Over 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder. That’s about 19% of the US adult population. Anxiety can affect all parts of your adult life, from big events to smaller moments. The good news? If you have an anxiety disorder, there are several ways to help reduce your symptoms and enjoy a calmer mind. A good place to start is building an anxiety-friendly morning routine.
Starting your day with the right morning routine can be a solid first step to managing your anxiety symptoms throughout the day. The following tips will help you tackle the morning without your anxiety symptoms overwhelming your mind.
The importance of an anxiety-friendly morning routine
When you first wake up in the morning, does your brain automatically open the floodgates of worry and anxiety? You might become consumed by the overwhelming feeling of dread when thinking about the laundry list of responsibilities ahead of you that day. Or maybe your mind goes completely blank because you’re unsure of what you need to start first. Dealing with anxiety on a daily basis can be quite exhausting and you might even wake up feeling excessive fatigue and grogginess. If you can relate to these scenarios, you might benefit from a morning routine that takes your anxiety symptoms into consideration.
Morning anxiety is not an official medical term, but you may feel heightened symptoms after waking up. Morning anxiety occurs when you wake up with excessive feelings of worry, stress, and anxiety. Here are some of the symptoms of morning anxiety:
- Constantly feeling restless or “on-edge”
- excessive fatigue
- a tight chest or difficulty breathing
- tense muscles
- higher than normal heart rate
- difficulty concentrating and finding your mind
- mind goes blank
- difficulty controlling the worry or nervousness
Unfortunately, the symptoms of morning anxiety can hinder the rest of your day if you’re unable to address the source of your anxiety. Fortunately, if you can identify the various factors that trigger your anxiety, you can overcome these intense feelings. Taking the first step to identify and address your anxiety triggers takes a lot of courage. Creating an anxiety-friendly morning routine that helps calm your symptoms is a form of self-care that you won’t regret.
Step 1: Assess your current routine and your goals
Take a moment to think about your current morning routine. Which part of your routine is the most difficult to complete? How much spare time do you have in the morning? At what time do you usually wake up?
Understanding your current morning habits is a great starting point. Once you identify what your current morning routine looks like, you can start examining specific morning stressors.
It can be helpful to start by thinking about the individual parts of your morning routine that are affecting your anxiety. Certain habits or actions can trigger or worsen feelings of anxiety, such as waking up late, not knowing what to wear, or not knowing what you need to do next. When your mind is clouded by intense anxiety, it can be overwhelming to even think about hectic morning routines. Start by answering these three questions:
- What are the things you don’t like about your current routine?
- What triggers your anxiety the most in the morning?
- What can you do to help improve the things you don’t like about your routine?
Write your answers down to these three questions so you can always reference them later. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a basic understanding of what’s not working for you now, what you want to achieve, and your goals for your anxiety-friendly morning routine.
Step 2: Establish your nighttime routine
Once you’ve assessed your current morning routine and identified your new goals, you might realize that the success of your mornings is actually heavily influenced by your nighttime routine. Having a good morning routine really starts the night before. It’s easy to feel paralyzed from anxiety when you don’t have an established routine, especially in the morning when your brain is still foggy from sleep. One of the best ways to make your mornings calmer is to prepare for your morning the night before. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Pick out your clothes for the next day
- Prep your breakfast
- Figure out how much time you need to budget for each morning routine task
- Listen to relaxing music or do something therapeutic before bed
- Turn off your phone at least 30 mins to an hour before bed
On days when you feel like you can’t keep up with your nighttime routine, treat your morning routine as a new chance to try again. With new days come new opportunities. Nighttime routines are important for successful morning routines, but they shouldn’t control your mornings. Try to wake up with a positive attitude and allow yourself the opportunity to try again.
Step 3: Focus on one task at a time
When you first wake up, you might dread the busy day ahead of you. If you wake up feeling like you won’t be able to tackle the day’s responsibilities, take it one step at a time. Try not to think about the laundry list of things you need to do before the end of the day. Instead, start taking deep breaths and remind yourself of where you are in the present moment– in your bed, breathing, safe and awake. Then focus on the next, immediate step that feels most natural in your routine. That may be going to the kitchen and fixing yourself a cup of tea, or going straight to the bathroom to wash up.
Once you complete a single task, take a moment to relish the feeling of accomplishment. Then, move on to the next immediate task in your routine. It can be helpful to write down each task in your morning routine. Instead of scrambling to remember which task should go next, you can always look at your list.
Breaking the day down into more manageable chunks of tasks can help reduce the impact anxiety has on your day-to-day functioning. Take your morning routine one step at a time and you’ll find that focusing on a single task is much more manageable and less stressful.
Step 4: Practice relaxation techniques
Often, telling yourself to stop being anxious isn’t enough. Instead, start setting aside some time for yourself in the morning to practice relaxation techniques. Even if you only have an extra 5-10 minutes to spare, it’s best to start small. Practicing relaxation can help ease your body, mind, and surroundings. And the more you practice, the better you can control your anxiety.
When you first try these techniques, keep in mind that it takes time, consistency and practice to start feeling the benefits. Here are some helpful relaxation techniques you can start practicing in your morning routine:
- Positive visualization: When you feel intense anxiety, imagine having a more relaxed state of mind. Your body can become primed to act in a way consistent with your imagination.
- Think positively: Be mindful of your negative thoughts as they can worsen your anxiety. Catch yourself when you’re thinking negatively and think about how you can be positive in that moment.
- CBT exercises: Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises can help you reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. You can create new and positive thought pathways in your brain by practicing CBT each morning.
- The “4-7-8” Breathing method: Breathe in through your nose to the count of four, hold the breath to the count of seven, and then exhale through your mouth to the count of eight. Do this three times and you’ll start to feel more in control of your breathing
- Journaling: Anxious thoughts can be overwhelming. Use writing to let out what’s on your mind. Even better, use journaling to start practicing gratitude.
- Meditation: Close your eyes and focus on clearing your mind. This may take a few minutes but being present with complete silence and darkness can help.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: Try clenching your toes or clenching your fists for a few moments and then slowly release the tension. This helps to physically release the tension from your body.
- Light exercise: Like progressive muscle relaxation, light exercise can help release the physical tension from your body. This will help you focus on breathing and moving rather than on your overwhelming thoughts.
Step 5: Keep track of your progress
As you start to implement these new changes to your morning routine, take note of what’s working and what’s not working. You’ll know whether your new morning habits are effective when your symptoms of anxiety become milder and you can wake up with a clearer mind.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your progress might not be a linear path. Instead, your path to progress might go in loops until you find the right methods that work for you. Especially when you have anxiety, implementing a solid morning routine may take a while. But with practice and time, you can build a more mindful routine that helps reduce your anxiety.
Some days can be more difficult than others to keep up with a routine, and that’s perfectly normal. There would be no progress without experiencing setbacks, so try to accept them when they do happen. As you continue to practice new mindful habits in the morning, you can keep restructuring your routine to fine-tune it.
Minimize your stress with your anxiety-friendly morning routine
Excessive dread and anxiety in the morning can be a significant hindrance to your daily life. But practicing a mindful morning routine with relaxation techniques can help you overcome this. It can even be helpful to speak with a provider about possible medication options for anxiety and different therapy approaches to reduce anxiety.
At Ahead, our providers can help both diagnose and treat anxiety. Whether you need medication or non-medication therapy, we can help get you where you want to be. We work with you to create a treatment plan that addresses your specific pain points in your daily life. Use these tips to create an anxiety-friendly morning routine that helps you start your day with a calmer and clearer mind.