If you’re stressed from the moment you wake up, chances are you’ll stay stressed throughout the day, and that’s been proven to negatively impact both your waistline and overall health. When we’re feeling morning anxiety, our bodies react by emitting something called cortisol—a hormone that’s released when you are anxious or stressed—which can then lead to weight gain and affect vital organs such as your heart and brain. From an evolutionary perspective, cortisol was meant to alert your body to external dangers (like that buffalo headed straight for you) and low blood-glucose levels, but clearly, too much of it is a bad thing.
In a study published in the journal Obesity last year, English researchers compared stress levels and body weight of more than 2,500 men and women over age 54. What they found was that levels of cortisol in the hair were positively and significantly correlated to larger waist circumference and higher body mass index. To put it simply, the study proved that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of obesity.
A separate study printed in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that high cortisol levels strongly predict cardiovascular death among persons both with and without preexisting cardiovascular disease. Per the study, the specific link with cardiovascular mortality, and not other causes of mortality, suggests that high cortisol levels might be particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with a list of ways in which you can significantly reduce morning anxiety. If your day gets off to a stress-free start, you will be better able to remain calm, cool, and collected as the hours pass by. Speaking of a stress-free day, make your night time routine easier with help from this roundup of these Your Meal Prep Guide to a Quick, Healthy Breakfast!
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
The way you slept the night before plays a big role in whether or not you are stressed the following morning, and getting a good night’s sleep is an easy way to reduce a.m. stress. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most grown adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to function at their best. To ensure restful sleep, minimize your pre-bed screen time, and make sure your sleeping environment is set to a comfortable temperature before you doze off. Sleeping well is also a great way to prevent the pile on of excess pounds.
In fact, a study published in the journal Sleep found that people who didn’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night were more at risk for weight gain. If you fear you aren’t catching enough Zzzs but still want to slim down, shed pounds promptly with these 100 Best Weight Loss Tips!
Wake Up At The Same Time
The key to maintaining a morning schedule (which in and of itself is a great way to relieve stress so early in the day) is to wake up at the same time each day. Though you can give yourself a bit of a break on the weekends, starting your morning at the same time during the week will help establish a consistent routine. This, in turn, helps minimize inconsistencies that can lead to unnecessary stress.
Though it’s common to reach for a cup of coffee in the a.m., try tea instead. Not surprisingly, the beverage has been proven to be an excellent de-stressor. In fact, researchers at the University College of London found that people who consumed black tea were able to de-stress more quickly than those who didn’t drink tea. To come to this conclusion they enrolled 75 men in the study and asked them to stop the consumption of all caffeine. Half the group was asked to drink a fruit-flavored beverage four times a day that was caffeinated and included the major antioxidants and other chemical components of tea. The other half of the group consumed a beverage that tasted the same and also had caffeine, but it did not have the tea components. The researchers then subjected the group to high levels of different kinds of stress. Their blood pressure and heart rate were checked and they were asked to report on their stress levels. Fifty minutes later, stress levels had dropped 27 percent in the control group, but an even more impressive 47 percent in the study group.
Conversely, the caffeine in coffee has been shown to help contribute to stress. A 2011 analysis published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found not only that caffeine does increase the amount of cortisol our bodies secrete (which increases our biological stress levels) but it can also increase anxiety and tension, especially when dealing with stressful tasks.
Or Have A Glass Of Water
If you prefer to be caffeine free in the morning, reach for a glass of water instead. Though H2O doesn’t quite offer the same soothing, anti-stress benefits as a cup of tea, a 2006 study that appeared in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that dehydration can increase your cortisol levels. Starting the day off with a glass of water is an excellent way to make sure you stay hydrated during the morning hours. What’s more? Water is also a top-notch weight loss ally. Not only does the hydrating beverage fill you up so you’re less inclined to eat your calories, but it also keeps your metabolism running clean and smooth, which is an important component of weight loss. A study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking 17 ounces of water can bump up fat burning by 30 percent.
Get Some Early Morning Sun
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to stress in both animal and human studies, so do yourself a favor and boost your vitamin D levels by getting some sun soon after you wake up. Not only will the sunshine help keep you calm, but research has shown that sun exposure between 8:00 a.m. and noon is associated with higher fat burning and significantly lower BMI—regardless of exercise, calorie intake, sleep, or age. All you need to do is open the blinds!
Give a Morning Workout a Shot
If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious in the morning, get you dose of vitamin D by squeezing in an early morning workout. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise reduces stress because it helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. By working out in the morning, you’ve got the double whammy of vitamin D and endorphins simultaneously working to keep your stress levels in check.
Resist Checking Your Phone
As tempting as it may be to reach for your phone as soon as you wake up, try and resist the urge to check emails and scroll through the news right after you open your eyes. Why? Getting caught up so soon after waking up causes your stress hormones to soar because your recently resting brain suddenly has to process all this information, sending it into panic mode in order to wake up faster. If you must check your phone, do so as you’re walking out the door when your brain is more awake and better able to process all that info.
And Try A Daily Affirmation Insted
Though it may sound a bit hokey, reciting a daily affirmation has been proven to help combat stress. In fact, research from the University of California shows that repeating an affirmation helps reduce cortisol levels by more than 40 percent during stressful situations. Participants in that study focused on meaningful traits they wanted to embody (such as “I am kind” or “I am beautiful”) but an affirmation of any kind can help put your mind at ease.
Have Breakfast At Home
Remember that morning routine we talked about? Having breakfast at home should be part of it. If you wait until you get to work or get the kids off to school to eat, you’ll likely be too hungry to make any informed decisions, and instead just reach for whatever sugary cereal or decadent pastry you can find. By eating breakfast at home in a calm, relaxed environment, you’ll lower your chances of stressing out. If you really want to plan, try prepping some overnight oats the night before so your healthy, fiber-packed breakfast is ready to be eaten the second you open your eyes. For some inspiration, check out this list of 25 Overnight Oats That Boost Your Metabolism in the Morning and eat up!