September 25, 2011

The best part of waking up? I’m still not sure

I’m not a morning person. Never have been. Probably never will be.

I never knew there is a scientific reason that my anxiety seems to be worse in the morning until I did a little research into morning anxiety.

I found this great blog on morning anxiety at The Reality of Anxiety, one of the best blogs out there on mental health. The post is several years old but quite good.

Our bodies naturally produce a stress hormone called cortisol, which was a good thing back when people threw spears at each other and needed a boost of adrenaline to stay alive. It still has its place, such as when my American Express bill arrives in the mail.

Too much morning anxiety, though, only compounds matters. Cortisol levels are already at their highest in the mornings, and when we can’t manage our stress, our adrenal glands keep pumping more of it into our bodies. Morning anxiety creates more anxiety. It can be a vicious cycle.

Here’s what my mornings feel like. I wake up slowly but then quickly begin to worry about my day. That just creates more anxiety. On a good day, I’m okay by 9 or 10 a.m., or my third cup of coffee, whichever comes first. On a bad day, it’s noon or so before I feel “good.”

The inevitable “fight or flight” struggle I have goes something like this. A lot of mornings I don’t want to get out of bed, much less deal with work. Then I start to feel better and realize I can’t flee to Mexico because of my mortgage and the fact that all of my children will eventually need braces. Reality is a great motivator.

By lunch, when I can either work out or at least eat—boosting my blood sugar level at about the same time my cortisol levels are probably evening out—I’m good. Sometimes, I’m even great by 2 p.m. Miracles never cease.

It’s ironic that depression is so often associated with darkness. I actually do better at night, until I start to worry about the next morning.

So what to do? Exercise in the mornings? Not me. I hate exercising until I at least can figure out what day it is.

Pound coffee? Too much makes my heart race and my hands shake.

The simple things help me most. Four square breathing (four deep breaths, holding for four seconds before exhaling for four seconds) and a little devotional time seem to help. At least when I feel like it.

Folgers may have written the best jingle of all times about the best part of waking up. Only I’m still trying to figure out what that is.