Morning anxiety and stress can be heightened in the morning due to cortisol, our stress hormone, levels naturally being higher. Here are 5 simple swaps for your morning routine to reduce the amount cortisol rises by and provide anxiety & stress relief.
Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. I’m not a qualified practitioner and I’m not encouraging anyone else to these things. Please consult a qualified practitioner if you have any concerns regarding your health and before making any changes to your current diet or treatment plan. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to your I will earn commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. See my full disclaimer here.
What’s the first thing you see and hear when you wake up?
For months I’ve adapted my morning routine to ease my physical symptoms. After listening to a Jay Shetty podcast where he asked what the first thing you see and hear in the morning is, I realised I haven’t paid the same attention to looking after my mental health.
Often the first thing I would do is look at my phone and scroll through social media and switch on the tv and listen to the news. This would often heighten my anxiety and I’d find myself comparing myself to others online and feeling inferior.
what causes morning anxiety & stress?
Cortisol levels, our stress hormone, is highest in the morning (1). This explains why people can feel a greater amount of anxiety and stress early in the day (2). For those with chronic illness, higher cortisol levels means physical symptoms are often worse too, which can further heighten anxiety (3). While we can’t prevent cortisol being highest in the morning, we can take steps to lower the amount it raises by.
the power of our senses and thoughts to ease anxiety & stress
In my previous blog post, 15 Things To Do In Bed To Ease Anxiety & Stress, I spoke about how our 5 senses have an incredibly powerful effect on how we feel. Diet isn’t just what we eat, diet is also:-
- What we read,
- What we listen to and,
- What we think.
So I’ve adapted my morning routine to take care of my mental health, making 5 simple swaps so the first thing I:-
- Taste and
…are things that are positive, make me feel good and ease my anxiety in the morning. Making these switches and engaging my senses and thoughts in this way helps me start the day in a more positive mindset and means I’m better equipped to handle whatever happens for the rest of the day.
5 simple swaps to ease morning anxiety & stress
easing morning anxiety swap 1). Taste – switch coffee for chicory medicinal mushroom “coffee” or green juice
Caffeine is a stimulant which raises cortisol levels and also a diuretic, which increases dehydration (4,5). The increase in cortisol and dehydration have both been shown to increase anxiety, stress and fatigue (4,5).
option 1 – chicory medicinal mushroom “coffee”
One simple swap is to switch the morning coffee, for a chicory medicinal mushroom “coffee”, made from:-
Chicory has a similar taste to coffee, while medicinal mushrooms have been shown to increase energy and alertness (6). Neither contain caffeine or stimulants. Therefore, combining chicory and medicinal mushrooms allows you to enjoy a drink with a similar taste to coffee and receive the same energy boost without the negative effects of caffeine.
option 2 – green juice
- Increases energy
- Flood the body with a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed when consumed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Packed full of electrolytes which help keep us hydrated.
This Fennel, Cucumber & Mint Recipe is my favourite.
ease morning anxiety swap 2). sight – switch looking at your phone and TV for reading a book or bible passage
To avoid myself scrolling through social media and checking emails, which can all increase anxiety and stress, I don’t look at my phone until later in the morning. Instead, I’ve put my favourite bible verse and encouraging quote on my bedside table so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up. Instead of looking at my phone and scrolling through social media, I read a bible passage or chapter of a book.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9, NIV
ease morning anxiety swap 3). touch – Switch a hot shower for a cold shower
In response to the cold temperature, we breathe deeper which increases blood flow and oxygen delivered round the body. This increases our energy, alertness and concentration and the levels of the hormones noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain, which calms us down, easing anxiety and boosting our mood (9).
As our body adjusts to cold temperatures, the vagus nerve is activated which calms our nervous system by reducing our sympathetic stress response and increasing our parasympathetic rest and relaxation state. This has the benefit of:-
- Reducing heart rates,
- Decreasing breathing rates,
- Lowering blood pressure,
- Reducing anxiety and,
- Optimising digestion (10).
other ways to activate the vagus nerve to help ease anxiety
High vagus nerve tone is associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress and improved mood (11). For 11 other ways to activate the vagus nerve and improve mental wellbeing, click to read my other blog post – 12 Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health.
ease morning anxiety swap 4). thoughts – switch mulling over negative thoughts and to do lists for a gratitude practice
It’s common in the morning to mull over negative thoughts and worry about everything we have to do during the day. To prevent me doing this, I’ve put the Five Minute Gratitude Journal (UK Link/US Link) by my bed and when I wake up I write down 3 things I’m grateful for and 3 things I’m looking forward to that day or 3 things that will make today great, no matter how small or trivial they may seem.
This quick gratitude practice has been shown to lower anxiety, stress and depression and cause us to have a more positive and optimistic mindset (12, 13). It also trains your brain to look for these positive things during the day, not only helping to ease morning anxiety but improve mental wellbeing throughout the day.
ease morning anxiety swap 5). hear – switch listening to the news for listening to an upbeat album or inspiring podcast
Playing an upbeat album or listen to an inspiring podcast (like Katie Piper’s Extraordinary People or Give Me Strength With Alice Liveing), causes us to start the day in a positive upbeat mindset, rather than switching on the tv or radio and listening to the news, which can increase anxiety and negative thoughts.
other mental health blog posts
Click to read my other blog posts with other tips and strategies which help me care for my mental health:-
- 15 Things To Do In Bed To Ease Anxiety & Stress
- 12 Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health
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What’s the first thing you see and hear when you wake up? What do you do to take care of your mental health in the morning? I’d love to know. Leave me a comment below or message me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.
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