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6 Things to Do if You Have Morning Anxiety

Your anxiety may be worse in the morning. Here's how to manage it.

Hedy Phillips
Hedy Phillips CNET Contributor
Hedy Phillips is a freelance lifestyle writer based in New York. While she's not writing on topics like living on a budget and tips for city dwelling, she can usually be found at a concert or sightseeing in a new city. Over the past 10 years, her bylines have appeared in a number of publications, including POPSUGAR, Hunker, and more.
5 min read
Unhappy woman who is stressed waking up.
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Anxiety can strike at any point in your day, including when you wake up. Though morning anxiety can extend from a poor night of sleep, it can also have other causes, like a medical condition, stress or too much caffeine intake. Managing morning stress is something anyone can do, but it's important to understand when to turn to a doctor for help. Here's everything you need to know about morning anxiety.

Why is my anxiety worse in the morning?

While many people may wake up feeling anxious from time to time, a persistent feeling of anxiety in the morning may be something you need to work through to manage. It could be a sign of morning anxiety if you wake up feeling worried or immediately tense. You may also not be able to get your mind to focus on the day ahead because you're too anxious. If this happens to you often, don't tuck it away and try to move on with your day, as that can worsen your anxiety. And while you're feeling these specific things in the morning, the anxiety stems from elsewhere.

What causes morning anxiety?

A large part of why your anxiety can spike in the morning is cortisol. According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisol is the stress hormone, and when your cortisol levels are higher, you feel more stressed and anxious. Your cortisol level is naturally higher right when you wake up, so you're prone to feeling elevated levels of anxiousness. If you're already experiencing anxiety elsewhere, this elevated cortisol in the morning will only pile on. 

Other morning anxiety causes can be related to a variety of things. Here are some possible reasons:

Life stressors: When you have stressors elsewhere in your life, and your day, they can weigh on you so deeply that you still feel it even after a good night of sleep. All kinds of things can be stressors, whether you have something going on with your family or even at work. 

Sleep troubles: If you're not getting a good night of sleep, your body isn't getting the reset it needs during the night. This can lead to waking up feeling unrested and anxious. You may also feel foggy in the morning if you sleep poorly. 

Too much caffeine: Caffeine can wreak havoc on your sleep hygiene. If you're not sleeping well, you won't feel great when you wake up. If you have too much caffeine, it can also make you feel anxious still in the morning if it's still in your system. Similarly, consuming caffeine first thing in the morning can throw you into a feeling of anxiety at the start of your day. 

Other medical conditions: Several medical conditions can cause morning anxiety when you wake up, including depression, heart problems and some forms of cancer.

How to break the cycle of morning anxiety 

The best thing you can do for yourself if you're experiencing morning anxiety is to speak to your doctor. They can help you decide if medication and therapy are the right plan of action. However, in the meantime, there are a few self-care tips you can employ to ease anxiety.

Acknowledge you're feeling anxious

As with many mental health concerns, understanding it's happening is the first step toward figuring out how to work through it. If you start to notice you're waking up feeling anxious, jot it down. Keep a journal of how you feel every morning, and be open about your feelings. Put names to the emotions running through your brain and your body. If you think you know what's making you feel that way, whether it was a fight with a friend or a big presentation looming at work, write that down too so you can start to identify what's going on.

Try meditation

Meditation can be a great resource for calming your mind. A meditation practice, even for just 10 minutes a day, can help block stressors and put you in a better place to kick off your day. When you wake up in the morning, try taking 10 minutes to meditate. Completely clear your mind and just be still and silent. Don't wait for anxious days to do this, though -- do it every day to get yourself into the habit of starting your day on the right foot. 

Man meditating ion a yoga mat.
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Eat a good breakfast 

Though eating too soon after you wake up can upset your already increased cortisol, waiting a bit after you've fully woken up to eat a healthy breakfast can put you in a good place for the day. Reach for protein to fill your stomach and something tasty to put you in a good mood. It could be a piece of avocado toast with an egg or some steel-cut oats with fruit. Both are quick to put together, so you don't feel like you're taking too much extra time to have breakfast.

Watch your caffeine and sugar intake

Caffeine can spike your anxiety and make it difficult to get a good night's sleep. If you have caffeine too late in the day, you may not sleep well, so you may wake up feeling foggy and anxious. Similarly, if you have caffeine too early after you wake up -- when your cortisol is already up -- you might feel anxious before you have time to settle into your day. Sugar functions somewhat like that, too, in that it can amp you up and make you feel on edge if you have too much. If you're experiencing anxiety in the mornings, try cutting back on your caffeine and sugar consumption to see if that helps. 

Get a workout in

Working out and breaking a sweat during the day can help you sleep at night. It wears your body out in a way that can make you sleep more soundly, which means you're more likely to wake up well-rested. But exercise can also help manage stress, giving you an outlet to channel those feelings and get your heart rate up. Try adding a workout into your day -- but not too close to bedtime -- that'll get you sweaty. Even 15 minutes can be beneficial.

Find areas you can take back control

Part of anxiety is just a lack of control over your feelings. Some people feel anxious when they have stressors they feel like they can't manage. While it might be easier said than done, try doubling down on the things you can control to bring a sort of organization to your day. Do something ritualistic, or that brings you joy, and let yourself sink into those things. This can ease stress and help you work through the harder spots.

Too long; didn't read? 

Morning anxiety is a common problem many people experience, and it happens for several reasons. If you're dealing with this and it's persistent, try a bit of self-care to work through it. However, you may be going through a deeper feeling of anxiety, so it might be time to speak to your doctor.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.