Morningtime Stories

Why is it that one can sleep peacefully, but wake in the morning filled with catastrophizing stories — worrying about resolvable problems and unlikely scenarios — casting the racing mind forward into the future? For many, myself included, anxiety is worst in the morning, and the first minutes of the day are occasionally spent concocting stories of doom and certain failure.

There’s a reason for this, of course. According to, “The ‘stress hormone’ cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress. Researchers have studied the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and have found that cortisol is highest in the first hour of waking for people with an increased level of stress in their lives. This helps explain why you may experience an increase in anxiety in the morning.

So instead of waking with a clean slate, you might rise already lost in a trance of senseless worry, manifested in the spinning of scenarios that can only be self-harming.

Journaling can be of help here, taming and codifying the amorphous feelings in writing. Rather than push these stories aside, acknowledge them, but do so for what they are.

First, under the heading Morningtime Stories, write down the stories as they come.

There are several ways you can approach writing the story, for instance:

Tell the story to yourself like you would a bedtime story for a child, or fairy tale.

Or, exaggerate the story to the point of absurdity.

Or, fictionalize the story, giving it a structure of beginning, middle, and end.

Or, see the story through to the worst possible outcome, and write a solution to that outcome.

Or just tell it straight.

No matter how you want to handle the writing, by putting the story on paper, qualifying it as a story you tell yourself will help put it in perspective.

Chances are you will wake up with similar stories in the future. Instead of ruminating, you can know it’s already written down, classified as a story, in its place. It’s literally a story you have already told yourself, and should be treated as such.

For more mindful writing exercises, look here.

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