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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The 20-Minute Morning Routine That Relieves Anxiety

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The 20-Minute Morning Routine That Relieves Anxiety

Anxiety. I call it a brick wall.

I want to enjoy time with my friends and family… Brick wall.

I want to go to work… Brick wall.

I want to go on holiday… Brick wall.

I want to enjoy my life… Brick wall.

Constantly hitting this brick wall gets exhausting and makes things in life very difficult.

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When you suffer from anxiety, everything you used to do that you once enjoyed feels impossible. There’s a great big brick wall in the way, which makes everything feel out of reach and difficult to obtain. This brick wall is filled with an overload of stress hormones, crippling symptoms, and debilitating thoughts.

Now, I could talk all day about the symptoms and how tough it is, but that’s not going to get me anywhere, or you for that matter. There’s one question we need to talk ask ourselves: What actions can you take to relieve anxiety?

What if I told you that you can make this wall a lot easier to get over? Not through therapy or medication, but with your own specific actions that I call “Lifestyle Triggers”. Stick with me, I’m going to teach you what these lifestyle triggers are and how they fit into the perfect morning routine that truly relieves anxiety.

Sounds good, right? Let’s get to it.

The Biological Problem and Lifestyle Triggers

Everyone looks at anxiety as a psychological problem. This is most people’s first mistake.

Sure, anxiety can be triggered by negative thoughts and thought cycles, but the body is designed to be able to endure negative thoughts. The problems and symptoms really start when it turns into a physical, biological problem.

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Normally, there is a good balance between stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and feel-good neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). These complement each other and they create what I call a “Hormone Harmony”, as this balance creates serenity throughout the body.

With me so far? Good, let’s keep going.

The uncontrollable symptoms of anxiety start when the adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones are too high. In combination with that, the feel-good neurotransmitters are too low. To put it simply, your anxiety symptoms are caused by a hormone disharmony.

This is good news, believe it or not. Let me explain.

Now that you know what the physical problem is, you just need to know how to reverse it. Let’s start with your morning routine. Remember earlier when I spoke about lifestyle triggers? What are they exactly?

Lifestyle triggers are small daily actions that can reverse the damage done to your overall hormone harmony. Then, hey presto! Your stress hormones and anxiety will start to decrease.

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The Morning Routine

The morning routine consists of three of these lifestyle triggers that work to help improve your hormone harmony. They are as follows:

1. Ten Minutes Of Flexible Exercise

I call this flexible exercise because it’s so short that it can fit in with any lifestyle. It’s far better to exercise in this way if you’re anxious. Why? Because if your stress hormones are already higher than they should be (due to anxiety), normal exercise will increase them further. It’s very important to remember exercise is a stress to the mind and body itself.[1]

Because flexible exercise is so brief, it allows the body to adapt to the stress of exercise. This has a normalizing effect on your stress hormones adrenaline/cortisol and reduces them when you’re at rest. I call this effect creating a “Positive Exercise-Stress Axis”.

2. Five Minutes Of Calm Breathing

After the flexible exercise burst, perform five minutes of calm breathing. This is a very simple but crucial lifestyle trigger that, when performed daily, trains your body to breathe correctly. This helps to calm your nervous system and ultimately continues to reduce those anxiety-causing hormones.

To practice calm breathing, follow these steps:

  • Sit in a quiet place with good posture
  • Keep your head up and shoulders back, so your airway is open
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • Ensure your stomach extends with each breath, to ensure deep breathing
  • Repeat these actions for five minutes

3. Eat A Complete Meal

The last lifestyle trigger is to eat a complete meal. In the mornings, this means eating breakfast. To decrease any anxiety, take it a step further to mean a complete meal. So what is a complete meal? A complete meal is a meal that has the a balance of all three of the macronutrients that the body needs. These are your fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.[2]

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Traditional breakfasts tend to be imbalanced with refined carbohydrates. An imbalanced breakfast like this creates an up and down effect on sugar levels. This makes your body release even more stress hormones. It does this to try and stabilize your sugar levels.

Eating a complete meal stops this problem and reduces stress hormones. A good complete meal to try would be: a high protein yogurt, whole oats, blueberries, and almonds.

So there they are, the three lifestyle triggers that create the 20-minute morning routine that relieves anxiety. As you can see, they all complement each other and help to restore balance of the body’s hormone harmony.

Motivational Energy

Now, if what I have spoken about makes sense to you, you probably have some motivational energy. This is that little light bulb moment you get when something makes sense and you get a burst of motivation and you’re like, Right! I’m going to do this.

But the problem is, the light bulb isn’t on for long and the odds are you will wake up tomorrow not feeling motivated and you will end up not trying the routine.

So what’s important is what you do right now! Allow routine to fuel your motivation, alleviate anxiety, and thereby revitalize your life.

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Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety, always seek medical advice and talk to a doctor. These things are nothing to be ashamed of. If you found these strategies useful, please like and share, as it might help someone else going through the same thing. We can beat things like stress and anxiety together.

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Ben Jones

Fitness Coordinator

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

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