Updated: Mar 27
By Sarah Cutler I CWC Director I 16 June 21
If when you open your eyes in the morning an unpleasant feeling of dread washes over you and you just don't want to face the day, you might be experiencing morning anxiety. Although not an official medical term - morning anxiety is most definitely a thing, and it can be debilitating. We all experience periods where we don't want to get up in the morning and deal with what's ahead - especially when we're ill, feeling burnt out or dealing with a stressful job or situation. Sometimes life gets on top of us and we just don’t want to face it.
And who could blame us! The mounting pressures and responsibilities we have to deal with day in and day out as adults can be overwhelming. We seem to live extraordinarily hectic lives at a pace that isn't always sustainable and sometimes it can feel like we can never get a break from it. It's tempting sometimes to pull the covers over our head and admit defeat, but usually we can rouse ourselves into action with a firm inner talking to. If this sounds a lot like your morning routine, then there are things you can try to stop morning dread in its tracks...
1. Advance preparation.
The morning rush can be a stress generator on an industrial scale! Especially if you have kids to get to school or childcare! To avoid starting your day off with a whirlwind of strain, reduce the amount there is to do! Lay out everybody's clothes and have lunches and bags ready to go. If your children are of an age where they can take on more responsibility - let them know what you expect of them in the morning - to get dressed, brush their teeth and put on their shoes without having to tell them a thousand times. This might be wishful thinking - but anything is worth trying! Make the mornings feel more like a team effort.
2. Wake up at the same time every day & skip snoozing.
Perhaps the hardest one when we're feeling tired, but snoozing can actually make us feel more tired and so more unwilling to get up. Start to get up at the same time every day and your body becomes conditioned to waking at that time and your sleep patterns will adjust accordingly, making it easier to rise in the morning. Your body will begin waking up gradually before your chosen time and it may then feel like less of a wrench to pry yourself from your bed. Falling into a rhythm may also help you get a better night's sleep!
3. Relax your mind and body.
One of your best bets to waking up calmer is to relax your mind and body before you go to sleep. Meditation and relaxation exercises are a great way to do this and there are plenty of tips on the internet to get you started. If you're struggling to get the hang of relaxing your mind and body at will, you can get a little helping hand by listening to meditation music or relaxation hypnosis on YouTube - just plug your earphones into your phone, turn off the lights and let it drift you into a relaxed sleep. Trying adding a relaxing bath to this new bedtime routine.
4. Skip screen time.
By now we're all probably aware that the blue light emitted by devices likes phones and tablets are detrimental to our sleep, but there are other reasons we should be skipping screen time before bed! Often it’s tempting to scroll through social media feeds once we’re settled down in bed, but this can expose us to news and articles that raise feelings of unease and anxiety and might stick around in our subconscious after we go to sleep, and, impact upon us when we wake in the morning. Instead try reading a book to wind down.
5. Break those anxiety connections and practice gratitude.
Once you've started feeling dread and anxiety in the mornings, you may start to expect it and worry about it happening! This just reinforces the anxiety and makes it even more likely to show up! The trick is to remove your fear of it! Recognise those feelings for what they are - temporary feelings of anxiety - a natural response when we are feeling a little overwhelmed by something in our lives - a process our bodies go through to deal with something that is troubling us which will mostly likely go away again with time. By removing the fear, you remove the power it holds over you. Practising mindfulness and gratitude of the positive things in our lives before we go to sleep and again when we wake can help retrain our brain into a more positive mindset.
6. Perform a 'Brain Dump'.
Try journaling before bed to process any troubling thoughts and feelings. Two of the major causes of anxiety are often because we perceive some sort of threat, or we feel out of control. Writing about our situation is a way of confronting that threat and giving ourselves back a measure of control. It doesn't have to be pages and pages of deep and meaningful prose, even just listing our problems can help us make sense of them and seeing them written down on paper has a way of putting them into perspective. Noting down potential solutions to problems or changes we could make in our life - can also give us the sense of a weight being lifted because we have taken action - meaning you go to sleep feeling relieved and with a clearer head.
7. Exercise, Endorphins and Eating.
If you are going through a period of feeling anxious, it is more important than ever that you are looking after yourself! We all know that exercise, especially jogging or running, releases important Endorphins that give our mood a little lift. But exercise also burns away stress hormones and pent up energy and anger, as well as increasing the release of relaxing neurotransmitters into your brain and tiring your muscles naturally, which benefits your overall health and sleep. Your diet can have a massive impact upon your mood and it is important to cut down on food and drink that is stimulating or causes sensations that mimic those of anxiety, such as processed foods, added sugar products, caffeine and alcohol, especially before bed.
8. Plan something to look forward to.
When life starts to overwhelm us, it is important that we take the time to remember why it can also be great! We often get so consumed with the monotony of routine - the things we have to do, that we forget how important to our wellbeing the things we want to do are. It doesn’t have to be big, but planning something you can look forward to that day or that week can break the monotony. It can be that delicious take-away barista coffee you’ll treat yourself to on the way home from the school run, streaming your favourite TV show with some treats in the evening or an activity you’ve planned with your family after school or at the weekend. Get into the habit of planning those moments that will bring you joy, because if we don’t plan things in advance, we often end up missing out on those moments of joy altogether. And it's those moments that bring the essential balance to our lives, and make them a happier and more contented place to exist in.
We all have periods where we struggle with anxiety and self-help techniques can be effective in managing it, but if you find your anxiety is greatly impacting upon your health, you should speak to your GP.
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