Anxiety can offer us protection in some circumstances, as our fight-or-flight mentality is an inbuilt survival instinct that surfaces when required. However, morning anxiety can be more debilitating than helpful. If you suffer from morning anxiety or are curious to know more about it, read on! We have gathered everything you need to know and put together a 15 minute daily guide for reducing your anxiety!
What Is Morning Anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety, including morning anxiety, is defined as “an emotion characterised by the feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood temperature.”
But before we dive into ‘morning anxiety’, it is important to know what normal feelings of anxiety are and how they differ from an anxiety disorder which requires certain medical attention. Understanding the difference can mean getting effective treatment and making the right changes in your lifestyle.
The History Anxiety
Anxiety has existed since the earliest days of humanity, and we are all familiar with this emotion, especially in situations of extreme stress. Anxiety exists because it was necessary for early human survival. It would alert us to incoming dangers, such as the approach of predators, and enable us to take the appropriate evasive action.
This sense, or emotion, would make itself known through an increased heartbeat, sweating, and a heightened sensitivity to the surroundings. The rush of adrenalin, hormones, and chemicals sent to the brain would prepare the body to confront a potential threat or flee it.
As society as evolved and humanity progressed, anxiety began to centre less around the danger larger animals or predators could pose and more on circumstances surrounding work, money, family life, health, and many other issues that demand attention but cannot actually threaten physical survival.
What we experience now of anxiety, is, in most cases, an echo of the flight or fight response humans experienced thousands of years ago. Sometimes, modern anxiety can seem more challenging because the complexities of societal structure don’t always highlight a clear or easy way out. In extreme cases, this can cause an ever-constant feeling of anxiety, or an anxiety disorder.
A defining aspect of an anxiety disorder is the duration or severity of the feeling in comparison to the original trigger. Symptoms can be quick, devastating and last unusually long periods of time, with bodily changes such as increased blood pressure, and sometimes even nausea.
According to the APA, a person suffering from an anxiety disorder will have “recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” At this stage, the feelings of anxiety would be considered a disorder, especially if it is interfering with everyday normal routine.
15 Minute Morning Anxiety Guide
Morning anxiety is a reaction to excess stress and worries which can be triggered by various external factors. Starting your day rushed is a sure way to spike your morning anxiety. We recommend setting your alarm early enough that you have time to try this 15 minute guide, then have breakfast, get ready, and leave the house in a more calm and relaxed state.
1. Cognitive and Emotional Warm Up
Being aware of thoughts, feelings, and the state that your body is in is the primary goal of meditation.
When you first wake up, focus on your breathing and relax your mind. Be aware of the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils and then place a hand on your belly as well as your chest. Take a deep breath and count to four, then hold it for a count of three, and then exhale to a count of four. The hand on your chest should not move while the hand on your belly goes in on the exhale and out on the inhale.
Remember to stay focused on your breathing and nothing else. Your mind will try to wander, so just keep coming back to the count of 4, hold for 3, and exhale for 4, and then repeat. Eventually, you’ll notice your mind is completely focused on keeping count and that you’ve been taking the necessary deep breaths your body needs to relax.
Enjoy the Result
When you make a regular habit out of this, you’ll being to realise you’re spending more time in a here-and-now state, which is always better than spending time worrying about past and present issues or the future. Breathing is closely tied to meditation. It encourages us to drift away into a state of mindfulness whilst our immediate focus is on inhaling and exhaling.
2. Set A Plan For Meditating
3. Keep a Thought Diary
Challenging unhelpful thoughts is a key part of reducing the impact of your anxiety levels. We recommend you take 5 – 10 minutes each morning to keep a Thought Diary.
Document your negative emotions, reevaluate your thoughts, and analyze flaws in your thinking so you can begin to restore your self confidence and self worth. There are 4 main types of unhelpful thoughts: predictions, assumptions of other’s beliefs, ‘catastrophising’ statements, and labelling.
Making pessimistic or negative predictions of the future and living in fear of things that have not happened. These can include:
Assumptions Of Other’s Beliefs
Developing apprehensive thoughts about others’ opinions of you, which have no real evidence to support them. These include:
This is when your anxiety spikes your understanding of a situation and details can be blown out of proportion, with serious fears arising over something that is actually mild. ‘Catastrophising’ also includes assuming the consequences of an action or circumstance when there is little or no evidence to support it.
These often take the form of “should” statements. Should statements are another type of unhelpful thoughts which evolve from negative and cruel statements about how you think things ‘should’ be, not actually what they are. These include:
These can then escalate beyond condemning our actions to condemning ourselves:
Once you identify the patterns of these unhelpful kinds of thinking, take a moment to create a more rational and balanced view by asking yourself a few questions:
After working on your Thought Diary, it is time to wake up your body.
4. Physical Warm Up
Stretching or practising yoga for 5 minutes in the morning is a physical form of meditation. It allows you to relax your limbs and any potential tension in your neck, shoulders, head or back, so you will stay present and face the day with a calmer disposition. Here a 5 minute morning yoga video can be very helpful.
5. Name Three Things
The last thing to do is vocalize three things you are looking forward to during the day. They can be as simple as getting a coffee, so long as the thing gives you genuine happiness or enjoyment. This lets you finish with a sense of positivity and enthusiasm for the day.
Now that we have looked at our 15 Minute Morning Anxiety Guide, it is important to consider the symptoms and other tips that may influence your progress.
Symptoms, Tips And More For Morning Anxiety
Often the words to describe anxiety are ‘uptight’, ‘irritable’, ‘tense’, or ‘wound up’. For many sufferers, it’s an unpleasant feeling with no clear resolution. Common symptoms include an increased heart rate, muscular tension, sweating, trembling, and feelings of breathlessness. Besides physical effects, anxiety can also influence our mental state.
Anxiety can influence our pattern of thought by causing us to jump from one concern or worry to another, making concentration difficult. It also influences our behaviour by impacting our usual routines or schedules, and this can be because of worrying too much about an outcome of doing a particular activity. It’s important to note that anxiety is a normal occurrence in ordinary life. You should not be concerned if your experience moments of anxiety!
Identify The Catalysts
There are many catalysts for anxiety, from slight changes to daily routines, to significant or stressful circumstances such as starting a new job, moving house, or getting married, and obvious changes in cognitive thought. Whatever the reason, this article is here to help you understand the potential cause of any anxiety you might be feeling.
1. Life Events
One of the main causes of anxiety is life. Stressful events occur in everybody’s life, and these can prove to be extremely anxious periods of time, especially if there are multiple different pressures happening at once which can often happen. A common example is if someone is not only experiencing pressures at work but also financial difficulties with relationship problems. These can all accumulate into heavy feelings of anxiety, and that feeling often brings a sense of hopelessness, or thoughts of being unable to cope.
Another reason is conditioning, where people may associate the feeling of anxiety with a particular place or person, depending on their past life experiences. A common example is the presence of a bully in a previous work place which can lead to feelings of anxiety with future jobs.
2. Modes Of Thinking
Another cause of anxiety can be certain modes of thinking where people always expect the worst in a scenario, even if circumstances predict otherwise. This mode of thinking can be exhausting, as you are constantly on guard. Staying in such a mind-set can make it difficult to stay calm or relaxed, and that predisposes you to anxiety, which can affect your routines or energy levels.
3. Evolutionary Triggers
Anxiety can also be caused by our
‘flight or fight’ response. This kind of anxiety was born out the need to survive, stay alert and be vigilant against all kinds of threats or dangers. This is a necessary part of your basic instincts which have kept you alive and continue to do so.
Now that we’ve covered the common causes of anxiety, let’s get into some quick tips that you can use to take the edge off of any anxiety you may feel.
How to Fight Back Against Anxiety
The first tip on this list is the most important exercise you can do when you’re feeling anxious:
1. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is an easy practice to implement that can slow your entire body down, helping it to relax. First, sit with your eyes closed and begin to focus on your breathing. Don’t try to interfere with it: just allow your body to do its thing and simply focus on yourself. One of the main reasons you may feel anxiety is due to the lack of oxygen in your body.
This is basically what you are doing in the first part of your 15-minute morning exercise to reduce anxiety.
Meditating doesn’t necessarily mean to sit cross legged and hum for hours on end. Meditating can be anything that keeps your mind present and centred for a duration of time. For some people, this may be as simple as listening to a piece of music that makes them feel any positive emotion, such as relaxation, happiness, contentment or excitement. It can even a deep breathing exercise, or taking a trip somewhere you feel is quiet and away from the buzz of the city.
You can meditate as you think about something you are reading, or even as you gaze out at the wildlife outside your window over morning coffee.
A less obvious tip, but equally important in managing your anxiety levels, is to remember the importance of self-care. Self-care is about treating yourself. This can be a massage, a movie, or something you feel like is time away from work. This reduction in stress is crucial to your mental well-being, and taking measures to have a healthy diet will also go a long way to managing anxiety.
Foods high in fat and sugar can cause fluctuations in energy and heart rate, so if you’re already feeling anxious from everyday stresses, a poor diet will not help. This brings us to the next tip.
4. Cut Down On Soda
Soda can sometimes provide you with a jolt of energy you need to kick-start your day. However, there are healthier options of doing so than high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives and additives. If you have a regular intake of soda, we recommend you replace it with more water and tea.
Green tea is a preferred choice as it provides caffeine with none of the high glycaemic (GI) ingredients or preservatives found in soda. High intakes of sugar contribute more to anxiety than you think and can provoke long terms side-effects, such as depleted vitamins and minerals in your system. Soda is notorious for rotting your teeth, which is problematic if you suffer from anxiety as your teeth may already be weakened from clenching or grinding.
If you feel stressed, anxious, sad, frustrated, or unmotivated, you can channel the power of your own cognitive therapy by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns and changing how you respond to them. Morning anxiety can be managed by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption, and reducing stress at home and in the workplace.
By following our 15 Minute Morning Anxiety Guide each day, you will regain control of any negative thoughts before they limit you and will take a strong step toward living a happier and healthier life.