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What Mornings Are Really Like With Anxiety (and How to Make Them Easier)

How do you get out of bed in the morning?

Alarm clock, stretch, play on your phone and stumbling out of bed with plenty of time to wake up and get ready.

That’s how I picture most people getting out of bed in the morning. Most people who are not struggling with anxiety, that is.

It’s 5 a.m., I open my eyes slowly and I see my cat peering at me. I check my phone, “two hours until 7 a.m.” Then, I roll over and hide under my covers. I drift off into what I realize is not a full sleep, but a lucid sleep. I am asleep, but not really asleep — it’s the lightest sleep, but I am dreaming at the same time. Between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., I’ll wake up three times drifting in and out of sleep. Morning anxiety is kicking in.

My alarm goes off at 7 a.m., I roll over and switch it off and close my eyes, wanting to escape the realization I’ll have to get up and face the day. Next thing I know, I’m opening my eyes slowly, but panicking a little that I have overslept so much it’s nearly afternoon. I feel a heavy compound on my chest, a bit like at any moment my chest could give way, energy whizzing around my body. I try and meditate to calm down the buzzing in my body. I roll over and check my phone. There’s a slight panic that I can’t find it, but I feel around my covers and realize it’s only 7:15 a.m. I switch my lamp on, and hide under my covers. I work out how long I can stay in bed and hide until I really have to get out.

As I stare at the ceiling, my brain is whizzing, panicking I am going be late — that’s my anxiety. But my brain is also telling me to stay in bed as that is the best place for me — that’s depression. It’s not lazy, trust me, it takes all my energy to fight between anxiety and depression on a daily basis.

Breathing slowly whilst trying every calming technique I have picked up and learnt, ignoring the devil and the angel of mental health in my brain and trying to find some logic instead. I am getting frustrated nothing is working. I just want to get out of bed and get ready, look nice for the day. Nothing is working. I play on my phone and roll on my side to stare at my curtains. I wonder if sleeping with my curtains would help me get out of bed quicker, natural light is my logic, but I know I’m kidding myself. I’d still stay in my cocoon until I got the courage to get out of bed and face the day.

Now it’s around 7:38 a.m. and I am lying in bed, with pure dread and panic about the day. Telling myself to get out of bed and be fearless, telling myself the day will be OK. I finally get out of bed, pushing myself, one step in front of the other, asking my Alexa Dot for a “happy songs” playlist while I step into the shower. A shudder of fear washes over as I step in, realizing I’ll have to dry my hair, which takes forever, getting frustrated at myself about why I didn’t wash it the night before. Getting out of the shower and looking at myself in the mirror, I start panicking that I obviously can’t get this ready. My anxiety is telling me to go back to bed, no one wants to look at this chaotic mess.

Slowly, I get ready, wondering if the dress I am wearing is appropriate for work (shout-out and thanks to previous work places for giving me a complex about dress codes and not “looking” the part!). As I’m making sure I have everything I need, I am ready to go. The dread of going to work has vanished, and the panic of getting to work kicks in. I panic so much, I start to drop things on the floor, get stuck on door handles with my coat, trying to remember if I switched all my plugs off and where the hell is my cat?

On my way to work, I have to make a decision of walking, cycling or getting the tram or the bus. Walking or cycling are my go-to options — they’re freeing and I haven’t got the panic of traffic or cramped public transport worries to deal with. As it’s winter, I weigh the options of the bus or tram whilst standing at the crossing. The tram is always crammed with people which causes me to stress out (do I smell? I brush my teeth and had a shower, but do I smell? The joy of social anxiety!) and the bus is always stuck in traffic, which will stress me out even more.

I finally get to work, a little flustered and feeling like I’ve already had a day of decisions. I am exhausted.

I must admit, this isn’t an everyday occurrence, maybe 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, I’m getting better and better at mornings, even though I am not 100% and some people may want to scream a routine at me. I wish I could stick to a routine — I would love to wake up without dread, fear and thinking about the day. Most of the time, I am not even sure what I am worried about, but I guess that’s anxiety for you: strange and impulsive.

There have been a few things I have added into my “routine,” and maybe these can help you if you are struggling with morning anxiety, too.

1. No drama an hour before bed!

Going to bed pent-up and anxious makes it less likely you will settle into a good sleep, and more likely you’ll wake up even more tired than before. That includes TV dramas!

2. No caffeine late at night.

I have taken to drinking herbal drinks before bed to help me relax, and even having a little bite to eat such as a banana with honey.

3. Settle down early.

At least an hour before you want to sleep. Dim the lights in your bedroom at night, run a hot bath or shower, soak up the body cream and unwind with your favorite calming music and book. I only use a little lamp, making sure my bedroom isn’t bright and alive. Make winding down fun, not a chore. I used to think bedtime was a chore, struggling with insomnia when I was a child. I was usually ridden with anxiety when going to bed until my mom brought me the “Harry Potter” books, which I still turn to, to this day, to help me relax.

4. No TV or mobiles.

White light doesn’t make you sleepy at all! I’ve started to charge my phone across the room and I use a good old-fashioned alarm clock which I also keep on the other side of the room to help me get out of bed.

Finally, for those who are struggling with social anxiety on public transport: You don’t smell, you are fine, you are beautiful and you will get to your destination, even if you are smushed up to a stranger. We are all in the same boat, and you can do it. I believe in you.

Unsplash image by Kinga Cichewicz