Well-Being//

How to Fend Off Morning Anxiety

Waking up to a full inbox and a list of to-do’s can be stressful, but there are ways to avoid the familiar jolt of panic that starts as soon as your alarm sounds.

Some mornings, you feel like your to-do list is screaming at you from the moment you wake up. That feeling results in an increasingly common phenomenon: morning anxiety. In a perfect world, you would start each morning by slowly opening your eyes, lifting your head off the pillow, and taking a moment to mindfully begin your day  but it’s easier said than done. 

More often than not, you instead likely wake up to a buzzing phone, unanswered emails, and a list of anxieties that stress you out before you even get out of bed. And although your stress is completely warranted, there are ways to fend off that familiar jolt of panic that hits during the first moments of your day. 

Here are a few tips that can help you fend off morning anxiety.

Sleep with your phone outside of your bedroom

You might be used to waking up with your phone right next to your head, but experts find that doing so can jeopardize your sleep quality, and make you wake up more anxious. “Our phones are our connection to the world, so it’s difficult to part from them,” Elizabeth Dowdell, Ph.D., R.N., a sleep researcher and professor at Villanova University, tells Thrive. “But keeping a physical distance from them can help us.” According to Dowdell, keeping your phone away from your bed during the night allows you to part from the stressors that get in the way of a peaceful sleep and a calm morning. “Start by making a small change, like taking the phone out of your bed, or away from your nightstand,” she urges. “In an ideal world, we would all be sleeping with our phones in a different room entirely.”

Write down what’s on your mind before bed

The slew of thoughts that flood your mind in the morning might actually be leftover from the night before. Research shows that writing down what’s on your mind before you go to bed can help you let go of those thoughts, and set yourself up for success the following day. Carve out a few minutes before you go to sleep to jot down the worries running through your head, whether they’re big or small. By putting pen to paper, you’ll be able to see what’s causing you stress, and part with those stressors before your head hits the pillow. You’ll be able to drift into a deeper sleep, and wake up feeling more relaxed.

Give yourself permission to reallocate your time

So many of the anxious thoughts that wake you up in the morning stem from incompletes from the day before  the email you never replied to, the errand you didn’t have time to run, or the voicemail you forgot to return. Sometimes, the most effective way to avoid this stress is to take a step back and allow yourself to accept incompletions. Researchers call this strategy “purposeful procrastination,” and it’s all about letting yourself leave your unfinished tasks for another day. By accepting the idea that you can’t get everything done at once, you can clear space in your mind to see what can be done tomorrow, and accept that it’s OK if it’s not. Once you give yourself the room to procrastinate on purpose, you’ll wake up feeling more calm about the tasks left on your plate, and less overwhelmed by the urgency of each one.

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