Morning Rituals For Reducing Anxiety
Mornings can be a particularly difficult time for anxiety sufferers, especially since you’re most vulnerable when you first wake up. As you do, your brain begins to process all of the obligations of the day; the mind can go into overdrive and start to panic. Once morning anxiety is triggered, it tends to become a self-sustaining cycle. Once the body begins to feel anxiety in the mornings, it’s prone to wake up in an apprehensive state, expecting to feel those symptoms once again. However, catching the thought patterns as early as possible can be effective for stopping anxiety before it gets the better of you. Taking preventative measures, such as changing your morning routine can help decrease your chances of experiencing morning anxiety. The following rituals, when done each day can have a calming effect and set the tone for the entire day.
Breathing exercises are a quick solution for anxiety relief. They’re easy to do, require no special skills and have an instant calming effect. Controlled breathing automatically slows the heart rate. By starting the morning with a few calming breaths, you set the intention for the day. Try this 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Weil, who calls it “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”
- breathe into your belly for a count of four
- hold your breath for a count of seven
- breathe out audibly for a count of eight
- repeat the cycle four times
The exercise re-establishes the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in the blood. As more oxygen enters the bloodstream, the heart rate slows, which ultimately signals the brain that it’s safe to relax.
Don’t let the idea intimidate you. There’s a misconception about meditation that we must clear the mind of all thought. That’s impossible. Meditation is simply focusing on one thing, like the breath, while letting thoughts pass through the mind without judgement. Since the effects aren’t immediately obvious, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing it right and give up. But, stick with it and you will begin to see results. Studies have shown that over time meditation can change the way the mind reacts to stress allowing it to react more calmly to the things that would normally trigger anxiety. Even meditating for just five minutes a day is shown to have positive results. There are several guided meditation apps available to help get you started. The key is practice and patience.
Wake up gently and ease into the day.
If you’ve ever been startled awake by a loud noise, you know how quickly your body goes into panic mode. If your alarm is loud and obnoxious, you could be training your body to develop a stressful reaction to the sound. Over time it can begin to react to the alarm with anxious feelings. Set an alarm with a more peaceful, gentle sound and your body will wake up more naturally, without the rush of adrenaline.
When setting the alarm, make sure you give yourself enough time to do everything you need to do. Oversleeping or not giving yourself time in the morning is a sure way to stress yourself out. Waking up a bit earlier allows you to ease into the day and leaves room for any setbacks you may encounter, such as bad traffic or missing keys.
Plan your day beforehand.
While this isn’t exactly a morning ritual, taking a few minutes in the evening to prepare for the next day will go a long way toward making the morning flow more smoothly, thus removing one of the triggers that can cause anxiety. Having a basic plan for the day reduces the need to make decisions, and that helps the mind feel less stressed. We make dozens of small decisions in the morning. Eliminating just a few can help your mind feel more at ease. If you choose the clothes you plan to wear, pack your lunch, and get the coffee ready to brew in the evening, you’ve eliminated decisions and tasks and freed up a few minutes in the morning that you can use to meditate or do your breathing exercises.
We all know that a self-care routine is important, especially for those with anxiety, but it can be difficult to practice regularly. And, if you’re crippled with anxiety, it may seem hard to achieve any routine at all. So, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do all of these things at once. Start with one. Over time you can add more as you feel ready. Your morning can set the tone for the entire day, so taking a few minutes to start from a positive place is well worth it.