You may wake up with anxiety if you’ve been worried about something or are dealing with excess stress. In some cases, it may indicate an anxiety disorder. Self-care strategies, among other treatments, may provide relief.
Do you ever experience racing thoughts or anxiety in the morning before you even have a chance to get out of bed? If you do, you’re not alone.
While some anxiety is considered a natural part of life, excessive worrying about daily tasks or situations others see as nonthreatening can indicate an anxiety disorder.
Although not a medical term, morning anxiety refers to waking up with feelings of stress and worry. You may experience it if you’re going through a stressful time, dealing with changes in your life, or experiencing distress.
It may be worth talking with a mental health professional if you regularly deal with excessive anxiety, worry, and stress in the morning. In this case, waking up with anxiety can indicate an anxiety disorder that could benefit from treatment.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrolled worry that pervades daily life and occurs frequently for at least 6 months. People with GAD typically worry about everyday activities. This may include anxiety about:
- other relationships
Anxiety can affect your overall health.
If you experience anxiety upon waking, you may have symptoms that include:
- feeling restless, “on edge,” or “wound up”
- signs of an anxiety attack, such as a tight chest, tense muscles, faster heart rate, or rapid breathing
- difficulty concentrating and finding your mind goes blank
- difficulty managing the worry or nervousness
- inability to fall asleep or stay asleep (insomnia)
- digestive issues like indigestion
Whether you’re thinking about the day ahead or something specific, you may also experience symptoms of an anxiety attack. These symptoms can include:
- intense worry
- intense distress
- tight chest
- tense muscles
- rapid heart rate
- rapid breathing
The causes of morning anxiety can be the same ones that may contribute to an anxiety disorder. Since morning anxiety is a reaction to excess stress and worries, several potential causes may contribute to your symptoms.
- anticipation and worry about the day ahead or a future event
- stress about something that occurred in the past
- an increase in the “stress hormone” cortisol, which typically happens within the
first hourof waking caffeineor sugarintake, both of which may cause or worsen anxiety
If you go to bed worrying or wake up during the night with anxious thoughts, you may also feel anxious and concerned about your day in the morning.
If you feel anxious when you wake up in the morning, some self-care strategies may help relieve your worry and help you continue your day in a calmer state of mind. Some of these strategies may even help prevent anxiety.
They can include:
The American Association of Anxiety and Depression recommends regular exercise to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
In addition to increasing your mental and physical fitness, physical activity can:
- lift your mood
- reduce anxiety symptoms
- improve your body’s ability to handle stress
- help you relax
- reduce tension
- improve sleep
Aim to exercise regularly — at least 5 days per week for 30–45 minutes each session — to get the full benefit.
Some options for exercise include:
- brisk walking
- taking a fitness class
Practicing mindfulness and meditation
The goal of meditation practice is self-awareness, or the ability to observe and identify your thoughts, feelings, and body states in the present moment without reacting to them.
Mindfulness involves redirecting your thoughts back to the present moment — and you can get better at it with practice. Mindfulness and meditation offer health benefits that
- reduced stress
- improved sleep
- reduced blood pressure
- reduced fatigue
While it may take practice to get into a mindful state when you wake up in the morning, it can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
Deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing done first thing in the morning can help take the focus off negative and anxious thoughts and help turn your focus and energy toward your body.
Try to breathe with your diaphragm, making your stomach rise with each inhalation, and then lengthen the time of your exhalations. This can help reduce the body’s anxiety response.
Challenging negative thoughts
If you wake up with negative thoughts about your day (often called “catastrophizing”), challenge them and focus on what you can control. You may consider keeping a journal by your bed and writing down what you’re grateful for. It can also be helpful to list at least three things you’re looking forward to.
If your morning anxiety is a sign of an anxiety disorder, it may be best that you consider professional support. Treatment may focus on therapy, medication, and changes to your routine that may help you reduce anxiety.
Treatment may include:
Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy can help you understand how anxiety affects your life and how to manage it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that can help people with anxiety and depression, looks at the important role that thinking plays in how we feel and what we do. A mental health professional trained in CBT can help you recognize and reframe harmful thought patterns. They may also teach you new ways of thinking, acting, and reacting to situations that cause anxiety.
Throughout multiple sessions, you can develop strategies that decrease the severity of your symptoms.
Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help relieve the symptoms associated with anxiety.
Common types include:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- benzodiazepines, which doctors may prescribe for short-term anxiety
- anxiolytics, which doctors may prescribe for longer periods of time
You can also make some changes to your routine that may help reduce anxiety in the morning and in general. These can include:
- getting enough sleep
- limiting alcohol and caffeine
- eating a balanced, nutritious diet that limits processed food and added sugar while adding things like fresh fruits and vegetables
- reducing stress at work and home
Setting aside a specific time to consider worries
You can try setting a worry timer to give yourself time to consider what’s causing your anxiety.
Give yourself a time limit of 10 minutes to experience those feelings. But when the timer goes off, move on to your self-care strategies.
Though you cannot expect to “turn off” your anxiety, this approach can allow you to acknowledge your worry and give you a concrete point at which to move on to self-care.
Whether or not you’re anxious about something specific, self-care strategies such as mindfulness may help you reduce morning anxiety.
If your worry feels overwhelming, constant, or lasts for a long time, you may be dealing with symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
If that’s the case, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. You can find a practitioner near you, get a recommendation from insurance, or get help online.