles, higher than normal heart rate, or difficulty breathing
  • difficulty concentrating and finding your mind
    goes blank
  • difficulty controlling the worry or nervousness

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 (CAR) 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.

What you eat and drink first thing in the morning can also contribute to higher levels of anxiety in the early hours of the day. Caffeine and sugar can increase anxiety symptoms. But low blood sugar due to a lack of food can make anxiety symptoms worse.

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.

Living with an anxiety disorder can feel like a never-ending cycle of worry. But it doesn’t have to take over your life. With the right treatment, you can learn ways to cope with your symptoms. Some of the more common ways to treat morning anxiety include:


Otherwise known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy can help you understand how anxiety affects your life. Your therapist will also work with you to develop strategies that decrease the severity of your symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) looks at the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. CBT teaches you new ways of thinking, acting, and reacting to situations that cause anxiety.


Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help relieve the symptoms associated with anxiety.

Lifestyle changes

Many lifestyle changes can help you manage morning anxiety, including:

  • getting enough sleep
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine (both can trigger
    anxiety and panic attacks)
  • eating a healthy diet that limits processed food
    and sugar
  • reducing stress at work and home

There are also self-care strategies you can use right when you wake up feeling anxious. This includes:

Physical activity

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself in the morning, especially if you are dealing with an excessive amount of worry when you wake up. Any physical activity, such as taking a walk, can:

  • lift your mood
  • reduce anxiety symptoms
  • improve your body’s ability to handle stress
  • help you relax

Aim to exercise at least five days per week for 30–45 minutes each session.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation

The goal of meditation practice is to be aware, and to observe and notice thoughts, feelings, and body states without reacting to them or believing them to be true.

While it may take practice to get into a mindful state when you wake up in the morning, it can help to reduce anxiety symptoms.

Deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing done first thing in the morning can help take the focus off of your negative and anxious thoughts and turn your focus and energy toward your body.

Challenging negative thoughts

If you wake up with negative thoughts about your day (often called “awfulizing”) challenge them and focus on what you can control. You can keep a journal by your bed and write down what you are grateful for. It’s also a good idea to list at least three things you are looking forward to.

If you’re new to these techniques and you’re finding that managing morning anxiety is a lot harder than you thought, try setting a worry timer. Give yourself a time limit of 10 minutes to experience those feelings. When the timer goes off, move on to your self-care strategies. Though you can’t expect to simply “turn off” your anxiety, this approach allows you to acknowledge your worry and gives you a concrete point at which to move on to self-care.

Even though the symptoms of morning anxiety can feel overwhelming and permanent, they are highly treatable. When you combine professional treatment along with the self-care strategies listed above, you can experience relief from the racing thoughts and worry that invade your mind.

Tips for Coping with Morning Anxiety

Given the stress of living through a pandemic, moderate anxiety is common. Waking up in a panic every morning is more troubling, as it sets in before coping mechanisms can be deployed. Morning anxiety has a biological cause: Cortisol, often called the “stress hormone,” is higher during the first hour after waking for people experiencing stress. Sometimes people feel a measure of control when they worry, so they have trouble stopping the cycle.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Wake Forest University’s Master of Arts in Counseling program.

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<p><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="How to recognize and reduce the onslaught of morning anxiety. " /></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">Wake Forest University </a></p>

Symptoms of and Myths About Anxiety

Many people conflate stress and anxiety, but they’re different. Webster’s defines anxiety as “being uneasy, apprehensive or worried about what may happen,” whereas stress is “mental or emotional tension or strain characterized by feelings of anxiety, fear, etc.” Stress can also be defined as not having the resources to complete a task, while anxiety is usually tied to a perceived threat, real or imagined. Stress may be alleviated by accomplishing the task, but anxiety sticks around, producing a host of physical and psychological symptoms.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Some of the symptoms commonly associated with anxiety are internally physical in nature, which can range from nausea and headache to rapid heart rate and tight chest. Other symptoms are outwardly physical, such as sweating, shaking or having difficulty breathing. There are also symptoms tied to behavioral or emotional tendencies, such as a sense of panic, difficulty concentrating, restlessness and diminished sex drives. Other potential symptoms are fatigue or problems sleeping.

Common Misconceptions About Anxiety

Unfortunately, there are several myths regarding anxiety and how it’s handled. Some prominent misconceptions include worrying is genetic and incurable, anxiety medication is addictive, using distractions or avoiding stressful situations can help minimize the threat of anxiety, and being around supportive people can cure anxiety.

Prevalence of Anxiety

Anxiety has been on the rise the last few years, as 32% of Americans say they’re more anxious than they were the year before. In 2019, two-thirds of Americans were worried about the safety of themselves and their families as well as their finances. Nearly two-thirds had anxiety about their health, and around half were worried about the effects of politics and had anxiety over various interpersonal relationships.

Ongoing anxiety can cause a variety of physical ailments, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney and heart damage and arrhythmia. It can also exacerbate other conditions, such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, heart disease, stroke and chronic pain.

General Anxiety Disorder

While occasional worry is a part of life, frequent excessive anxiety about tasks or situations that most people don’t find threatening could be an indication of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Nearly 7 million adult Americans experience GAD annually, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Studies also indicate GAD affects women about twice as often as it affects men. Additionally, people with serious or painful medical conditions or substance misuse problems are more likely to have anxiety disorders.

Everyday Anxiety vs. GAD

An individual experiencing everyday anxiety will spend time worrying about a specific event, assignment, or task. They’ll also have trouble sleeping or concentrating during stressful times, and they’ll 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. They’ll also experience frequent trouble sleeping or concentrating and experience physical aches and pains for more than six months without a specific cause.

Tips for Reducing Morning Anxiety

If a racing heart or upset stomach greets you first thing in the morning, you can do a few things to help ease your everyday anxiety. For instance, you can engage in exercise, which increases endorphins, improves mental focus, and elevates mood. You can also practice meditation or mindfulness, which can improve ability to calm the mind and stop the cycle of anxious thoughts.

Another tip involves limiting stressors, such as waiting to check news or social media, using an alarm clock instead of a smartphone, or taking the time to self-care. Additionally, you can use tactics designed to exert a sense of control, such as daily planning or writing down and “fact-checking” nagging fears. Finally, resources like meditation apps or podcasts focused on decreasing feelings of isolation can be valuable.

Reaching Out Can Help

If anxiety is impacting your sleep, work, relationships or ability to focus, seek professional help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness connects people with professionals in their area. Call 800-950-NAMI or text “NAMI” to 741741. If anxiety is causing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).





How to help yourself with morning anxiety

Know YourselfPractices how to

Many people think of anxiety as a predominantly nocturnal “guest”: it is associated with insomnia, with the same annoying thoughts or unpleasant incidents from the past scrolling in the head. However, some of us not only fall asleep, but also wake up in this state. There are several reasons for this.

1. Cortisol Surge

“When we wake up, our brain “boots” like a computer, and this is helped by the release of cortisol into the bloodstream,” explains Alex Dimitriou, a physician who specializes in sleep disorders. “In itself, this is normal and natural, but for those who are currently experiencing stress or generally prone to anxiety, it is not easy.” nine0003

2. Bad sleep habits

“The circadian rhythm system plays a huge role in causing anxiety or even panic attacks,” adds the specialist. - Some studies show that panic attacks in general happen to people more often in the morning than in the afternoon. Why it happens? If you don't get enough sleep at night, it's possible that your body stays in fight-or-flight mode and doesn't rest properly."

From this point of view, it is not useful to sleep off on weekends either: the usual sleep and wakefulness routine is disrupted, and the body reacts with an increased level of anxiety. nine0003

3. General mental state

Clinical psychologist Lyndon J. Aguiar believes that our mental state and especially mental disorders affect what time of day we are most anxious.

Patients with social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have anxiety in the morning, those diagnosed with generalized anxiety or PTSD in the evening and at night, and people struggling with addiction at the time of day when most often exhibited addictive behavior. nine0003

And, of course, anxiety is more likely to hit us in the morning if we have nightmares or just vivid, colorful and emotionally charged dreams at night, if we have PTSD symptoms and increased stress levels, if we generally do not get enough sleep, We eat poorly and irregularly.

How to deal with morning anxiety?

Of course, ideally with such problems it is better to immediately go to a specialist. However, if for some reason this is not possible at the moment, it is worth:

1. Keep a diary of your states

“Note any difficulties, problems, social interactions during the day in it to see if some of them lead to the development of anxiety the next morning,” Aguiar advises. These records, by the way, will be very useful during the first visit to a psychologist.

2. Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing

Inhale for 4 counts, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds. nine0003

3. Find something that calms you and make it your daily practice

Yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation - all this helps to reduce stress levels, which means it should become a habit for you. And, of course, do not neglect physical activity, especially outdoors.

4. Stick to a daily routine

The routine helps us feel calm, so try to:

  • Get up and go to bed at the same time. nine0054
  • Put your smartphone away half an hour before going to bed.
  • Write down all negative thoughts in a diary, freeing your head from them.
  • Meditate.
  • Sleep under a heavy blanket.

In addition, we repeat, it will be useful to turn to a psychotherapist, especially one practicing in the framework of the cognitive-behavioral approach. The specialist will help you learn to perceive familiar situations differently and react differently to stress, which will allow you, if not to say goodbye to anxiety completely, then at least reduce it to an acceptable level. nine0003

Text:Yulia TarasenkoPhoto Source:Getty Images

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Anxiety is an emotional state caused by the expectation of danger or threat. While fear is a basic human emotion associated with the instinct of self-preservation, and appears directly at the moment of danger.

The terms "fear" and "anxiety" are not synonymous, but they can be used interchangeably when it comes to situational anxiety (state at a given moment in time). nine0092

In the normal state, the self-preservation function encourages action, but there are also moments of apathy when anxiety intensifies.

We will tell you how to cope with anxiety on your own and determine its level in yourself.

Read more: "9 Proven Ways to Beat Procrastination"

How to Measure Anxiety

American psychologist Charles Spielberger studied more than 117 signs of human anxiety and created a scale to determine its level. His "assessment of the level of anxiety" is divided into situational and personal. Situational is responsible for the state at a given moment in time and the influence of external circumstances - for example, self-isolation. Personal - character of a person. nine0003

To determine “your level” of anxiety, you can take a test of 40 short questions.

What causes anxiety

The main factors that provoke increased anxiety in us are loneliness, problems at work, problems in relationships, health, environment and all sorts of conflicts.

Our way of life also has a great influence. For example, we are more likely to experience anxiety states if we are constantly on the phone or watching the news on TV. Digital progress has certainly made our life faster and better, but we pay for this comfort with an additional level of stress, new fears and complexes due to the large flow of news. nine0003

Try to minimize the number of hours spent on the Internet. Go outdoors, read, do yoga, cook, cross-stitch, build LEGOs – there are so many more options than you might think.

Stages of anxiety

– Waiting alarm. People who foresee the most unfavorable of all possible situations suffer. Such anxiety can appear at certain moments or haunt a person constantly.

- Anxiety in the form of phobias is associated with certain situations and objects. For example, fear of loneliness, spiders or darkness. May be a clinical case if expressed in the form of panic attacks.

- Neurotic anxiety. This form of anxiety is the most serious and is found in many psychological diseases: hysterical, schizoid. There is a pathological level of fear here that destroys a person's mental health.

The whole planet is now in fear of waiting due to the incessant flow of news and uncertainty. "Fear of waiting" or "free fear" is formed due to the information flow in which we are constantly immersed. The tools that help to cope with situational anxiety, which has no connection with clinical cases, will be described below. nine0003

False alarm

Feelings of fear are easily confused, so before we talk about how to get rid of anxiety, we will learn how to identify it.

There are situations when we do not distinguish between emotions, so the so-called "false alarm" is formed. In this case, the first thing psychologists can advise is to learn how to isolate anxiety from a large stream of other emotions. Observe for yourself - in what situations you are overcome by anxiety. Divide these situations into those in which anxiety is justified and those where it is not. nine0003

For example, you are on a bus and as you approach the bus stop, you are overtaken by a feeling of anxiety. On the one hand, this may be due to fear that you will miss your stop, or a sense of shame, as it is embarrassing to ask the driver to stop the car.

Another example is when you want to ask the teacher in class, but you are afraid to raise your hand. This fear may arise from self-doubt and the expectation that classmates will laugh at you.

Sometimes anxiety is born from some other feelings, such as shame or insecurity. Realizing this and overcoming it, you no longer have a reason for concern, and with it the state of anxiety disappears. nine0003

Read more: “How to stop being shy and get rid of the language barrier”

How to cope with anxiety


Axiety often occurs due to uncertainty in actions and feelings. First, try to find out what causes anxiety. For example, you are worried about being fired from your job. Before you panic, look at the facts: look at the state of the market and the area in which your company operates, evaluate the workload at work now and predict the task plan for the next month. And this applies not only to work, but to any area in which you feel anxiety. nine0003

Usually such an exercise helps to see the true picture. If you understand that while everything is under control, you can exhale, if not, proceed to your detailing. Write out a detailed plan of action that will help you avoid uncertainty and tell you how to act in any situation:

  1. Write down what skills you have and where they can be useful. For example, being an illustrator or photoshop, having a driver's license and owning a car, copywriting skills, etc. nine0003

  2. Edit your resume and prepare some cover letters to the employer about yourself.

  3. Form your own range of services, from the most preferred activities to the least interesting.

  4. Leave a list of potential employers to whom you can offer your services. The bigger, the better.

  5. Write to them!

The work done will help you feel more confident and have a plan to get out of a crisis. nine0003

Sometimes anxiety arises from the conviction that we will not be able to cope with this or that action. A visual picture of your skills will always help to believe in yourself. When you read your list, you will realize that you can achieve a lot, despite the circumstances.

Read more: “4 things on your resume that will help the employer to choose you”

Use exposure therapy

A complex combination of words with a simple meaning - a meeting with your problem "on the forehead." It is important to understand that this is NOT a fight against a problem. The point is to acknowledge the existence of anxiety, not to get rid of it completely.

Don't ignore things that make you feel anxious. For example, to move up the career ladder, you need to learn English, but you haven’t opened your textbook for three days and you constantly scold yourself for it. This lowers your self-esteem and increases your anxiety about your success at work and in life. nine0003

Give yourself a full day of rest without worries or self-criticism. Imagine that this is an official vacation or vacation. And then gradually get down to business: you can start with one page of English text per day or a five-minute video. Gradually, you will accustom your body to the load and develop a habit.

Keep a sleep schedule

It is during sleep that growth hormone is produced, which is responsible for the restoration of our body, including the nervous system. Especially if we go to bed before 12 o'clock at night. nine0003

The BBC TV show Trust Me I'm a Doctor, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, did a little experiment on how sleep affects our psychological state. The study involved people who are distinguished by "strong sleep". During the experiment, the participants were given conditions: in the first three nights they had to sleep for 8 hours, which is the norm, and the next three nights - for 4 hours. Every day, the subjects answered questions that helped determine changes in their psychological state, behavior and emotions. The results showed that after two nights of sleep deprivation, negative emotions began to predominate in the subjects, as well as an increase in distrust of others and aggression. nine0003

The study also shows that insomnia is not always the result of mental disorders, sometimes it is lack of sleep that provokes the appearance of psychological problems.


It is important to periodically switch from one activity to another - for example, from physical activity to mental activity. So, when you go in for sports, there is a restoration of brain functions due to the supply of oxygen. And with mental stress, the muscular system is restored by improving blood flow in the muscles. nine0003

A simple alternation of work and study with a little physical activity will improve the functioning of the body's metabolic processes, and at the same time speed up the restoration of the nervous system, contributing to its strengthening.

Meditate and breathe

Meditation and breathing are sure helpers in overcoming psychological instability. A Johns Hopkins University study found a relationship between meditation practice and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. The team of researchers found that the effect of meditation is comparable to the effect of depressants - in this case, being a more useful solution to the problem, as it does not cause side effects. Meditation also helps to switch the work of the brain and focus on yourself, and not on the "noise" around. nine0003

Breathing techniques are equally beneficial: they improve blood circulation and help to speed up the overall metabolism.

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