Better Me

Do I Have Morning Anxiety? Tips to Start Your Day on a Calm Note

When your morning alarm goes off, do you awaken with a sense of calm and peace or like your brain is in overdrive (spinning like the Tasmanian devil)? If you wake up with your heart racing and your mind buzzing with worry and negative thoughts, you may have a case of morning anxiety. 

While many individuals may wake up feeling anxious and worried from time to time, excessive worrying and anxiety may be something you need to work through. We spoke with Staci Broadwell, PsyD, a psychologist with Banner Health, to learn more about morning anxiety, tips for coping with it and when to seek additional help. 

What is morning anxiety?

Morning anxiety is precisely what it sounds like – anxiety that occurs in the morning. Symptoms can appear in many different ways, including feelings of unease, racing thoughts, physical symptoms like sweating or trembling and problems concentrating.

“Unlike generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is a constant feeling of anxiety throughout the day, morning anxiety tends to peak upon waking and may subside as the day progresses,” Dr. Broadwell said. However, people with GAD may feel morning anxiety similarly to those without the disorder.

What causes morning anxiety?

“The hormone cortisol, often called the stress hormone, tends to be higher during the first hour after waking, especially if you are already feeling stressed,” Dr. Broadwell said. This surge in cortisol can cause symptoms of anxiety, such as heart palpitations or difficulty breathing.

Other causes may include:

  • Life stressors like work deadlines, relationship problems or financial worries
  • Mental health diagnoses like depression or PTSD
  • Lifestyle habits like poor diet, lack of exercise or too much caffeine
  • Sleep problems like trouble falling and staying asleep or worrying at night 

Tips for managing morning anxiety

While morning anxiety can feel overwhelming, there are some strategies you can use to help calm symptoms and start your day on a more positive note:

Create a mindful bedtime routine: Focusing on good sleep hygiene can help improve your sleep quality, which in turn can reduce morning anxiety. Along with aiming for seven to nine hours of quality sleep, it can also be helpful to try some relaxation techniques.

Dr. Broadwell suggests:

Establish a morning routine: When you wake up, delay the urge to scroll your phone or check email. Instead, ease into your day by drinking a glass of water, doing some light exercise, eating a healthy breakfast and setting some intentions for your day.  

“The same techniques you use at bedtime would also be important when you wake up as they can introduce you to the day with more ease,” Dr. Broadwell said. 

Mind your caffeine: While that morning cup of coffee might seem necessary, caffeine can make you feel worse. Consider cutting back on caffeinated beverages or switching to half-caff or decaf options.

Reduce alcohol consumption: Try to cut back on alcohol before bed. While it may help you relax initially, alcohol can mess with your sleep and make you feel more anxious when you wake up. Choose other ways to unwind at night – like the suggestions above – to help you wake up calmer.

Get moving: Exercise is a natural stress reliever and mood booster. Consider a brisk walk or jog to boost your mood and reduce anxiety.

Try a butterfly hug: This self-soothing technique can be done pretty much anywhere: at bedtime, when you wake up or whenever you feel overwhelmed. 

You cross your arms and tap your shoulders, alternating like a butterfly flapping its wings. This rhythmic motion can help calm your mind and body when you are anxious or stressed. When you add calming imagery with the tapping, such as imagining you are on a beach, it can help redirect anxious thoughts and worries and calm the body down.

“The slow tapping helps calm down the nervous system when it's in a fight-or-flight response and will switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows your body to rest and digest,” Dr. Broadwell said.

For instructions on how to perform it, search “Butterfly Hug with Calm Safe Place Imagery” on YouTube.

Challenge negative thoughts: When you notice yourself engaging in negative self-talk or catastrophic thinking, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself if they’re based in reality. Try to reframe them in a more positive or realistic light. 

When should I seek help?

If you’ve tried these coping methods without success or you find morning anxiety is interfering with your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help.

“Individual therapy can provide a safe space to explore underlying issues contributing to your morning anxiety, to identify triggers and learn effective coping strategies,” Dr. Broadwell said. “EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy, in particular, has shown promise in treating anxiety and trauma-related conditions.”

Finding a qualified EMDR therapist can be a valuable step in addressing your morning anxiety.


Morning anxiety can feel overwhelming, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone. If you’re waking up with anxiety every morning and self-care strategies aren’t working, it’s OK to seek professional help. 

You can schedule an appointment with a Banner Behavioral Health specialist or ask your health care provider for a referral to a behavioral health specialist who specializes in anxiety disorders. 

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