Waking up stressed affects your cognitive function for the day

Scientists at Penn State University found that waking up feeling stressed and anxious reduces your cognitive function throughout the day.

There may be some truth to the saying “getting up on the wrong side of the bed” according to Penn State researchers who say starting your morning by focusing on how stressful your day will be may be harmful to your mindset throughout the day.

The study, published recently in Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences— shows the importance of a person’s mindset first thing in the morning, before anything stressful has happened yet.

It reports that those who woke up feeling as though the day ahead would be stressful experienced problems with working memory later in the day.

Researchers say the anticipation of stress impacts cognition, even if a stressful event does not occur.

While previous research has examined how stressful events can affect emotion, cognition and physiology, not as much has been done on the effects of anticipating stressful events that haven’t yet happened in the context of everyday life.

The researchers recruited 240 racially and economically diverse adults to participate in the study.

For two weeks, the participants responded seven times a day to questions prompted from a smartphone app: once in the morning about whether they expected their day to be stressful, five times throughout the day about current stress levels, and once at night about whether they expected the following day to be stressful.

The participants also completed a working memory task five times a day.

The researchers found that more stress anticipation in the morning was associated with poorer working memory later in the day.

Stress anticipation from the previous evening was not associated with poorer working memory.

So what can you do about it?

Here are some steps you can take to start your day off well.

  1. Improve your sleep quality. Ensure that you are getting enough sleep, and that it’s good sleep. Refer to our sleep hacking article.
  2. Measure your stress. Do this first thing in the morning to develop your self awareness. Refer our measuring your stress article.
  3. Get yourself in to a good place before thinking about your day. This will improve your cognition and performance. This could be exercise, meditation, breathing practices, something that calms you down. Refer to our article on the managing your state.
  4. Get some coaching in Resilience. Working with me you’ll learn to do this over a matter of weeks. Choose a coaching package here.
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Matt

Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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