Is anxiety first thing in the morning a perimenopause or menopause symptom?
It certainly is, and it's one of the symptoms I used to experience every now and again. It's horrible. Even before I was fully awake, my heart would start pounding, my brain would go into overdrive and it almost felt like someone was wringing out my stomach.
It was a very uncomfortable physical experience. And this kind of anxiety first thing in the morning can take so long to calm down. I absolutely hated it.
Anxiety and your hormones
Estrogen helps to control cortisol, which is one of your stress hormones.
Once your estrogen levels start to drop, you can end up with more cortisol, which can rev up your nervous system. So just as you're waking up, your nervous system springs into action and your mind starts to race.
In the distant past, that would have been important for survival, but today there really aren't any dangers lurking in the bedroom. So instead, your mind starts to make up potential threats and you start to worry about what you've got to do when you get up and throughout the day.
And then you start worrying about what you didn't do yesterday. You get all these horrible, fearful scenarios about things happening to your family or your friends, or about what's going on around the world. Your mind starts racing, all before you're even fully awake, which will also affect you physically. It's a really horrible, horrible symptom to have to deal with.
And as I said, it can take a long time before everything calms down and you feel normal again. So what can you do about it?
What causes anxiety in the morning and how to stop it?
One of the main causes is just general stress. It's common knowledge that just being in menopause stresses your body—your nervous system is already in fight-or-flight mode, virtually 24 hours a day.
So anything you can do to calm this down is going to help you first thing in the morning.
What can help?
Start by trying to get a good night's sleep. I know that this is a tough one, because falling estrogen levels will affect your sleep anyway. If you're like most of us, sleep doesn't come easily and when you do fall asleep, it's often a very light sleep that has you waking up all the time.
If you're getting night sweats, you're getting a double hit: when you wake up in the morning, you're anything but rested and your nervous system is still in full flight mode. This can be a major trigger for early morning anxiety. But keep in mind that there are some effective sleep remedies out there, like our Deep Sleep.
Another thing I found really helpful was to have a spoonful of powdered magnesium dissolved in a cup of warm water just before bed—it really seemed to calm my nervous system down.
Then there's the noise your alarm makes, especially if it's electric. If you're fast asleep when it goes off, it'll wake you with a start and trigger your nervous system. To solve this problem, try using an alarm that starts off really quietly, playing a nice song rather than some kind of jarring noise that will shock you awake.
Try and plan your morning the night before, because I know for me that from the minute I was conscious, I started worrying: "Oh, I've got to do this before I go to work! I've got to do that too!" But if your early morning routine is already planned out, it'll be out of the way before you get up and you'll have one less thing to worry about.
When you wake up, take a few minutes to ease into your day. You can even set your alarm five minutes early so that when it goes off, you don't have to jump straight out of bed. Take your time and take a few deep breaths: it can be wonderfully calming before you even get out of bed. You can consider some calming herbs. If you get a lot of anxiety during the day, it will compound itself at night, so you could try a natural remedy like Avenaforce or Passion flower. In fact, if you tend to wake up stressed, any kind of calming remedy during the day can be helpful.
Low blood sugar
Stress experienced in the morning can be due to low blood sugar. Very often, if you're not eating enough, your nervous system will be triggered by low blood sugar in the morning. So contrary to a lot of advice, I always recommend having a good snack before going to bed.
What kind of snack?
It doesn't have to be a heavy one. Try something like some plain, unsweetened yogurt with a few fresh berries in it. You could try my favourite recipe, Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of organic cocoa powder.
Organic cocoa is full of magnesium, so it'll give you a good dose before you go to bed. Even just a handful of nuts and seeds can be very helpful about an hour before you head to bed. A lot of women tell me that it makes a big difference for their sleep and that they feel more rested in the morning, so it very well may work for you too.
The underlying problem can also be dehydration. This is really important. If you're getting night sweats, you're going to be very dehydrated by the time you wake up. Dehydration will trigger your nervous system and potentially set you up for some early morning anxiety.
What can help?
As I mentioned before, what helped me was a nice little drink before going to bed—a small shot glass of warm water!
Often, it's enough to stave off dehydration during the night. And keep a nice, reasonably sized glass of water by your bedside so that you can take a sip when you wake up in the middle of the night. That way, you can hydrate yourself before you get out of bed, which will help calm the anxiety faster as you go about your morning routine.
Make sure not to have too much caffeine at night. Late-night tea or coffee, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks can all rev up your nervous system, which can be a big factor the next morning too.
At night, try to stick to teas made with calming herbs like chamomile (or try Bambu, a natural coffee alternative). Even a nice little cup of cocoa made with organic cocoa powder can be a nice early or late evening drink.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do to help with early morning anxiety.