For years people have told me that they consistently wake up in the morning feeling some level of anxiety. The chaos wrought by COVID, which has thrown our life rhythms out of whack, has exacerbated the problem considerably.
For most people the problem presents as waking with a floating, anxious feeling that then worsens after lying in bed for several minutes ruminating about a panoply of worries, big and small.
The question is: What can you do about it?
Say hello to anxiety
First, you need to do something that will sound counterintuitive: you need to go inside and acknowledge the anxiety. When most people feel anxious their response is to push it away, not even aware that they’re doing it. It’s more a thought of, “Ahh. I just hate this feeling.” And that feeling lingers…
What do I mean by acknowledge the anxiety? Place your attention on it. Say hello to it. Literally. DON’T try to will it away or fight with it or engage with it. Just acknowledge that it’s there in as non-judgmental a way as possible.
What this accomplishes is a separation of you and the anxiety into a subject and an object, whereas before there was just a single entity, mish-mash of anxious guck.
Try this. It really is an effective way of reducing the intensity of anxiety.
Don’t linger in bed
The second thing you need to is obvious: Get the heck out of bed! I know. This can be hard sometimes. But the worst thing you can do is lie in that stew of rumination, anxiety and negative thinking.
Here’s a seemingly trivial thing I do to help me get out of bed. I keep my eyes closed as I push myself into a sitting position with my feet on the floor. Why? Because it feels just a little less jarring to the whole getting up experience when I keep my eyes closed a little longer. It’s like adding an interim step to the process.
Breathe and tap
So you’re sitting on the edge of your bed with your eyes closed. Now what? Here are two options.
1. Take five, deep, cleansing breaths. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. This is a surefire method for at least some reduction of your anxiety and possibly a lot.
2. Try tapping. My sister does this every morning for a few minutes before she gets up and says it works wonders for her.
What is tapping? It’s simply taking your fingers on one hand and tapping on nine different acupressure points on your head and upper torso area. Here’s a link to a great article in Healthline that succinctly explains everything you need to know about tapping.
The hot washcloth method
After this, go to your bathroom sink and soak a washcloth in hot water. After wringing out the wash cloth, rub it all over your face, just as you would upon sitting down at a Japanese restaurant. This is incredibly refreshing and feels fantastic.
After that, move on with your morning. You may not eliminate the anxiety by doing the above, but you will in all likelihood reduce it to the point that it won’t torment you for the rest of the day.
Addressing this waking up anxiety is of utmost importance. Why? Because so often when we feel like crap right upon waking that lousy feeling stays with us the rest of our day. It’s like a parasite that burrows in and brings us down.
More energy, feel better
Conversely, if we are able to stamp out this anxiety to a manageable level we have more energy and just plain feel better.
So do this. Don’t accept feeling lousy in the morning.
If you feel anxious when you wake up, the first thing you do is say hello to it and acknowledge it right then.
Then, instead of lingering and ruminating in bed, get up.
Close your eyes and push up to a sitting position at the edge of your bed.
And either take five deep breaths or tap…or better yet, do both!
Then get up and rub your face with a wet, hot wash cloth.
All this takes a minor amount of discipline, but the reward is so worth it. Do yourself a favor and try this.