How to quell pesky morning anxiety?
December 19, 2017 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I've realized that I have a very morning-specific anxiety, especially mornings when I'm getting ready for work, but even on my days off. I've also realized that I have had morning anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I may be noticing it more lately because it's ramped up a notch or two. More within, apologies if it's all over the place!

Some googling tells me this is likely due to worrying about the day ahead. I am working at a new job in a new career, which I enjoy and find rewarding. But my day is quite unpredictable, and I have to worry about productivity throughout my unpredictable day. I have been consistently doing well at my job, so I shouldn't stress as I do. I have been at this job long enough that I generally don't fret about it on evenings and days off.

Speaking of days off, I do experience the same anxiety on mornings I don't work, just to a lesser degree. It seems to be worse the longer I lay in bed.

Things I do / Things I've tried:
- Avoid caffeine - this one's easy, I don't do caffeine because it gives me the jitters.
- Wake up earlier so I don't have to rush through my morning routine - I will continue to do this because it's nice not to rush, but the anxiety is still there.
- Mindfulness meditation / gentle yoga first thing in the morning - resulting in anxiety-filled meditation and yoga.
- Watch relaxing, fun YouTube videos - this is a helpful distraction.
- Better sleep - this is an active, neverending quest because I am a longtime insomniac. I've read every AskMe question on the topic, practice good sleep hygiene, continuously work on this with the doctor, etc. But really, I think my sleep would be greatly improved if I could do something about the morning ahead; I don't have trouble falling asleep - I have trouble staying asleep (I'm often lying there in a mostly-awake state when the alarm goes off).

Things I am considering:
- Getting a different job - I could possibly move to a different setting with a calmer environment in the future, but I actually do like where I am now, and I want to gain more experience here. Plus this is a new career, and I hope/expect things will calm down with time. Plus plus, as I mentioned I've always had some level of morning anxiety, through my past career (a very predictable desk job) and through grad school.
- Morning exercise - not gentle yoga, but some adrenaline-pumping cardio to battle all that cortisol coursing through my system in the morning! The big obstacle to this one is sleep; I already have trouble getting enough sleep...

Any tips/tricks/ideas? Internet search gives me ideas for anxiety in general, which is fine, but I'd love to hear from people who've also experienced specifically morning anxiety, and what has worked for you.
posted by sweetpotato to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I am basically anxious all the time, and I find that gentle yoga makes it worse. I need to burn off the anxious energy before I attempt to do anything like that. You could try some cardio something difficult, then cool down with yoga.

The other thing that helps me is to make a list of what I have to do the next day the night before. On bad days for me this is a detailed checklist including things like “put on shoes” and on good days it’s a rough outline of stuff I plan to do (“work 10 to 6, fax the thing, order the supplies, home by 8”.) Knowing the plan for the day helps me remember all the details and do them in order (not a strength) and is reassuring.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:30 AM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly, this is what Xanax is for.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a bedside lamp that I turn on the minute my alarm goes off. It beams directly on my face. Then I get straight up and turn on every light in the house. I wrap up in my robe, step outside to feel the breeze and look at the horizon for, eh, thirty seconds. I go back inside to warmth where I start a pot of tea to pour myself a cup of buzzy mint or rich vitamin-c hibiscus. While the tea is brewing I make my bed, pull out clothes for the day, heat up a pre-made fat & protein heavy breakfast and put an album on. Finally I sit in my cozy chair under a big window filled with green plants and sip my tea, bobbing my head to sweet tunes.

Nothing's too bad after that.
posted by fritillary at 9:43 AM on December 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

Actually you need a high fiber, low on the glycemic index of foods snack before bed, with a half glass of milk, or soy milk or whatever will complete the proteins. This is about 150 calories, it will feed your brain all night so it does not awaken you in the morning with anxiety, stemming from the fact it has no food on board, (for the brain food=glucose.) The brain is the organ of the body that consumes the most glucose. You should also go to bed with a 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup of fruit juice, or half an apple to eat immediately upon rousing. Eat it, then roll around in bed for a few minutes so it can get your brain less anxious, then have some exercise, then breakfast, then shower and get ready for work. You have to remember that work does not get to live free in your head in the morning until you are on the premises of work. If your head won't shut up in the morning remind your darling head that there is more than thought that is you. Find a mantra to do while rolling around in the morning.
posted by Oyéah at 9:43 AM on December 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Morning pages may be worth a try. Just sit down and write in any way that helps you - longhand or typing, whatever makes the words flow the quickest. Write down your thought stream as it flows, including all the fears and digressions, until you feel the anxiety ebbing. Then throw away the paper or close the file without saving.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:44 AM on December 19, 2017

Do you do any breathing exercises? It can help to breath while lying down with one hand on your belly, the other on your chest, just to help you connect your breathing to your body, then consciously try to belly breath for a few minutes when going to bed and when waking up.

Exercise could help you sleep better, sort of resolving that cycle of being too tired to work out vigorously but then not sleeping well.

Music helps me a lot, as does singing along.

If meditation hasn't worked, have you tried any kind of mantra meditation? Repeating the sounds doesn't leave much room for your mind to wander to anxiety sustaining thoughts.

The "bee breath" is another anxiety-reducing technique:
posted by lafemma at 9:49 AM on December 19, 2017

I agree that exercise may help you be tired enough to sleep better, and specifically outdoor exercise is calming and makes the day seem manageable. (Winter notwithstanding! Put on warm clothes and go.)
posted by lakeroon at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2017

I have a very anxious mind, and it gets in the way of my morning routine. I listen to podcasts when I get ready. It gives my brain something to focus on while I get ready.

I usually listen to shows that are conversations/interviews (Fresh Air, Nerdist, Ask a Clean Person, WTF, Judge John Hodgman, Bullseye, The Turnaround), or narrative ones that don't require a ton of attention (How I Built This, Sporkful).
posted by radioamy at 10:11 AM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Wake up to happy music and not depressing news. Show tunes or dance music for distraction and to do some stretching and exercise. Make lists of accomplishments and good things and use them as affirmations. Traditional affirmations might seem hokey, but they are effective I will do good work today. I am valued. I deserve to have a good day. They are a good counterpoint to the denials and repudiations of your worth that may be sneaking in. Consider dressing 1 notch better if you are in a casual environment; sometimes dressing well acts as armor. And, assuming you're a woman, wearing nice underwear can add the tiniest bit of confidence.
posted by theora55 at 10:15 AM on December 19, 2017

Yeah, if you're open to drugs, I'll 2nd Hermione Granger; .25mg of clonazepam over here does the trick most mornings. In the past 25mg of Hydroxyzine the night prior has helped me both sleep, and be a bit more calm in the mornings.

Clearly, IANYD, IANYD, etc.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:15 AM on December 19, 2017

And depending on your jurisdiction, work-drug-testing-policy, etc, CBD products can be good for this too. Non psychoactive, but calming.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:16 AM on December 19, 2017

I have anxiety in general and had worse anxiety in the mornings. I also had some depression and the waking-in-the-middle-of-the-night insomnia. I was surprised to find that I suddenly started sleeping through the night when I started Zoloft. Apparently I didn't really need to pee every night at 2 am, it was anxiety related.

I also second vigorous exercise, any time you can get it. It will help you sleep and lessen your anxiety overall, probably.
posted by purple_bird at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2017

Best answer: I asked a similar question way back in 2010. There were lots of helpful suggestions back then. I still struggle with this, too. I find that keeping my cell phone outside of the bedroom makes a difference. Lots of luck to you!
posted by sucre at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2017

I don't know how to prevent this, but I can tell you my cure: A protein-heavy, preferably animal protein, breakfast.
posted by HotToddy at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've dealt with this at various points in my life and here's what helped me:

- Hard morning exercise. It doesn't have to be cardiovascular necessarily, it just has to occupy my brain and make me sweat. Running, weights, and gym classes like spinning or whatever all have worked for me in the past, so if you're inclined to this one definitely try out different stuff to see what's easiest for you. There's something about really effortful exercise that short-circuits my brain and makes me less likely to catastrophize and ruminate, even into the day.
- In really difficult stretches, laying off alcohol (if you drink it) at night can help. I tend to be much more prone to waking up frazzled after a couple of glasses of wine, even if they feel relaxing to me at the time.
- Laying my clothes out for the entire week on Sunday, including underwear, accessories if you wear them, etc. Picking out outfits when I'm not anxious means I'm more careful and/or creative which means I feel better about what I'm dressed in all day, which finally in turn can help me feel more confident and with-it. Your mileage may vary with this one.
- Another vote for listening to podcasts while you get ready to keep your mind occupied. I basically open my eyes in the morning and immediately put on a podcast, even when I'm not really dealing with anxiety.

At the risk of being stupidly obvious, I'll also observe that trying all of this stuff would be worthwhile - I see things in other replies that I'm nodding my head cartoonishly at, and I see stuff that I tried that was next to worthless for me. All our brains are wired differently, and you might be helped by a heretofore-unmentioned combo of things.
posted by superfluousm at 11:40 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing the idea that intense exercise helps me sleep so absolutely give that a shot.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2017

Have you tried CBD? Safe, legal, non-addictive, helps with both sleep at night and generalised anxiety when awake.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:16 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have morning anxiety that is tied to my ADHD, so I do the opposite of what you'd expect. I START with a quadruple espresso. Generally my brain gets itself together as a result.
posted by Peach at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2017

I also have this. Sadly, now that I am on winter break I still feel it in the morning even though there is literally nothing to be anxious about.

Exercise helps me too. I like swimming because it is both intense and very meditative. Mostly what I think about is counting strokes and laps and working on my technique. Other cardio things invite the option of tv/radio news, which I do not need at all. I know some people get waterproof mp3 players, but I prefer the slosh of water in my ears.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:29 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 having a proper breakfast.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:42 PM on December 19, 2017

Best answer: I find that having some juice or something somewhat caloric before bed helps. I despise eating or drinking anything but water before going to sleep, but if I don't I'm already hangry and nauseated by the time I wake up and anxiety almost always accompanies.

As I've aged, good mental state has depended more and more on decent eating habits. Very annoying, especially before I figured it out. It makes it so much easier to deal with when you're cognizant of the underlying biological cause because you aren't focusing on external factors that are difficult to change or even immutable.

That said, since it's been a life long thing for you, I strongly recommend seeing a good diagnostic psychiatrist who can help you figure out what kind of issue you're having and whether drugs or therapy or both would be the best fit to help resolve the issue.

Personally, I'd recommend against benzodiazapenes like Xanax and such, at least on a daily basis. Many people have rebound anxiety after taking them and it's rather easy to become dependent on them in a way that makes it dangerous to stop taking them, so while they are fantastic for acute anxiety that isn't happening daily, it's not the best for your situation unless you commit to only using it a couple of times a week on the worst mornings.

There are some SSRIs and SNRIs that are effective for anxiety, and drugs like hydroxyzine are good for taking the edge off without the risk of dependence. Maybe try a Benadryl if they don't make you too sleepy and you don't want to involve a doctor.

Really, though, I suspect you'd find CBT more helpful than medication since it sounds like you aren't experiencing significant life impairments, just unnecessary suffering from excessive anxiety. Sometimes your thought patterns just need a bit of an adjustment. :)
posted by wierdo at 4:27 AM on December 20, 2017

Oh man, I can identify. There are many mornings my stomach is churning before I even throw back the covers.

Getting up and pressing through has given me the best chance to beat it, and once I'm at work, it's totally subsided. But getting there is the issue.

I purchased a sunrise lamp for my wife (and me) for Christmas. I'll be interested to see if that helps any.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 8:53 AM on December 20, 2017

Have you tried listening to music in the morning? I also find "relaxing" stuff useless for anxiety but loud, energetic music can help direct the worrying energy in a more positive direction (I like pop with strong beats and power metal for this, ymmv).
posted by randomnity at 7:57 AM on December 21, 2017

« Older Birth experiences with Kaiser in CA?   |   Mail-Order Mochi in the US? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.