Updated: Nov 3, 2021
No you're not imagining it! And no, you're not alone with feeling more anxious first thing in the morning! This is a really common question in therapy so let me explain what's going on and give you a few things to try and help manage it.
When we wake up in the morning we get an increase of cortisol into our blood stream about 30-40 minutes after waking. This is called the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). This is very normal because it helps to prepare the body for the day, for example the brain turns itself on so it can figure out what day it is and what is required of us.
Even through we all have this, it is worse in times of stress, such as on work-days and on days when we have to perform such as at interviews or on competition days.
If you already struggled with anxiety then you will have a heightened sensitivity to the CAR, meaning that you feel anxiety more than some people.
What you can do to help:
1. Wake up in a dark room. There is research that shows that waking in the light can increase this*.
2. Try to have a regular sleeping routine as this helps to keep the CAR stable.
3. Try to reduce day-time stress or have a timetable for the day so that you have already made the big decisions and don't have to deal with these on waking.
4. Prepare small things ahead to reduce the amount of morning stress e.g. lay out your clothes for the day, or breakfast things and work-bag all the evening before.
5. Avoid checking your phone in the first 40 minutes, allow your system to wake up as phones can trigger more cortisol to be released.
6. If it's very bad then it could be a sign that you have underlying anxiety so consider therapy for this.
* The effects of post-awakening light exposure on the cortisol awakening response in healthy male individuals. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 108, p28-34