Your question: Why do I get anxiety at a certain time?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Through this blog I will explain why you feel anxious at a specific time of the day, looking into the different reasons for your feelings of anxiety and finally giving you some suggestions to improve your current situation.

Anxiety is an extremely common phenomenon, part of human nature. Anxiety is nothing more than the feeling you experience when your brain perceives a threat (which can be real or imaginary), and causes your body to react to it.

Anxiety becomes a problem when it is too intense and recurrent, affecting your daily functioning and therefore your quality of life. If you experience anxiety on a regular basis at a specific time of the day, there is certainly something you need to pay attention to in order to find an eventual solution.

There are several reasons why you experience anxiety at a specific time of the day. Whether it is in the morning, afternoon or evening, or perhaps at a very specific time such as lunchtime or when you leave work, the moment in which your anxiety appears is a sign that something is wrong in your life in relation to that specific time of the day.

Therefore, before looking for solutions for your anxiety, you must find the source of it.

Why do you feel anxiety at a specific time of the day?

Morning anxiety, or wake-up anxiety, is a state of momentary panic that occurs when a person wakes up with a start, either in the early morning or at dawn. The feeling of morning anxiety is related to caffeine intake, sleep habits and stressful life events in general. You may feel anxiety in the morning because you associate it with the start of the day, and with it, the beginning of your work activities or household chores that can be highly stressful.

One study showed(1) that anxiety symptoms tend to be more severe in the afternoon or evening compared with the morning, for both biological and psychological reasons. The evening in particular is a period of the day that makes people feel stressed. In many jobs such as those related to customer service, the afternoon is the busiest time for work and customers.

Finally, anxiety that appears only at night is related to sleep problems, fear of the dark and anxious thoughts that appear in the rest period before sleep. The night is the period of the day when most people rest, being away from distractions, anxious thoughts related to the problems and responsibilities of everyday life are more likely to appear.

Regardless of the time of day when you feel anxiety, the origin is almost always related to everyday stress and the thoughts that torment you regarding day-to-day concerns.

How can you deal with anxiety?

If you already know what time of day your anxiety occurs, it’s time to employ some strategies to improve your quality of life and reduce anxiety symptoms in general.

Decrease caffeine

When you drink coffee or caffeinated beverages all the time, you tend to be hyperstimulated. This chemical stimulates the brain and keeps it in a constant state of wakefulness waiting for a jolt, so reducing the levels you consume on a daily basis will help.

Guided Imagery

In this exercise(2), in addition to inhaling and exhaling slowly, you will close your eyes, and visualize a scenario that generates calm and happiness, and distracts you from the negative thoughts that come with anxiety. It can be a beach, a mountainous landscape or even a pleasant memory. You will apply this when you start to feel the anxiety episode. This technique takes time and training, so don’t worry if you initially feel that it doesn’t work for you. 

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This technique(3) consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a specific moment. It is useful when you are experiencing a lot of physical agitation or you feel that you have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and find it difficult to control your emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Whether you are in your room, in a car or a public place, you can sit and practice this exercise in silence, breathing slowly as you do it as many times as you feel necessary to decrease the anxious symptoms.

In my experience…

Feeling anxiety, whether in the morning, afternoon or evening, is an exhausting experience, even more so if it is constant to the point of being daily. You need to learn to identify the triggers of your anxiety, so you will learn to reduce the stressors in your life and develop new coping strategies that will allow you to live with anxiety without feeling that it consumes or ruins your life.

Remember that you have the ability to improve your psychological state, even if during moments of anxiety or depression you feel hopeless. You can always make small changes that will pay off in the long run. The fact that you are contacting me to seek professional attention in psychological counseling is already a step, and I recognize and applaud you for that. You are already doing something and wanting to change always leads you in the right direction.

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