If you live with anxiety, the all-encompassing feelings of dread can hit you at any time. But it’s particularly upsetting when you wake up with anxiety. You might be so overwhelmed that getting up and facing your day seems impossible. But staying in bed never helped anyone and can often be counterproductive if the reason that you’re stressed has to do with the things you need to complete during the day. But even if you don’t have anxiety, you may be familiar with the feeling of nervousness first thing in the morning. So why do you wake up with anxiety?
There are plenty of reasons you could be stressed in the morning — and many of them may be self-evident to you if you have a big work or school assignment or an important interview. Yet, if you’re waking up with anxiety on a fairly regular basis, it might be part of a larger problem that you’ll want to examine.
While there are tried and true tips to help make your mornings better that you can follow, you have the added weight of anxiety to overcome as well. In that scenario, these tips for how to motivate yourself on a day you don’t like yourself might be particularly helpful. Because no matter why you’re waking up with anxiety, one thing to remember is that staying in bed has rarely ever helped the situation — and here are nine reasons why waking up might feel so daunting to you.
1You’re not getting enough quality sleep.
As PsychCentral reported, research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that sleep loss increases anxiety, particularly for people who already have anxiety to begin with. Lack of quality sleep exacerbates anxiety and you might feel those effects the most right when you wake up. “It’s during good sleep that brain chemicals related to mental health are replenished,” licensed professional counselor Katherine Glick told SELF. “So if you don’t get good sleep, you’re going to wake up anxious off the bat.” She also said not getting good sleep means that you’re “starting off the day in a biologically stressed place.” If this sounds like you, here are some tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
2You have generalized anxiety disorder.
If you have a big day coming up, like a job interview, you can understand why you might wake up with anxiety. But if you arise with anxiety about nothing in particular on a regular basis, it could be a sign of something bigger. Celebrity doctor Andrew Weil, M.D. wrote that if you wake up with anxiety consistently, the cause may be that you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People who have GAD “can’t seem to shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants,” Dr. Weil writes. See a medical professional, like your family doctor or a therapist, if you think you have GAD so you can be diagnosed and start learning ways to manage it.
3You’re looking at your phone.
Many of us have our alarms on our phones, so when you wake up, you inevitably start looking at emails or what else you have on your plate for the day. So what’s the downside of checking your phone first thing in the AM? “The thoughts of what needs to be accomplished that day can feel overwhelming and we begin to start creating to-do lists in our heads,” business coach Ajit Nawalkha told Bustle. You could try an old-school alarm clock to help you put off looking at your phone for a little bit in the morning. Or practice extreme willpower and don’t click on any messages or apps that will deliver news to you.
4Negative thoughts are circling your brain.
One of the major tools of Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is the “Morning Pages.” If you’re unfamiliar, Cameron says you should write three handwritten pages every morning when you first wake up that will help your creativity later in the day. These Morning Pages are written in stream of consciousness and Cameron says, “You’re becoming acquainted with all the dark corners of your psyche.” If you find that your brain is full of negative thoughts when you wake up, they could be what’s causing your anxiety. So even if you aren’t a creative or self-help type of person, they might be worth a try. Many people swear by Morning Pages and Cameron says, “What I find is that when you put the negativity on the page, it isn’t eddying through your consciousness during the day.”
5You drank too much the night before.
If you’ve ever had a night of heavy drinking, you may have experienced anxiety the next morning — even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder. However, Laura Whitehurst of Anxiety U.K. told The Tab that drinking too much “can leave people who normally suffer from anxiety more likely to experience panic due to the impact of alcohol on your blood sugar.” So, yes, hungover anxiety is worse for people who already have anxiety, but can impact anyone. Whitehurst also said, “As the alcohol leaves our system in the early morning, cortisol (the stress hormone) and our adrenal systems start to reactivate to help us remove the toxins from our bodies, and therefore leaving our adrenaline pumping harder. This can result in people feeling on edge or anxious.” To avoid this feeling, drink less alcohol and drink water in between each alcoholic drink — and remember that this hangxiety shall pass.
6You’re a smoker.
The Australian site Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc. notes that if you smoke, nicotine withdrawal overnight can cause anxious mornings. Huffington Post backed this up with the information that nicotine withdrawal symptoms can start while you’re sleeping, so smokers may experience a restlessness and agitation in the morning.
7You’re mortified about an awkward social interaction.
While you could be waking up with anxiety looking forward to your day, you could also wake up with anxiety about what happened the day before. Did you have an uncomfortable social situation — like an awkward moment with a coworker, a bad date, or clumsy encounter with a new acquaintance — and can’t stop ruminating about it? Thanks to cell phones, email, and social media, you could also be overanalyzing something you didn’t even do in person, but just wrote or posted. Social anxiety is very common and even though it’s difficult, the main thing to remember is to not be too hard on yourself. You’ve most likely made whatever happened a much bigger deal in your brain and rather than lie in bed and stay anxious about it, it’s better to start a new day fresh. Channel your inner Scarlett O’Hara and remind yourself it’s another day.
If you’re experiencing morning anxiety, take a look at your late-night eating and drinking habits — especially when it comes to caffeine. Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate all can disrupt your sleep. If you’re not into consuming food and drink at night, Calm Clinic noted that people who drink a significant amount of coffee or eat fatty foods first thing in the morning may spend their mornings feeling jittery. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you don’t like to eat in the morning, Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc. wrote your blood sugar drops while you sleep so you may feel anxious because of that. In that case, you should try to eat a small snack soon after you wake up. And if you’re trying to cut back on your caffeine intake, studies have shown caffeine withdrawal can cause anxiety, irritability, and depression. So you might wake up anxious if you’re trying to kick your coffee habit, but losing caffeine will give you a better feeling upon waking in the long run.
9You’re thinking about the rest of the day or week.
Jamison Monroe, Jr. of the Newport Acadamy told SELF, “Morning anxiety may be triggered when we are consumed with the ‘what ifs’ of the day or week.” Monroe continued, “When someone is focused too much on the future, upon awaking they may be tormented by all the things they have to do for the day, or even worse, all the things that may go wrong.” One way to start the day off better is to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier than you normally would, as Jennifer Twardowski suggested for Huffington Post. If you’re already stressed, running around in the morning will only make it worse.
No matter why you’re waking up with anxiety, the number one thing is to not let it defeat you. You can and will overcome it. And the first step toward a healthier day is to get out of bed and face the day — ’cause you got this.