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September 07, 2021 7 min read

In this article:

  • Why do we get morning anxiety?
  • The 25-minute anti-anxiety wake-up routine

Why do we get morning anxiety?

I'm a big believer in setting intentions and beginning the day with a slow and steady morning routine. I'm not the only one - Benjamin Franklin and Michelle Obama both had morning routines that were more than just a mad dash of getting ready and diving into work. They were part of their daily self-care (even if the term had not yet existed).

With that said, there are many things that can make some mornings especially hard to get out from under the covers. Looming projects, social anxiety, and the threat of mundane daily chores can have you waking up with anxious thoughts and dread toward your day. These feelings of anxiety aren't easy to shake off either.

Sometimes it's easy to draw the connection between your morning anxiety and certain events. Perhaps you have an 8 AM exam you spent all week studying for, or maybe you're about to face a tough conversation with a client or coworker. In other cases, and especially if you are consistently waking up feeling anxious, it can be a sign of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Typical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of restlessness andfatigue
  • Irritability
  • Signs of a panic attack, such as a tight chest and/or muscles, high heart rate, or difficulty breathing
  • Higher than normal blood pressure
  • Mental fog or difficulty concentrating
  • Overwhelming feelings of worry or nervousness

The truth is, after more than a year in a global pandemic, many of us are quite familiar with these feelings. According to one study, during the pandemic 41% of all adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to just 11% the year before. Many of us are also suffering from “pandemic brain fog”, feeling out of it and having trouble concentrating. On top of a global pandemic, daily stressors such as work, child care, relationships, and life events (like getting a new job, losing a job, death of loved ones, moving, and more) can remain top of mind and cause anxiety. People with excessive anxiety in their lives are more likely to wake up feeling stressed and anxious due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, AKA the cortisol awakening response.

Instead of staying in bed until the very last minute scrolling on social media or worrying about the day, here is a simple and quick 25-minute morning routine to set you up for better, anxiety-free days.

The 25 Minute Anti-Anxiety Wake-Up Routine

The Night Before:

Waking up anxiety-free starts with what you do the day and night before. Completely eradicating stressors from your life is nearly impossible. However, there are things a healthcare professional can help you with in order to manage and work through difficult feelings. They may give you specific medical advice and recommend medicines to manage anxiety or suggest psychiatry, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and/or relaxation techniques such as deep breathing you can use throughout the day to nip anxiety in the bud. In addition to medical intervention, by making simple lifestyle changes like the ones listed below, it may help to refresh your routine and improve your ability to manage anxiety and common stressors.

  • For better sleep and more rejuvenating mornings, you should aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, pad your bedtime with an extra hour to help your brain settle and relax, leaving you enough time for restful REM sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other substances in the evenings as they can interfere with your body's ability to enter REM sleep.
  • It may help to write a small journal entry to get all your worries out of your brain and onto paper.
  • Set a positive intention for the next day beforeyou go to bed. Benjamin Franklin liked to ask himself each morning, "What good shall I do today?". Instead, ask yourself this question before bed to take some of the pressure off in the morning.
  • Prepare your outfit and work gear the night before. This will help you to feel more prepared and confident that you are dressed as you like and equipped with the tools you need to succeed in your day.
The Morning Of:

It's not always practical to leave 3 hours for contemplation and breakfast like Benjamin Franklin recommends. That's why we created this routine to be easy, approachable, and quick. Leave at least 25 minutes to complete this routine and add onany additional time it takes you to get ready for your day (breakfast, getting dressed, grooming, shower, etc.) The key is to ease into your day and make this a time for self care, avoiding the frantic pace that often happens when you don’t have a morning plan.

  • Use a gentle alarm clock to wake yourself up. Keeping your timeframe in mind, set a gentle alarm clock and try your best to get up without hitting snooze. If you know you can't resist an extra 10 minutes of snooze time, incorporate that into your timeframe. Rather than waking up to the unpleasant shrill sound of a traditional alarm clock, siren, or ducks quacking, a gentle alarm clock will wake you up to natural soothing sounds such as birds chirping or waves lapping and crashing on a beach. Some apps like Sleep Cycle will also sync to your natural circadian rhythm and wake you up right on time. You can also sleep with the blinds open in hopes of aligning your circadian rhythm with the natural sunrise, or you can get blinds that open on a timer.
  • Get a glass of water.Despite what Starbucks wants you to think, caffeine does not have to be the first thing you put into your body. Hydrate and wake yourself up with some cool water. You can also infuse it with fruit, mint, and collagento make a filling and refreshing drink you look forward to and will help draw you out of bed. Lemon and ginger infused water are also the best for waking up the body and mind!
  • Ground yourself.If possible, take a step outside. Connect the soles of your bare feet with the dirt or grass. Preliminary studies suggest simply "plugging in" your body's electrical conductivity with the Earth's may help with inflammation, immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In any case, finding a moment of peace with fresh air, away from the home office that brings so much stress and anxiety, may help you to feel more peaceful, calm, and connected.
  • Set your intention for the day.This can be done while you stretch and/or meditate, but take time to focus on the daily intention you set the night before. This will help to give you much clearer direction as you navigate through your day and focus on the positivity you can bring, rather than any negative situations you have to deal with.
  • Do 10 minutes of stretching.Doing simple stretches help to get your blood flowing and your mind andbody ready to take on the day. Try the standing quad stretch, downward dog, hip flexor stretch, and/or rag doll stretch, whatever feels best for your body. The emphasis here is to be playful and release tension wherever you may be storing it. There's no pressure to perform, just playful, relaxing, serotonin-boosting movement.
  • Try a 10 minute meditation.While still grounding yourself, clear your mind and do 10 minutes of meditation. Simply shifting your attention toward the sounds of nature and away from your internal dialogue can help to reduce anxiety and put you in a state of calmness. If you’re new to meditation, you can follow along with a simple 10 minute guided meditation video like this one.

Your environment has a huge influence on your mental state. Grounding yourself might not be the most practical option if you live in an apartment building or in a colder climate. If you can't get outdoors, try to change your scenery by choosing a space away from your home office. It's important to remove yourself from situations and areas that bring about stress, so this might mean staying in the bedroom or going to whatever room has the most natural light.

After this quick and simple routine, you should be feeling more prepared to get through the mundane parts of your morning like showering, eating, and getting dressed. Though it might seem like a waste of time, doing these simple things can get you in the mindset to work. Similarly, eating dinner or changing back into comfortable clothes can switch your mindset and delineate work from play.

Physical activity and simple mindfulness techniques can go a long way for your mental well-being, but they are not always a cure or even a sufficient way to manage a mental illness. If you are living with overwhelming and persistent anxiety, you don't have to accept it as the norm. Talk to a mental health professional who will be able to diagnose any mental illnesses and help get you on the right track to physical and mental wellness.

Summary Points

  • According to one study, during the pandemic 41% of all adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to just 11% the year before
  • If you have trouble falling asleep, pad your bedtime with an extra hour to help your brain settle and relax, leaving you enough time for restful REM sleep
  • Set a positive intention for the next day before you go to bed
  • Hydrate and wake yourself up with some cool water
  • If you can't get outdoors, try to change your scenery by choosing a space away from your home office

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