For many of us, laying in bed each night for hours, worrying about every detail of our life is the norm. Unfortunately, this practice can result in something that can make our lives exponentially worse: a cortisol awakening response.
According to Emma McAdam, a licensed marriage and family therapist, our body is a pretty amazing thing. So amazing, in fact, that when we experience nighttime anxiety, it provides us with a massive load of cortisol to start the next day.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, responsible for sounding the alarm and warning our body that something isn’t right. Unfortunately, cortisol can make us gain weight, cause inflammation and make our blood pressure go crazy if it’s released too often and in too high of an amount.
Too much stress can end up causing us to have heart disease, memory and concentration problems, insomnia, and weight gain.
Emma runs a YouTube channel called Therapy in a Nutshell, and it’s just that. I love to watch her videos to help me through mental struggles and in one, she discusses the cortisol awakening response.
She says the CAR (cortisol awakening response) can be either a blessing or a curse. Because anxiety is an emotion, and emotions have a purpose, even anxiety isn’t always a bad thing.
Think about it: if you are anxious about a test, you will study for it. If you are anxious because a car is coming at you at high speed, you will jump out of the way. It’s a warning sign that motivates us to survive.
Sadly, when we have anxiety too often, we can get trapped in a cycle in which we are so stuck being anxious that we become paralyzed.
To thwart this, Emma suggests using breathing exercises, or anything that grounds you when you wake up. She says having a morning routine that includes prayer, exercise, or whatever grounds you to help you stabilize when you are awakening in an anxious state can help a lot.
She emphasizes the importance of starting one step at a time. If need be, soothe yourself. Give yourself some positive affirmations. Sit down and find your calm.
She provides so many different things you can do to help alleviate morning stress, and they are simple, which makes them easy to implement.
Perhaps the best thing she says, is that it’s so important to manage your overall stress. If you find that you are laying down and worrying all of a sudden, you might need to take some time in the evening to begin handling the things that are stressing you out. And of course, get plenty of rest!
If you’ve never seen a video by her before, I suggest this one.