Why we may have morning anxiety

Our biology might be to blame. Most people have what’s call a cortisol awakening response, which means that the body creates higher levels of cortisol in your body in the morning. The levels are highest 30 minutes after waking. What is cortisol? The stress hormone. It is thought to be higher for those waking up expecting stress (big day at work) or for those with chronic stress or anxiety.

Dehydration can also play a part in morning anxiety. Your body has just gone approximately 6-8 hours without any food or water. This matters because symptoms of dehydration include, you guessed it, anxiety.

Morning anxiety can also be heightened if you are running late and having to rush. Your things are scattered around the house. You can’t find your phone or your car keys. Your son informs you that he doesn’t have any clean shorts to wear to school (true story).

So how do we manage this?

  • We can’t control our cortisol, but we can learn to work with it. Recognize it for what it is. Say hello. “Good morning, cortisol. You suck, but I know what you’re up to and I know that you will simmer down soon.”
  • Hold off on aggravating it with caffeine first thing. Go with decaf when you first wake up and introduce caffeine after 10am if you need a boost.
  • Drink a big glass of water when you first get up and don’t skip breakfast.
  • Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to get ready in the morning. And try to get as much done to prepare the night before – figure out what you’re going to wear (and if the kids have clean shorts).
  • Meditate. I know, I know. Everyone is telling you to meditate. BUT, there have been actually studies that show meditation decreases cortisol levels. I have the 10% Happier app on my phone that includes meditations as quick as 1 minute. 60 seconds. That’s doable.
  • Use a gentle alarm instead of that grating, obnoxious buzzing on many alarm clocks.
  • Do a brain dump in your journal (writing out your stream of conscious to clear your mind)
  • And if all else fails, distract yourself with a game on your phone, a puzzle in the paper, or a show on tv – anything to get your mind to stop spinning.

Morning Anxiety is frustrating and exhausting and not the way you want to start your day. My morning anxiety has not gone away, but by recognizing it for what it is and trying strategies above, I feel like I at least have a little more control over it, or should I say, more control over how I react to it. And that is a good thing.

I’d love to hear if you have morning anxiety and what works for you. Let me know in the comments below.