Break The Cycle Of Morning Anxiety

woman holding hands to her temples in bed with white sheets to demonstrate morning anxiety

Morning anxiety is a common phenomenon that many people experience. While it is normal, to a certain degree, excessive or severe morning anxiety can have lasting mental and physical consequences. If you suffer from morning anxiety, keep reading to learn more about the causes, impacts, and ways to manage morning anxiety.

Causes of Morning Anxiety

The Cortisol Awakening Response

One of the primary culprits behind feelings of anxiety in the morning is a surge in cortisol levels. This spike is called the “ Cortisol Awakening Response,” or CAR. The reasons for it are not fully understood, but it causes base cortisol levels to increase by as much as 75 percent within the first half hour or so of waking. 

The morning anxiety induced by the CAR is something of a paradox since cortisol is typically secreted after we start feeling anxious in order to help us cope with it. The sudden spike in cortisol upon waking is, therefore, hypothesized to be a kind of preemptive strike against the day’s upcoming stress.

While the CAR is a normal part of our circadian rhythm, it can be influenced by other factors that can cause it to spike higher than normal, leading to increased feelings of anxiety. Furthermore, higher levels of cortisol have been associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes, so managing cortisol secretion is important for overall health.

How To Lower Cortisol Naturally

 You can help manage your CAR with a few modifications to your daily routine:

  • Avoid Caffeine: if your morning anxiety is severe, avoid drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages. These can quicken your heart rate and increase feelings of anxiety.
  • Set A Bed Time: try to go to bed at around the same time every day to help your body, and its awakening response, into a rhythm. Restful sleep, in general, is also important for reducing the cortisol response and avoiding unpleasant spikes related to poor-quality sleep.
  • Exercise: regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is important for mental and physical health. Exertion during exercise releases calming hormones (endorphins) while also tiring your body physically, a combination that will help you sleep more restfully. 
  • Eat A Balanced Diet: vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to inadequate dietary intake can also contribute to feelings of anxiety, compounding the stress you feel upon waking. Iron deficiency anemia, for example, can cause heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Make sure to include a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean meats in your diet, and talk to a provider about supplementation, if necessary.

Hormonal Imbalance And Morning Anxiety

In addition to certain lifestyle and dietary modifications, you may need to address underlying hormone imbalances to help lessen your morning anxiety. Certain hormone imbalances can actually mimic or cause symptoms of anxiety, including:

Estrogen and Progesterone: as these hormones fluctuate and decline with age, many women notice changes in their mental health, including mood swings, depression, and anxiety. 

Thyroid Hormones: thyroid disorders are notorious for mimicking symptoms of anxiety. Low thyroid hormone, for example, causes difficulty with certain cognitive functions, leading to irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and poor sleep.  

Is Waking up With Anxiety Every Day Bad for Me?

Addressing morning anxiety is crucial to maintaining both your mental and physical health. Experiencing morning anxiety every day can have several negative effects on your overall health and well-being.

  • Mental Health: Chronic anxiety can lead to more severe mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression.
  • Physical Health: Prolonged anxiety can contribute to cardiovascular issues, weakened immune function, and other physical health problems.
  • Quality of Life: Constant anxiety can impact your ability to enjoy daily activities, reduce productivity, and strain relationships.

Can You Measure Your Cortisol Awakening Response?

Yes. Measuring your cortisol awakening response involves collecting saliva at specific times after waking.

  1. Collect a saliva sample immediately upon waking.
  2. Collect a second saliva sample 30 minutes later.
  3. Collect a third saliva sample 45 minutes after waking.

These samples are analyzed in a lab to measure cortisol levels. The test can help you understand your body’s cortisol production and potential role in your morning anxiety. 

Break the Cycle of Morning Anxiety

Morning anxiety, often driven by the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR), can significantly impact your mental and physical health if left unaddressed. By understanding the factors contributing to this condition and implementing strategies to manage cortisol levels and overall stress, you can break the cycle of morning anxiety. 

In Omaha, Balanced Body Health and Wellness is a top functional medicine clinic specializing in balancing hormones, including cortisol, thyroid, estrogen, and progesterone. If you are experiencing persistent or severe morning anxiety, please contact us to schedule a free 15-minute discovery call. Don’t struggle with anxiety-start feeling better today!

author avatar