Got the morning blues or have constant A.M anxiety? Dreaded mornings are no fun for anyone, but there are some ways you can avoid those morning nerves that work simply and effectively in a short amount of time. While you could certainly rush out the door, grasping onto your coffee for dear life, and hoping to goodness you didn’t miss a spot while ironing your clothes, that will just cause more stress later on. This “stress cycle” is a vicious one and hard one to break, so, let’s change that, shall we?

What is Cortisol Exactly?

When it comes to your cortisol levels, morning is the best time to start things on the right foot. Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s an integral part of your endocrine system. It can help you deal with emergency situations or during high-intensity exercises. Cortisol causes the body to release adrenaline, which sends out that “fight or flight” message in your brain. Cortisol isn’t all evil, but it can create detrimental effects when you develop what is known as “cortisol syndrome.” This is when the body thinks it’s under stress all the time and is one reason mornings can be so difficult to deal with. Since cortisol is naturally high in the morning, getting it under control first thing in the morning is highly beneficial.

Try out these tips to reduce your A.M. cortisol and kiss that morning stress goodbye!

1. Get Up Earlier

I know what you’re thinking – this tip isn’t possible, but trust me here – it totally is. The benefits of getting up early are truly invaluable when it comes to reducing your morning stress. It might be hard at first (it usually takes about a week or two), but you’ll soon see that it helps reduce your stress in folds. Getting up earlier allows for you to get more done, have some time to yourself, embrace some exercise, avoid spilling coffee or coffee on your clothes, gives you time for breakfast, and time to collect your thoughts. This will help you feel less stressed in ways you wouldn’t even imagine. Set that alarm early at least thirty minutes to one hour. Just a little bit will make all the difference!

2. Try Yoga

Yoga is one of the most relaxing, yet energizing exercises to enjoy. Just doing twenty minutes can make you feel brand new. If you’re new to yoga, pick up a general beginner’s DVD or watch a free one on YouTube. Yoga helps detox the organs, helps relieve stress, and gets your blood up and pumping first thing in the day. It also stimulates the release of GABA in the brain, which is an amino acid that counteracts high cortisol levels. As a bonus, you’ll get some exercise in before you even start your day! Try making a breakfast that’s yoga-diet worthy for even more brain and body benefits.  Oh, and be sure to leave your smartphone away from your yoga mat. Yoga is a time to de-stress and wake up for the day, not check your news feed, and develop inbox anxiety!

3. Eat a Healthy Meal

It may sound generic, but it’s true; eating a healthy meal has been shown to lower stress in the body, provide metabolism-boosting nutrients, and helps your brain focus better all morning long. Some things to skip are sugary pastries and refined toast, processed cereals that likely contain sugar, sugary sweetened yogurts, and of course, eggs and bacon! Instead, how about choosing something delicious and healthy that includes one or more of these five plant-based foods that lower stress.

Great meal suggestions include a nutrition-packed smoothie, a hot and cozy bowl of carrot cake oatmeal, or some savory or sweet quinoa. Other good options include some sprouted grain toast with homemade almond butter and an apple, or some fiber-rich and protein-rich chia pudding. Base your breakfast off whole foods, since they’ll provide the critical B vitamins, magnesium, and other minerals your body needs to combat stress and get you ready for the day ahead.

4. Be Caffeine Conscious

There’s no debating that Americans’ choice of morning beverage is coffee, so instead of fighting that, let’s go with it. If you enjoy coffee and even caffeinated tea for that matter, there’s no need to kick your caffeine habit just yet. Just be “caffeine conscious” instead. This means keeping your caffeinated beverages to one or two cups at the most and drinking water or other caffeine-free, water-rich beverages throughout the day (such as smoothies, decaf herbal tea, and green juices.) Also try making your coffee a bit healthier, without all that cream and sugar to benefit you even further.

5. Prep Smart

Lastly, one of the best things to do ahead of time to reduce your morning stress is to prepare some things the night before, which will prevent you from running around scatter-brained the next morning. This can be as simple or complex as you want. Some good ideas include: laying your clothes out already ironed, putting all your work bags together, laying out your workout outfit if you workout in the morning, preparing your breakfast ingredients ahead of time, and even prepping your coffee pot or teapot the night before too.

It’s also a great idea to allow at least 15-30 minutes for emergency situations like traffic delays or wardrobe malfunctions. Give these tips a try and hopefully, your mornings will improve in no time!

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