Is there anything I can do before bed, or as I wake up, to lessen my early morning anxiety.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time. Often my worst time of day is as I wake up in the morning. It can range from anxiety to a feeling of dread. I’m barely awake and it’s a tough way to start the day.
Asked by Pony

Hi Pony,


I am sorry to hear that you are struggling the way that you are.  It is not at all uncommon to experience anxiety and depression together.  Finding some new self-care strategies might benefit you along with improving your sleep hygiene.  For example, what are some of the things you do prior to bedtime to prepare your mind and body to settle down?  Having a consistent practice of washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc. is one way to help the brain to know it is time to quiet down however there are additional strategies that are sometimes overlooked.  This includes having the temperature set at a comfortable level, avoiding any screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and also avoiding naps during the day. You also want to use your bed just for sleeping and sexual activity.  So for example, if you are one that tends to do other activities in bed such as eating, reading or watching television, your brain may then correlate the bed to more stimulating activity making it difficult to fall or stay asleep. 


I would also be curious to know what sort of thoughts you are waking with since you mention such a feeling of dread.  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves paying attention to how our thoughts, feelings and behavior are all connected.  Often times, unhealthy or unhelpful behaviors are the result of unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts, and gaining insight into this could be quite helpful for you. 


I have listed some additional general self-help tips below, some of which I commonly share with my clients and in my responses.

o   Talking to a professional or reading some literature may be helpful for you.  The book Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff is one that comes to mind, and some reputable online sources I would recommend when it comes to finding additional tips on sleep include Healthline, WebMD, and Psychology Today.

o   Having a consistent self-care practice as well as self-esteem practice is critical.  What do you do for your self-care?  Consider having short mindful moments throughout the day, seeking out some creature comforts and pampering, or finding what you truly enjoy and getting lost in it. And physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety as it releases endorphins and enhances chemicals in our brains that help us to feel better, like serotonin and dopamine.  When done on a regular basis, it can help to lower your overall level of anxiety.

o   Practice relaxation skills.  I know I am repeating myself when I say self-care is so key! Try such calming and meditative exercises as deep-breathing, imagery of a relaxing scene, and guided meditations.  Sometimes it can be helpful to repeat a calming word or mantra you create for yourself such as “I can get through this… I am at peace.”  Journaling thoughts and feelings can also be useful.  And if sign up for BetterHelp, there is a journal feature that would be available to you, which can include daily prompts if you want.


I hope you find some of this helpful.  There are a number of qualified mental health professionals on this platform who I am confident would be able to help you further.  I wish you all the best for the rest of your 2022!  Think about what was helpful and harmful for you this past year and incorporate more of what can help so that it can be a great year for you.  Good luck and be well!