How I reduce morning anxiety with a morning routine

The stress hormone cortisol can be at its highest when we first wake up, so it’s not unusual to feel anxious in the morning. If you are anxious in the morning, with a racing heart or upset stomach, you’re not the only one. Many people feel anxious when they wake up because their cortisol levels are naturally high. That’s why it’s so important to have a calming and fun morning routine in place!

For some people, it means getting up and going to the gym immediately; for others, it means getting ready for the day.

I’ve got my morning routine checklist that gets me going. I know this won’t be for everybody, but for me, this works wonders. I won’t share all the intricate details of it, but my morning routine goes something like this:

My Morning Routine Checklist

  • Bedroom
    • Open curtains & windows. Let the sunlight and fresh air in!
    • Make the bed. It only takes 2 minutes! Why? This simple act helps you accomplish your first task of the day, gives you a sense of pride and encourages you to get going on your next task, and another, and another.
  • Bathroom
  • Exercise for 30-45 mins. Why? Physical activity increases endorphins and elevates your mood. It helps improve your overall mental focus. I am fortunate that I can work from home. I don’t have a gym, so I alternate between JEFF and Freeletics on Android, which is excellent for at-home exercise.
  • Kitchen
    • Feed the dogs, and put out fresh water.
    • Have breakfast.
    • Take medication.

This next part of my routine is the most precious, most valued, and special 15 minutes of my day. Seriously!

  • After breakfast, I spend a few minutes practising gratitude by writing in my 5 Minute Journal and a separate “jotter” journal for random thoughts, ideas, and observations (a simple freeform OneNote notebook). Why? This helps me calm the mind and be present now (which breaks me out of the habit of living in the past or future), and this simple practice of self-awareness almost immediately stops the cycle of anxious thoughts.
  • Next, while still sitting in the kitchen, I review my day – appointments and hard commitments (from Getting Things Done), and I pick my three frogs for the day and add them to My Day on Microsoft To Do. (Read: Eat that Frog).
  • Clean and tidy kitchen & living areas.
  • Bathroom
    • Shower, shave & get presentable for work.
  • Bedroom
    • Clean and tidy bathroom and bedroom.

Other ideas to incorporate into a morning routine are meditation, breathwork, stretching, calming music, a gentle walk, playing with your pets, getting sunshine, and your favourite breakfast (mine is oats & blueberries!) — all these help with lowering that morning cortisol, and in turn, reducing your anxiety levels.

There’s an App for that!

And here comes the tech life hack: I took this one step further and created the above routine as a checklist in Microsoft To Do. So yip, as I start at the top of my list, I tick off items as I go along in the morning until I’m done. It gives a great sense of accomplishment early in the morning, and the workday is yet to start! Fantastic!

My morning routine in Microsoft To Do

Things I avoid in the mornings

  • Don’t reach for your phone to check the news, social media, or your games’ progress in the morning. These raise anxiety.
  • Use a standalone alarm clock to wake up instead of a smartphone. This helps keep the news feeds, work emails and social media out of your bed!

Wrapping up

What’s your favourite way to start the day? Remember that there is no “right” way to start your day, no matter what some “wellness” experts say, even if they say it’s the best way. Do what makes you happy and makes you feel good. You know yourself best.

Disclaimer: If anxiety impacts your sleep, work, relationships, or ability to focus, please seek professional help!

Disclaimer 2: This article has links to apps and tools, and I don’t earn any commission if you click on them. I’m just sharing what I use and what works for me.