Mornings are a fresh start, an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the day. Whether you wake up with a pounding heart and overwhelming thoughts or rise with a sense of calm — for people with anxiety, starting your day on the right foot can be especially important. When you’re overwhelmed or nervous about everyday tasks, mornings can either be a chance to create a plan of attack or struggle with the anticipation. You probably experience a mix of both — you can’t wake up every day completely ready to tackle anxiety, after all. And that’s OK.
We were curious to see what people with anxiety do first thing in the morning, so we asked people in our community to paint us a picture of what happens when they wake up. Their insight offers tips that might help you in the morning as well or, at the very least, provide something you can relate to.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “When I first wake up, my previous day smacks me in the face. I’m reminded of every single problem or struggle I had. I overthink everything, which almost always results in a panic attack. I try to focus on my breathing for a few minutes. I also remind myself that this is another day and I will get through it.” — Anne J.
2. “I have a wall of pictures that comfort me: family, friends, colors and accomplishments. When I find new things, I add it to the wall. I wake up and the wall is the first thing I see. It’s a great reminder of who I am and helps keep me grounded.” — Marissa R.
3. “Anxiety hits me right away. My mind wanders to my bills, dog food and medication, fixing my car… I usually shed a few tears… and I know I have to get up. It’s really, really hard, but you must continue to try.” — Heather M.
4. “I get myself out of bed and take care of my animals because I know no matter how much anxiety I have, I can’t let it affect them. They do not understand and it wouldn’t be fair to them. Waking up and seeing them every morning is a sweet reminder I’m still here and I’m still OK.” — Shayna D.
5. “A shower. The shower is one of my safe places at home, and when I take a shower I feel like I can think clearer… And I am less foggy. Makes me ready for the day. I can’t leave the house unless I shower.” — Kortney F.
6. “Slow, deep breaths and waking up slowly help me stay calm. If I jump out of bed and start rushing around, my brain goes into overdrive and I start to panic that I’ll forget something or I start having vivid pictures of horrible things happening in my head. If I take it slow and talk myself through my morning I’m usually OK.” — Melissa W.
7. “A cup of coffee. Every day. Even if I’m staying in a hotel. It helps to have something I can control. How much coffee I put in the cup. The amount of creamer. How many cups I have all help me stay calm in the morning.” — Joseph C.
8. “I wake up and feel a moment without anxiety. I think, hey I don’t feel anxious! It feels good. For about three seconds. Once my brain ‘wakes up,’ it realizes it is time to feel anxious again. Weight on your chest. Uneasy feelings in your chest. Paranoia that you aren’t good enough. Not even for yourself. That no one can stand you. That you screwed up bad… It’s pressure to be perfect. It tells you that’s impossible, but demands it. It’s demanding the un-demandable.” — Vince F.
9. “My anxiety is usually the thing that wakes me — pounding heart, racing thoughts, clammy hands. So I immediately take my medicine. I know it will help, and if I can get from now to when it kicks in, I will be OK. I wish exercise or meditation helped, but if I’m panicking upon waking, I’m not able to even do those things! Medicine first, deep breathing, then coffee and my journal. Routine helps too.” — Amanda E.
10. “I keep a composition book right by my bed in my nightstand. I keep a pen there too. That way I can write down all the things I’m thinking, that rush into my head right when I wake up so I don’t carry them around with me all day. I need that outlet of thought-expulsion or I go into a panic or I let my brain convince me not to get out of bed. I don’t even think about what I’m writing, I just need a few minutes to wrestle with the million thoughts that punch me in the face.” — April D.
11. “‘It’s OK. Everything’s OK. Even if things seem like they aren’t.’ Sometime back, I would repeat this to myself over and over again whenever I began to feel my heart hurt, my breathing shallow… After doing this for quite a while, I find myself conditioned enough so that if I ever find myself needing to repeat these three phrases, it would make me feel tons better; as if I might just carpé the diem after all.” — Arsh K.
12. “I give myself 20 to 30 minutes every morning to stare at the ceiling and carefully plan out my day. My anxiety makes me feel as if I’m out of control of my life, of my surroundings, of everything. So if I thoroughly talk out my plans with myself, it makes me feel like I have it together (even though I know I don’t). There’s no more secure of a feeling than me feeling like I have my life together. Even if it’s only for 20 to 30 minutes.” — Dynasty L.
13. “I always set my alarm for a half hour before I have to actually be up. (I have two alarms set for this reason.) Sometimes I will turn off the first alarm and get a few more minutes of sleep, other times I will use that time for some me time before getting ready to face the day. Usually I’ll turn on Hulu or Netflix with a favorite show and listen to an episode while catching up on Facebook and snuggling with my kitty. It helps me to relax a little before having to face the day. Also, taking my meds first thing in the morning helps as well.” — Jessica E.
14. “Count to 10. Put one leg out. Do it again. Other leg. Seems to work. Write down a list of what you are going to achieve today.” — Ross J.
15. “I meditate. It’s a new practice. I’m finding it very beneficial. And while my mind and body are still when the meditation is ending, I move into a prayer so that I can stay one with my spirituality and let go of the issues from the day before. It keeps me from overthinking things that are already done. It’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than it was a month ago.” — Kiersten A.
16. “I wake up as slowly as possible. I allow myself time to read at least a chapter of a book before I get up — entering someone else’s world so I can slowly slip into my own one breath at a time. I’ll typically keep an art project I’m working on nearby as well, so I keep my mind focused on creating beauty in the moment instead of fighting to see it.” — Arielle B.
17. “I wake up and my mind starts going a 1000 mph. What I need to do today. What I didn’t do yesterday. I lay there and try to focus… then I get up and get my son up. He helps my mind slow down some… he’s 7 and the best thing in my life ever” — Michelle W.
18. “On good day, I’ve slept right through till my alarm wakes me up, and I get up and turn my alarm off. Then I wash my face with super cold water. On a bad day, wake up way before my alarm, and lie there planning out my entire day from memory –from my clothes and makeup, to my parking spot or which checkout I should use the supermarket that evening.” — Sami N.
19. “Find my comfort object (in my case, a pillow I’ve had since I was a baby), clutch it close, and think of a reason I need to get out of bed. An appointment, a meeting with a friend, a nice lunch waiting in the fridge.” — Skylar W.
20. “Breathe and ground myself with my senses. Pointing out a few things I see in the room. Whether or not sunlight is streaming in. What am I smelling? Drinking a glass of water always helps too. I feel it allows my heart ease its work in my body, allowing the positive endorphins to flow through my system better.” — Dylan H.
21. “I get moving. If I lay in bed, it gives my mind the chance to go off the rails. If I can get out of bed and take a walk or focus on taking care of my dogs or keep my mind at the moment, I can keep it together.” — Susan T.
22. “I write down everything that’s going to probably happen that day so I can prepare myself for it. I also write that I can get through the day and get through my anxiety.” — Mackenzie G.
This story was published on The Mighty, a platform for people facing health challenges to share their stories and connect.