Does your anxiety seem to rise with the sun? As you open your eyes, do you feel a sense of dread or cycle through a series of worries about everything from your finances to your kids? Maybe your stomach starts turning, and your jaw feels painfully tight. Before you’ve even gotten out of bed, you already feel physically, emotionally, and mentally drained.

“Morning anxiety, or anxiety upon wakeup, can feel like a full body experience,” says Alanna Fincke, vice president of content and head of learning at meQ, as well as a board-certified health.

Why does anxiety arise in the a.m.? Physiologically, we can experience an increase in the stress hormone cortisol within 30 to 45 minutes of waking up, a reaction called cortisol awakening response. This cortisol surge can put the body in fight-or-flight mode, boosting blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.

Lack of sleep also can unleash a cascade of physical symptoms, including body aches, all-over tension, and restlessness. In fact, research shows that people with insomnia are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

Another trigger? If you haven’t released or dealt with worries from the day before, you may experience an anxiety hangover, says Fincke. Morning stress levels also can soar during a pivotal life change, a chronic condition flareup, or uncertainty about the future. “Uncertainty is one of the top human stressors of all time,” Fincke says.

While some triggers can’t be controlled, you can create a morning routine that calms your nerves and lifts your mood. Fincke, who personally experiences morning anxiety and helps her clients with managing it as well, created this three-step, science-backed routine. Use this anxiety-relieving practice as is, or take bits and pieces to create your own calming morning ritual.

1. Journal

Journaling, research shows, can lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve mood. Fincke’s journaling practice consists of three parts, each of which addresses how anxiety commonly manifests.

  • Let it out: People with anxiety tend to suppress their emotions. But burying your feelings can create tightness in the body and kick-start a ruminating cycle, says Fincke. Instead, set a timer for 10 minutes and jot down everything you’re feeling, which may include a mix of emotions. Frustration, sadness, anger, and other feelings can underlie anxiety, says Fincke. Accepting and naming your specific emotions, research suggests, can lessen their power.
  • Let it in: When you’re consumed with worry, you can easily skip over the good that’s happening in the midst of the challenges, says Fincke. To boost positive emotions, reflect on three things you’re grateful for or excited about. As Fincke notes, this could be anything from a bucket-list vacation to a call with your mom to a package in your mailbox.
  • Let it shine: Our fears and worries typically follow the same theme, because they relate to our deeply held core beliefs. Rewriting these beliefs with compassionate, gentle, or empowering mantras can help shift your outlook and ease anxiety. For example, Fincke, who tends toward perfectionism, created these mantras: “I am human, and I’m doing the best I can”; “I am enough just as I am in this moment.” Think of mantras you might need to counteract your anxiety-provoking beliefs. Then call on them to start your day.

2. Stretch

For many of us, anxiety manifests physically. The irony? While our muscles tighten, tense, or tremble, anxiety can simultaneously disconnect us from our bodies (and ourselves).

Stretching can reconnect you to your body in a compassionate way. This gentle movement helps loosen and release nervous energy, explains Fincke, who typically stretches her neck, shoulders, and lower back in the morning.

To stretch your body, try restorative yoga poses, such as Child’s Pose or Legs Up the Wall. You also can try Cat and Cow Poses, which are performed together.

  • Start with your hands and knees on the floor in table position, with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Your spine should be neutral, in a straight line from your shoulders to your hips.
  • To do Cow Pose, inhale as you drop your belly toward the floor, lifting your chin and chest and gazing up to the ceiling.
  • To move into Cat Pose, exhale as you draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Let your head hang toward the floor, but don’t bring your chin to your chest.
  • Inhale into Cow Pose again, and then exhale into Cat Pose. Repeat the sequence 5 to 10 times.

3. Meditate

Anxiety can lead us to feelings of helplessness. Refocusing on our breath, an inherently incredible relaxation tool, can remind us of our inner strength and resources. Fincke cites this insight from author Louise Hay: “The point of power is always in the present moment.”

New to meditation? Fincke suggests practicing three to four rounds of long, slow breathing. Another great option for beginners (and mindfulness aficionados alike) is listening to a guided meditation. For example, try meQ’s wake up meditation.

How much time you allocate to this routine is really up to you, your schedule, and your day-to-day demands. What happens when you snooze through your alarm, or you’ve been up late with a teething baby? You don’t have to practice the entire routine to reap the calming benefits. On busier mornings, Fincke checks in with herself and picks the practice that will be most helpful in that moment. The most important takeaway: While anxiety can feel powerful, you are powerful, too.