Are you someone who feels heavy in your heart or head as soon as you wake up? Do you experience racing thoughts or overwhelming feelings before you even get out of bed?
While some stress is considered a natural part of life, excessive worrying about everyday tasks or situations that others see as non-threatening can indicate an anxiety disorder, according to Jasreen Birgi, associate city lead at mental health startup Lissun.
A Lancet study in 2021 reported a 35% rise in anxiety disorders in India during the pandemic. The study also found that women and younger people were highly impacted by anxiety and depression as compared to men and senior citizens.
Similar findings were reported by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) data published in 2020. The data reported that almost 9.3 % of India’s youth between the ages 18 to 24 years suffered from either anxiety or depression during the early days of the pandemic, this number increased to 16.8 % by March 2022. The report also suggests that more women were impacted by anxiety and depression as compared to men.
Why do some people feel anxious when they wake up in the morning?
Birgi explained that everyone feels anxious sometimes, and anxiety is a natural response to stress. For example, you might feel anxious just after waking up because of a job interview or an exam at school. However, if your morning anxiety starts to feel out of your control, it may be a sign of a deeper problem.
There are several possible causes of morning anxiety
Biological causes: Cortisol, often known as “stress hormone” due to its role in controlling the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress. It is highest during the hour after you wake up. Cortisol awakening response (CAR), is a phenomena which is especially common among people who regularly experience anxiety.
Anxiety disorders: Morning anxiety may be a sign of an anxiety disorder, such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD experience excessive worry and fear for at least six months. Other symptoms may include chronic fatigue, problems with focus, and restlessness.
Poor sleep quality: Sleep issues like Insomnia, disrupted sleep, and poor sleep quality may make one feel more anxious in the morning. Some studies have found that a lower sleep time each night is linked to increased morning anxiety levels.
Sugar & Caffeine Intake: What we eat affects how we feel. Few research have connected anxiety to higher sugar intake. Other studies have found a link between hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Research also suggests that heavy caffeine intake is associated with higher anxiety levels.
Substance or alcohol use: Alcohol and substance misuse can cause people to feel anxious upon waking. Research shows that cocaine/alcohol/other drugs use can also worsen anxiety symptoms and increase the risk of an anxiety disorder.
Physical health issues: Chronic physical illness can contribute to a person feeling more anxious. Although everyone will respond to health conditions differently, a person with an ongoing medical issue may develop health anxiety.
Life Stressors: Major life changes can cause anxiety issues. Like: changes in living arrangements, such as moving to a new area or someone else moving out changes in employment, such as switching jobs or losing a job, experiencing physical, mental, or sexual abuse, the separation from or death of a loved one, emotional shock after a traumatic event relationship trouble, financial worries, etc.
Genes and Anxiety: Few people are prone to feel anxious. A 2017 review of studies showed that generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can be inherited, with GAD and associated conditions being linked to a number of different genes. Most researchers conclude that anxiety is genetic but can also be influenced by environmental factors.
How can you cope with this?
- Lowering caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake
- Eating a healthy breakfast
- Relaxation techniques
- Practising good sleep hygiene
- Practise healthy sleep habits
- Make a to-do-list or write a journal about your day so that thoughts aren’t free-floating in your mind.
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress levels
- Setting a worry timer to consider what’s causing your anxiety. Give yourself a time limit of 10 or 15 minutes to experience those feelings. But when the timer goes off, move on to your self-care strategies.
- Challenging negative thoughts
- Developing a mindful morning routine