How to calm morning anxiety if your stress levels spike when you wake up?

How to calm morning anxiety if your stress levels spike when you wake up?

How to calm morning anxiety if your stress levels spike when you wake up?


  • It's a familiar feeling: you wake up with a jolt, your heart pounding, and your brow damp. But it's not for any particular reason; the day ahead holds no specific, known threat.
• It's what's known as morning anxiety, a highly unpleasant sensation that you've somehow normalized despite its negative consequences.
• 'Morning anxiety isn't a recognized mental health term, but it's a phrase commonly described by anxiety sufferers,' says psychologist Dr. Marianne Trent, Clinical Psychologist with Good Thinking Psychological Services and author of The Grief Collective. 
• 'It is characterized by a sense of unease and sometimes overwhelm about the day ahead or even our actions in the previous days and weeks.'
• While there are no formal statistics on morning anxiety (due to the fact that it is not a medically recognized condition), recent figures from Cambridge University show that anxiety has tripled in the last decade in the UK, particularly among adult women in their twenties. 
• The condition affects 30% of women between the ages of 18 and 24, and 22% of women between the ages of 25 and 34.
• Anxiety is, of course, something that we all experience from time to time. So, how do you know if your morning anxiety is a sign of medically recognized anxiety (also known as 'generalized anxiety disorder' (or GAD) or if it's just a passing, unpleasant feeling?
• 'It's less of a concern if it's specifically related to a big or novel event, such as an interview, presentation, or date, and may also include some excitement, which can feel a lot like anxiety,' Trent explains.
• When things become more problematic is when the anxiety is about events that happen every day, such as your daily commute, a routine meeting with your supervisor, or discussing finances with your partner,' she adds. 
• A person's well-being and ability to function are usually impacted by generalised anxiety disorder. People frequently report having a large number of perceived problems. They may even begin to exhibit risky traits to themselves over time.' 
• According to Trent, GAD is typically diagnosed after symptoms have lasted six months or more, whereas ‘morning anxiety' may be a more transient experience that does not qualify as GAD.
• So, what causes the more 'transient' form of morning anxiety that isn't usually associated with GAD? Hormonal imbalances or seasonal factors can both contribute to it. '
• Some people may notice that their anxiety increases a week or so before their period starts. Anxiety can be a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
• Some people with Seasonal Affective Disorder report that, in addition to their mood dipping, they experience increased anxiety and unease.'
• Speaking of seasons, we're now well into the holiday season, which can bring with it a slew of potential factors causing morning anxiety, such as 'hangxiety,' a non-medically recognised (but widely reported) experience describing feelings of anxiety after an alcohol-fueled night out.
• "Where alcohol, drugs, and other coping mechanisms are involved, we can also expect more people to wake up with feelings of remorse, regret, and confusion about what they did and how others may have perceived and judged it." 
• "As a result, occasions such as holiday parties and get-togethers can sometimes cause people to experience an increase in anxious feelings in the morning," Trent says. While anxiety is, by definition, unfounded, there may be very real factors motivating your morning anxiety.
• Having said that, anyone who has experienced morning anxiety will know that it is a troubling experience with significant consequences for your mental wellbeing – and even if it is 'only' seasonal, that is still a significant chunk of your life. 
• Knowing what's causing your unpleasant feelings won't do much to alleviate their unsettling effects.
• Of course, it is possible that your morning anxiety is part of a larger mental health issue; however, six months is a long time to suffer in silence – and you should never have to. If you suspect this is the case, you should seek help as soon as possible.
• But, if your morning anxiety is limited to a single, extremely unpleasant experience, or if it occurs seasonally, what are the proactive solutions to help you deal with it? We sought the advice of Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.  

  1. Get meditating

   • The benefits of meditation for anxiety reduction are widely acknowledged. It also doesn't have to take up a lot of time: a study from the University of Waterloo discovered that just 10 minutes of daily meditation can help with repetitive, anxious thoughts. 
• According to Touroni, this strategy is equally effective for people who suffer from morning anxiety: "Meditation allows the mind to relax and unwind so that you start the day feeling fresh and focused." It will also provide you with some insight into your emotional state, allowing you to plan your day accordingly." To get started, download the CALM or Headspace apps, or consult the NHS meditation guidance.

   2. Take a mindful walk during the day

   • Bringing mindfulness into our daily lives can be a useful coping mechanism for dealing with all types of anxious feelings, says Touroni, and a great place to start is on our commutes. 
• Switching from public transportation to walking for at least part of your journey – preferably through a local park or green space – and use this time to take a mindful walk. “ Take note of the various colours, textures, smells, and sounds. 
• This awareness allows us to return to our bodies and feel more grounded rather than engaging in anxious thoughts. If you work from home, try doing so while running daily errands, such as going to the supermarket or the gym.

3. Exercise in the morning if possible

  •Use your frantic morning energy to power through your favourite workout, whether it's a steady jog around the block or a sweaty HIIT class. This will not only benefit your physical health; exercise is also a well-documented anxiety reliever.
• A study published earlier this year discovered that both moderate and strenuous exercise reduces the effects of moderate to high levels of anxiety. "Exercise not only benefits our physical health, but it can also give us a much-needed mood boost," Touroni says. 
• "When we exercise, our bodies release feel-good hormones, which cause us to feel good." The body also improves its ability to manage cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone, which can reduce anxiety and stress."

4. Don’t skip breakfast – and nourish yourself for the rest of the day, too

  •Skipping breakfast is a no-no for people who suffer from morning anxiety, according to Touroni, because numerous studies have linked skipping your first meal of the day with poor mental health, including an increased risk of depression and anxiety. 
• In general, anyone attempting to alleviate anxiety symptoms should prioritize a well-balanced, healthy diet.

5. And how to know if you need to seek professional help…

   •"If you feel like your anxiety is interfering with your daily life, it's important to seek help," says Touroni
• "The sooner you get the right help, the better your chances of recovering quickly."


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