3 Daily Steps That Help Me Overcome Serious Morning Anxiety

Photo: Jaromir Chalabala / shutterstock 
Man watching the sunrise over a city

Do you wake up in the morning and experience immediate terror? I sure did for years. The transition from sleep to wakefulness, combined with the sacredness of the early morning, sent me over the edge.

Mind you, this issue was most extreme after a mental health crisis but dates back to childhood.

I tried meditation, exercise, yoga, prayer, breath work, and reading sacred works — nothing worked.

Finally, I stumbled upon writing a gratitude list. Even if I was in the vice grip of anxiety, I could write ten things I was grateful for on a scrap of paper. Being alive, my children, my wife, good coffee, my dog, another day safe and sober.

The next part was key for me. I shared my little list with a couple of close friends. Then they started sharing a gratitude list back with me.

RELATED: Find Gratitude In Unlikely Places Every Single Day



Here are three tips to combat morning anxiety using gratitude practice:

1. Write down ten things you are grateful for as soon as you wake up. 

These things can be totally mundane. And can repeat day to day. Just make sure they are sincere

2. Share your list with at least one friend via text. 

Just that simple connection first thing in the morning is a lifesaver

photo courtesy of the author

3. Over time, enhance, and change the format of your list. 

For a while, I would include a song of the day, often including pictures. More recently, I have streamlined and made it more like curated content.

RELATED: How Finding Awe In Everyday Things Can Ease Your Anxiety

At its core, anxiety is about being alone on this planet. Sitting in the same chair with the same mug for coffee with my Golden Cooper at my feet, exchanging gratitude lists with dear friends in real-time, made me feel less alone and anxious. 

Somebody cared about me, and there were always positive things in my life I could acknowledge. That was several years ago. My friends all started calling me “Grateful Tom” despite my brush with suicide just five years ago.

My little survival tactic spread like wildfire among my friends and their friends.  Now we have this massive web of gratitude and love every morning. 

When we meet someone who is suffering, we invite them in. Everybody can play.

I periodically force the folks on my list to affirmatively say they want to continue getting my text messages. I send 125 individual messages every morning (so each is private) and receive almost as many.

I am working on automating this process, but for all this time, it has been a spiritual practice and the first thing I do every morning.

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Here’s the thing: I am no longer filled with terror. I wake up each morning excited to be alive. 

Of course, there’s more to the story of how I went from suicidal to full of joy, but gratitude was certainly the first step and helped me survive the worse moments of my day for a very long time.

The best part of doing a gratitude list is that people who don’t know you will get to know you over time, and loved ones are able to follow along and stay in the loop on your day-to-day ups and downs.

Give it a shot!!!

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Tom Matlack is a recovering venture capitalist with a mission to help men. His weekly speakers series and writing on Substack helps men connect with one another and their own emotional well-being. He adores his wife of 20 years and his three children.