When your thoughts begin to race, and your heart starts pumping before you’ve even gotten out from under the covers, your morning anxiety has become a significant problem. Morning anxiety isn’t uncommon, but you don’t have to live with it.

Learning a few coping skills can help you break free from the cycle of morning anxiety.

Why Morning Anxiety Happens

Morning anxiety can happen for any number of reasons: poor sleep habits, an underlying anxiety disorder, depression, or simply a pattern of thinking that causes you to focus on all the tasks, obligations, and potential downfalls of the day ahead.

There isn’t one clear identifying factor that can predict morning anxiety. Instead, it’s a matter of what causes your anxiety in the morning and how you can learn to prevent or cope with it in a healthier way.

Of course, this isn’t always clear-cut or easy. You may not be acutely aware of the source of your morning anxiety and may need the help of a trained mental health expert in order to determine the root cause.

Before finding treatment, learn more about the symptoms of morning anxiety and explore some potential coping mechanisms to manage them. Understanding your morning anxiety can make a dramatic difference.

Symptoms of Morning Anxiety

Morning anxiety can have a number of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. Left unaddressed, these symptoms can drastically impact your ability to go about your daily tasks and obligations. Some of the most common symptoms of morning anxiety include:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Stomach cramps or tightness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest tightness

These symptoms can vary substantially in severity. They can range from mild and uncomfortable to debilitating and frightening. For some, they can even lead to panic attacks that can last up to 30 minutes.

Tools for Coping With Morning Anxiety

As difficult as morning anxiety can be, there are several strategies you can implement to both prevent morning anxiety from happening or manage it when it happens. Some of the most effective tools for coping with morning anxiety include:

Prevention Techniques

Prevention techniques for morning anxiety focus on long-term changes that reduce your risk of experiencing anxiety. These techniques don’t always provide immediate relief, but with concerted effort, they can and will reduce the frequency and intensity of your morning anxiety episodes.

With anxiety prevention, it’s important to stay the course, commit to long-term change, and make these prevention strategies part of a healthier lifestyle. Don’t give up if you don’t experience benefits straight away — relief may be just around the corner.

Adjust Your Nighttime Routine

Morning anxiety often starts because of poor sleep habits. Whether you haven’t slept enough, went to bed anxious, or had trouble falling or staying asleep — a number of factors can contribute to morning anxiety.

Yet there is extensive scientific guidance on how people can adjust and improve their bedtime routine to get more sleep, higher quality sleep, and stay asleep for longer.

Many of the techniques are used in highly effective therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), and can reduce your overall levels of anxiety throughout the day.

First, you want to establish a regular sleep schedule. Adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and it’s best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Make sure to schedule your bedtime so that you have enough hours of sleep for the day, and try to stick to your sleep schedule even on the weekend.

Next, sleep scientists recommend creating a relaxing nighttime routine to help you wind down. About an hour before bedtime, turn off your devices, dim the lights, and engage in light or relaxing activities to help you unwind.

You don’t want to participate in anything too stimulating before going to sleep, as this can leave your mind racing when you get into bed and contribute to your morning anxiety.

Finally, cutting down on your caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening will help you sleep better. It can also help prevent anxiety the next morning. Experts recommend not having any caffeine for at least 10 hours before bedtime to ensure that the stimulating effects of coffee or tea don’t interfere with your sleep cycle.

Sleep difficulties are incredibly common in people with anxiety disorders. But you can train yourself into a healthier sleep pattern, which will leave you feeling alert and refreshed in the morning with much less frequent morning anxiety.

Delay Checking Your Phone

Checking your phone first thing in the morning is a daily ritual for a lot of people. But more often than not, if you experience morning anxiety, this habit can contribute to stress and worry before you even get out of bed.

When you roll over to turn off the alarm and immediately check your notifications and calendar, the first moments of your day are spent thinking about the future. Within seconds of opening your eyes, you are thinking about the meeting you have at 3 p.m., scheduling an oil change, and wondering how you’re going to get everything done.

Take the morning off from this future stress. Instead, focus on the tasks at hand. You can take a shower, brush your teeth, and make a cup of coffee before turning your attention to the day ahead. In all likelihood, the tasks pending on your phone can wait just a little bit longer.

Build a Healthy Morning Ritual

A morning ritual can be incredibly relaxing. If you carve out a little extra time in the mornings, you can spend the first hours of your day doing little things that bring you joy. Try taking an extra minute in a hot shower or taking the time to savor a cup of coffee at home rather than throwing it into a tumbler to drink on the way to work.

For people with anxiety, rituals provide much-needed structure, predictability, and comfort. Anxiety is characterized by feelings of dread or fear about future events, about what might go wrong, and how things don’t always go to plan.

By having a morning ritual, you create a barrier between yourself and those future worries. Rather than focusing on what could potentially go wrong, you can focus on the here-and-now of your morning routine.

Start an Exercise Routine

A consistent exercise routine is another tool to combat morning anxiety. Seeing the benefits of exercise can take some time, but the reduction in mental health symptoms can be dramatic if you stick to it.

In terms of reducing anxiety, cardiovascular exercise is often the most effective approach. Cardio exercise primarily strengthens the heart and lungs, which can drastically reduce the intensity of anxiety symptoms.

Essentially, when your heart and lungs are trained by exercise, they’re more prepared when anxiety strikes. A rapid heartbeat from anxiety doesn’t feel as intense when you have a regular cardio routine, and your body has an easier time absorbing oxygen, even when your breathing gets fast and shallow.

With these physical symptoms reduced, mental and emotional symptoms can subside as well.

In-the-Moment Techniques

As effective as prevention techniques are, they don’t necessarily help if you are already experiencing anxiety. If you need a quick technique to help manage your anxiety, try one of these exercises:

Grounding Techniques

Grounding exercises are designed to help you get out of your mind and into your body. The goal is for you to shift your focus from your racing thoughts or emotions to what you see, feel, smell, or hear. Grounding techniques can rapidly reduce the symptoms of anxiety and prevent them from running out of control.

A simple grounding technique you can use when you experience morning anxiety is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. When you start to experience anxiety, try to shift your attention to:

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can feel
  • Three things you can hear
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste

When you commit to this technique, noticing each set of sensations, you’ll often find that by the time you get to the last item, your anxiety has dropped significantly. As is so often the case in mental health, when a problem is created in the mind, the body is the path to resolution.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises have the physical focus of grounding exercises. However, with a breathing exercise, you relegate your attention to a specific action and sensation. Breathing exercises focus your entire energy and attention on the breath in a specific pattern to help soothe the central nervous system and find anxiety relief.

When you feel anxious, try a breathing exercise that emphasizes the exhale. Here is a simple strategy you can try:

  • Breathe in through your nose for three seconds
  • Hold your breath for two seconds
  • Exhale through your mouth for six seconds
  • Hold your breath for two seconds

Repeat these steps several times until you start to feel your morning anxiety begin to subside.

Research shows that exercises like this, which focus on longer exhales than inhales, can cause the parasympathetic nervous system to activate. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for sending calming signals throughout your brain and body and can reduce the experience of anxiety when activated.

Mindfulness Techniques

A final technique to use to manage anxiety is to try engaging in a mindfulness exercise. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention completely to the present moment. You can incorporate a mindfulness technique with the breathing or grounding exercises outlined above.

In general, mindfulness focuses less on the body and more on breaking the cycle of racing thoughts. When you feel your thoughts stretching to the future, simply remind yourself to come back to the present moment, to focus on the here and now, and to experience your surroundings fully.

If you are unfamiliar with a mindful state, it can be beneficial to practice mindfulness through techniques such as meditation or yoga. You can incorporate these strategies into your morning routine to help you return to mindfulness when you experience an episode of anxiety.

Finding Professional Treatment for Your Morning Anxiety

If you’ve tried the techniques listed above without success, or your anxiety is starting to interfere with the rest of your life, it might be time to seek professional mental health treatment to overcome your morning anxiety.

At Plus by APN, our team uses a comprehensive suite of evidence-based and cutting-edge mental health treatments to help our clients achieve recovery. To get more information about our mental health programming, call us today at 424.644.6486 or complete our online contact form to learn more.


  • “Anxiety.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html. Accessed 15 June 2024.
  • Hofmann, Stefan G, and Angelina F Gómez. “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression.” The Psychiatric clinics of North America vol. 40,4 (2017): 739-749. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008
  • Self-Regulation of Breathing as a Primary Treatment for Anxiety, philarchive.org/archive/RAVSOB. Accessed 15 June 2024.