Waking Up With Anxiety – 5 Swaps For Relief

Cortisol, our stress hormone, levels naturally being higher in the morning can explain why people experience waking up with anxiety. There 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. First published 23 July 2021. Last updated 22 May 2022.

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Why is anxiety worse in the morning?

Levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, is naturally highest in the morning, and continues to rise for the first hour after waking up before beginning to decrease and stabilise (1). This explains why people can wake up feeling anxious and experience 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).

Symptoms of Morning Anxiety

The rise in cortisol can worsen morning anxiety symptoms. It can affect both physical and mental health and produce symptoms that affect the whole body, such as (4):-

  • Nausea,
  • Headaches,
  • Depression,
  • Irritability,
  • Fatigue,
  • Headaches,
  • Increase in heart and breathing rates,
  • Chest pain,
  • Muscle tension,
  • Trembling and tingling,
  • Restlessness,
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering things.


How To Stop Morning Anxiety

While we can’t prevent cortisol being highest in the morning, we can take steps to lower the amount it raises by. A previous post, 15 Things To Do In Bed To Ease Anxiety & Stress, detailed 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.

Often the first thing we do after waking up is look at our phone and scroll through social media or switch on the tv and listen to the news. This often heightens anxiety, causes us to compare ourselves to others online and feel inferior.

One of the daily habits to improve mental health we can implement is engaging our 5 senses in a positive way after waking up. We can achieve this by making 5 simple swaps to our morning routine so the first thing we:-

  • See,
  • Hear,
  • Touch,
  • Taste and
  • Think

…are things that are positive, make us feel good and ease anxiety in the morning. Making these switches and engaging our senses and thoughts in this way helps us start the day in a more positive mindset and means we’re better equipped to handle whatever happens for the rest of the day. Performing the new activity at the same time you would normally perform the old habit makes it easy to implement and stick to these new habits and routines.

5 Simple Morning Routine Swaps To Reduce Anxiety & Stress

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 (5,6). The increase in cortisol and dehydration have both been shown to increase anxiety, stress and fatigue (5,6).

Option 1 – Chicory Medicinal Mushroom “Coffee”

One simple healthy food and drink 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 (7). 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. It’s one effective nervous system reset dietary change, which helps calm the whole body and mind to ease anxiety and stress and increase calmness and relaxation.

Related Post: Nervous System Reset (10 Easy Ways To Calm The Whole Body & Mind)

Option 2 – Green Juice

Alternatively, for a different drink, coffee can also be replaced with a green juice, like this Fennel Juice Recipe With Cucumber & Mint. Green juices have many health benefits (8, 9):-

  • 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.

2). Sight – Switch Looking At Your Phone & TV For Reading A Book Or Bible Passage

To avoid scrolling through social media, checking emails and watching the news, which can all increase anxiety and stress, don’t look at your phone or switch the TV on until later in the morning. Instead, put your favourite bible verse and encouraging quote on your bedside table so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up. Then, 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

3). Touch – Switch A Hot Shower For A Cold Shower

Cold showers are one of 12 vagus nerve exercises which calms the whole body by reducing our sympathetic stress response and increasing our parasympathetic rest and relaxation state (10). In response to the cold temperature, we breathe deeper which increases blood flow and oxygen delivered round the body and the levels of our happiness hormones noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain (11). This all has the benefit of:-

  • Reducing heart rates,
  • Decreasing breathing rates,
  • Lowering blood pressure,
  • Easing fatigue,
  • Increasing energy,
  • Easing anxiety, stress and depression,
  • Boosting our mood,
  • Optimising digestion and sleep (12).

Other Vagus Nerve Exercises To Help Ease Anxiety

High vagus nerve tone is associated with long term lower levels of anxiety and stress and improved mood (12). My other post – Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health – has 11 other ways to activate the vagus nerve and improve mental wellbeing.

Related post: 12 Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health

4). Thoughts – Switch Mulling Over Negative Thoughts & 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 us doing this, put the Five Minute Gratitude Journal (UK Link/US Linkby your bed and when you wake up write down 3 things you’re grateful for and 3 things you’re looking forward to that day or 3 things that will make today great, no matter how small or trivial they may seem. An alternative exercise is a brain dump journal, where you list every single thing you’re thankful for or an A to Z Gratitude List, listing one thing for each letter of the alphabet you’re thankful for or taking one letter of the alphabet each morning and listing 3 things beginning with that letter you’re appreciative of.

Gratitude is one of 10 healthy habits that improve our physical and mental health for free. This quick gratitude practice has been shown to lower anxiety, stress and depression and cause us to have a more positive and optimistic mindset (13, 14). 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.

For tips to maximise the benefit of your gratitude practice and different gratitude exercises and prompts, you may find these Gratitude Journaling Ideas helpful.

Related post: 8 Gratitude Journaling Ideas To Maximise The Benefits & A to Z Gratitude List (100+ Unique Things To Be Thankful For)


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

Other Health & Wellness Blog Posts

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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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5 simple swaps to ease morning anxiety and stress

16 thoughts on “Waking Up With Anxiety – 5 Swaps For Relief”

  • love all the tips, I try to avoid looking at my phone until Im ready to leave the house or in the train so I can focus on myself also love to do yoga and run in the morning.

    • Thanks so much Jeannie, I really appreciate that. I do the same as you, the morning is the perfect time for yoga and movement. Not looking at my phone is one of the best habits I’ve broken.

  • Awesome read, great tips and reminders. There are so many things that we can change to help ease the daily anxiety and this post was a good reminder!! I definitely need to stop grabbing my phone first thing in the morning!

    • Thank you so much Pat, I really appreciate your kind words! Not looking at my phone first thing has made such a huge difference for me, I hope it helps you too.

  • Love the tips you provided here. But, if you’re a working parent… these are going to be difficult to do.
    What I want to try (again) though is doing a gratitude journal.
    I used to to do it before, when my schedule wasn’t hectic.

    Would love to try it again, because it really helped me a lot.

    • Thank you Mina. I can imagine doing all of them is difficult for working parents but I hope that there’s something for everyone here. I really hope you can get back into gratitude journalling and it helps you. Take care 🙂

  • These are all great tips, though I don’t think I can give up my coffee in the morning. ? I do try to avoid scrolling through my phone or tablet first thing. I wait to do anything stressful until after I’ve eaten breakfast. That way I’m fully awake and engaged. I think I may try the gratitude journal. It’s always good to be reminded of the things we are grateful for.

    • Thank you Melissa, I really appreciate that. Ah I know what you mean, I used to love my morning coffee but it really affected me so I had no choice but to give it up and find an alternative. Since replacing it with the chicory and medicinal mushrooms I don’t miss coffee at all! That sounds like a great routine. Gratitude makes such a difference, it really is so important to focus on the positives. I hope it helps you.

  • Yes one does need to take care of yourself and make sure that you do what’s best for you and reaching for any electronic device first thing in the morning may not be the best thing to do.

  • Damn you, Cortisol! There’s a lot of talk on morning routines, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one specifically for reducing stress on the morning so this is an excellent idea and a really important topic to cover. Getting stress more balanced first thing might help set the tone for the day and get your body better prepared for it, helping you to manage anxiety and stress a little more easily.

    I’ve never have medicinal mushrooms but I’ve seen more about them in the last year so I’m certainly curious. I’ve never had chicory before either so I had no idea it tasted a bit like coffee. Brilliant idea to mix the two for a boost of energy and alertness without the caffeine.

    My mornings are a moot point these days but pre-illness, I used to quite like my morning routine. I didn’t have a smartphone back then either so I’d wake up to music and dance around while getting ready for work, and I quite liked reading through affirmations or inspiring quotes some mornings too. Your gratitude journal by your bed to write down positives, things you’re thankful for or looking forward to sounds fab.

    It’s funny that now I need tips like these the most are precisely when I don’t use them. I definitely need to do a few swaps in my life, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    Fantastic suggestions, Lucy.xx

    • Thank you so much for your comment Caz, I really appreciate it. Like you said, how I feel in the morning determines how I feel the rest of the day so a good morning routine is so important. I hope you enjoy medicinal mushrooms and chicory if you try them, I only discovered them in the last year but enjoy them regularly now and it means I don’t miss coffee at all anymore. That sounds like a great morning routine. Like you I was late to the party getting a smartphone and in some ways I miss not having one as it’s so easy to pick it up and scroll first thing in the morning which can often make me feel more anxious and stressed. It’s always the way isn’t it that the times we need advice and tips the most are the times we don’t implement them. Thanks again for getting in touch Caz. Take care xx

  • I’ve been experiencing anxiety, and that is why I’ve decided to look for a mental counseling service that may help me deal with this. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of having a morning routine since this may improve my focus. I also agree with you that it will be smarter to have a new hobby.

    • Thanks so much for getting in touch Rachel. I’m so sorry to hear you’re experiencing anxiety. I hope you can find a mental counselling service and it benefits you. Adjusting my morning routine and filling my days with hobbies I enjoy has really helped improve my mental health so I hope you can find a routine which benefits you too. Wishing you all the best. Take care.

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