#DearFutureGrandchildren (& Readers),
Many people don’t know this, but I have had Morning Anxiety since I was a little girl. This may even surprise family members and close friends of mine to read, because I seldom speak of it.
Because people don’t believe it exists.
When some people hear the words “Morning Anxiety,” they think of someone who “just doesn’t like mornings”. But morning anxiety is far more than not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Before I explain my personal symptoms, here are some general SYMPTOMS those with Morning Anxiety have to deal with on a daily basis:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
- Nervousness, sense of terror, of impending doom or death
- Feeling sweaty or having chills
- Chest pains
- Breathing difficulties
- Feeling a loss of control
- Mental confusion
No. These are not exaggerations. Some people endure more than half of these symptoms almost every (if not every single) day.
So, many may ask, WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? What causes Morning Anxiety?
Truly, it’s different for everybody.
1. Some people have A DIAGNOSED ANXIETY DISORDER; a disorder they developed, usually hereditary, where anxiety and panic creep up at any time of the day. Yet sometimes, it is at its absolute worst in the morning. Thus, Morning Anxiety.
This isn’t my personal issue, as I don’t have any disorders, but I have heard and read in blogs from people who have been diagnosed with depression/anxiety/etc. that medication has completely turned things around for them! If you think you could be suffering from anxiety, please go see your doctor. It’s as easy as medication and a few lifestyle changes.
2. But, it could also be HIGH CORTISOL LEVELS.
According to Aimee White, on her article regarding Morning Anxiety on healthyplace.com, “When we are feeling stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the morning and lowest at night. Our bodies will also produce Cortisol when we are feeling anxious to help with the ‘fight or flight’ response.
It becomes a vicious cycle. We wake up feeling intense because of the stored up Cortisol levels throughout the night, which makes us feel anxious, so our bodies continue to pump out Cortisol, which creates more anxiety, which produces more Cortisol, which causes us to feel more anxious, etc.”
High cortisol levels are not a huge issue in and of themselves, but if not managed, can cause diabetes, weaken immune system, and even trigger the development of a mental illness in those already predisposed to mental illness.
3. Also, LOW BLOOD SUGAR, POOR EATING HABITS, VITAMIN DEFICIENCY, and PERSONAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES can cause of Morning Anxiety. Which is where I fall into the spectrum…
I remember dreading mornings as early as the age of 2.
EARLY CHILDHOOD: My mom wasn’t the “stay at home” type so before work every morning, she made breakfast before dropping me off at Daycare. But one small problem: I woke up nauseous. EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.
Every morning was the force-feeding debacle. Some mornings I would throw up. Other mornings I slid my plate off the table, onto the floor to make it look like it fell accidentally. When I would, she’d cook my food and feed me all over again which made me even more sick. Then, I was dropped off at pre-school and had separation anxiety. I cried all. morning. long. It was so bad that I was expelled from my first Catholic pre-school because I was impossible to deal with the entire school year.
Coping: I became accustomed to school and learned to fight through the unexplained anxiety by sitting alone either coloring or reading. This allowed me to gather my thoughts and recharge. After an hour or so, I was ready to play with my friends! Though I was still not able to eat again until lunchtime.
MIDDLE & HIGH SCHOOL: I woke up almost every weekday shaking, in a panic for no legitimate reason. Also, I was so COLD. Your body temperature lowers during sleep and is disrupted further when you’re jolted by an alarm clock and rise from a warm bed to a chilly, air-conditioned bedroom. Also, I deplored school. I often stressed about what the day would bring. This would only increase my panic, sometimes to the point of tears.
Coping: I kept a hoodie or thick robe by my bed so I could be warm when I left the bed. I also changed my clothes under my sheets to stay warm. Also, when I got into my high school years, I noticed I’d become increasingly forgetful in the morning. So even if I made myself a snack (since I still couldn’t eat breakfast until earliest 9:30-10AM) or lunch, I’d forget to pick it up. So I started making food that did not require refrigeration to place directly in my backpack the night before.
COLLEGE YEARS: Things got way better! I was happier with life overall. My routine was more varied, which I need, as I thrive on change and variety. I was studying topics that I had interest in and was able to meet new people in larger quantities in comparison to high school. Truly, I felt free. On days when I was able to sleep in, I felt perfect. On days when I had to wake up early, I no longer felt panicky. Or nearly as cold. Then, during sophomore year, I was able to eat breakfast upon waking up. For the very first time.
But, I still had dizziness, trembling, and anxious thoughts. I knew the change in my environment was a huge improvement but there was something else still causing the remaining symptoms. I didn’t feel the full effect until I graduated with my Bachelor’s and began working full time.
POST-GRAD LIFE/CURRENTLY: I had post-grad job experience some can only dream of. I worked with the most successful spirits and kind hearts one could describe. Notwithstanding that, on both days the that I woke up early and the days I was able to sleep in, I felt the worst I had ever felt in my entire life! I felt shaky, nervous, cold, dizzy, lost the feeling in my hands, had nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, spontaneous crying…these are only some of the symptoms. There were grievances I was dealing with in my personal life but also, the people surrounding me didn’t help much either. In fact, they added problems and stress to my day. In the past, as the day progressed, at around 10AM, I would feel better. But during some of these months, the sick feeling extended well into the afternoon. I drew the line when I found myself avoiding going to sleep at night just so that I wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning. (Super logical, I know.)
Coping: I went to the doctor. After numerous tests, the doctor checked for physical ailments and ruled out any mental ones.
1. My blood sugar was fine, but prone to dropping, which he presumed affected the cortisol hormone in my body, making me dizzy and shaky.
2. He noted I was low on specific vitamins, which he says resulted in some of my symptoms, possibly also as a child
and the biggest one, and the most unexpected,
3. He said I was a perfectionist. HUH? Me? “Ask anyone, I am the most whimsical, relaxed person they know,” I said. But he pointed out to me, by mirroring my own words and the things I shared with him, how much I really do worry and silently stress notwithstanding how I appear to others. Also, how I am so focused on the future- anxiety regarding what is to come- that I never dealt with any of the loss and confusion I dealt with during the past year or so.
CONCLUSION: I’ll be embracing special opportunities these next few months: back-and-forth international travel, moving into my own place, meeting personal goals in all aspects of my life, and juggling my relationships among all of it. There are blessings coming my way that don’t typically collide with people my age… and I’m excited. But I learned that I need to be in touch with my present self; not just physically in regard to eating at regular times, eating sustainable portions, and making sure my body has the vitamins it needs to function, but also emotionally. I can’t keep frolicking around in a flower cron humming to Taylor Swift like world is dandy. I learned it’s good to talk with somebody. No, going to a professional does not mean you’re “crazy.” There is a difference between going for medication due to a mental disorder (which is what everyone automatically thinks of) and going to simply unload and gather your thoughts with someone who is trained to handle the human mind.
Sometimes, we attribute anxiety and wild symptoms to mental disorders or physical ailments when truly, we have just been worrying ourselves sick. Yes, low blood sugar, lack of vitamins, and hormones played a role, but mainly, my mind has been my own worst enemy. It is something I will always have to deal with but I find peace in knowing that I have an impact on the caliber to which I feel my anxiety. Today, I am far more in control of my mind and emotions by altering my personal dialogue and making lifestyle changes to better my overall health. (All while eating chocolate chip cookies because I don’t care what any doctor says, they’re good for the blackest of souls.)
Life is still brilliant,
Still loving you always,