Updated: Jul 5
Is your anxiety sometimes worse in the morning than later in the day?
You're not alone with this problem! It is a really common concern for my clients in therapy so let me give you the quick explanation of what's going on and then a few techniques you can try using to 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.
Try this next:
My Rewire Your Anxious Brain Kit gives more information about the brain and body when we are stressed, anxious or responding to traumatic events. It contains the information that therapists teach their clients in the first few sessions of therapy, giving you what you need to know in order to start to feel better and, crucially, a technique for calming your nervous system.
* The effects of post-awakening light exposure on the cortisol awakening response in healthy male individuals. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 108, p28-34