I have been dealing with morning anxiety for many years now. I even think that my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) started with morning stress back in college. Even now, when I am in the process of recovery, and don't feel as anxious as I used to, I still do have mild anxiety every morning. And it is something that I kind of learnt to live with.
According to research, stress hormone cortisol may increase within the first hour after awakening, and it's called the cortisol awakening response (CAR). What I found interesting is that a higher level of cortisol was not associated with stress anticipation that day, as we might think (at least I thought that), but instead with "attenuated distress responses to daily life stress". Researchers found out that higher CAR might have a somewhat protective function, reducing effect of experienced distress after stressful situation or "supporting a quicker return of negative affect to its set-point". I love our brain!
Of course, the causes of morning anxiety can be different for everyone, but this explanation did make sense in my case. As I said, I started to experience anxiety during incredibly stressful time, and my body apparently still prepares me for stress every single day. However, I think that it's ok as long as anxiety eventually subsides.
Besides prolonged periods of stress, there can be other reasons for our morning anxiety. I talk about some of them here.
So, do we need to do anything about morning anxiety? It depends on how bad it is, I would say. I have been having it for so many years now, that I am very much aware what it is and how it can impact my day. I know that morning anxiety is temporary, and it will go away within the first hour or maybe sooner after I wake up. Sometimes it's gone by the time I have my cup of coffee and breakfast. By the way coffee does make it worse, so I would not recommend drinking it if your morning anxiety bothers you very much.
Having something that I look forward to in the morning does help. For me, like I said, it's my cup of coffee (I want to switch to tea - work in progress), having breakfast and getting ready (even if I am not going anywhere). There is something calming in being "ready" or put together that calms me down.
Taking a supplement containing GABA (I talk about it here) may help as well. Sometimes I take it first thing in the morning, and it makes my anxiety go away quite fast.
Thinking positive thoughts can also be helpful. I know that it sounds cliché by now, but gratitude and even simple positive affirmations can help calm the amygdala (the reactive part of our brain) that is responsible for anxiety and fear.
Last but not least, focus on managing daily stress. As we have established, attenuated distress responses lead to morning anxiety, as well as they impact sleep. There are a few tips that can help with overall stress resilience, which I will be talking about in one of my future posts. Basically, once I started managing my daily stress in a healthy way, my morning anxiety got better as well.
Do you ever experience morning anxiety? What helps you? Please share below, so we could support each other. Until next time on Pillows&Trees.