Anxiety is something that nobody likes to talk about, but most of us probably know at least one person who suffers from it. Many of us have even experienced panic or anxiety ourselves at least once before — in fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than forty million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety.
Whether driving through traffic or being late to a meeting, there’s no act too small (or too big) to trigger anxiety. There are many reasons why we might go into panic or have our anxiety triggered.
We’ve complied a list of common anxiety triggers and ways to combat them.
Common Anxiety Triggers
- Negative Self-Talk
Don’t overlook this one. Dwelling on negative thoughts and talking down to ourselves is emotionally unhealthy. When all you focus on is what’s currently wrong or what could go wrong, panic is waiting around the corner.
- Caffeine and Poor Nutrition
In today’s market of supersaturated advertising, our minds are constantly bombarded with advertisements for the newest food snack or energy drink. But the truth is, caffeine and poor nutrition can play a key role in triggering anxiety. For one, caffeine is a stimulant, which can increase your heart rate, and it can cause dehydration. Poor nutrition keeps us from getting the vital nutrients we need from real food, further taxing our system.
Alcohol can also cause dehydration by squeezing extra water out of your now shrinking cells. When you’re dehydrated you’re more likely to experience anxiety.
- Poor Sleeping Habits
As silly as it may sound, bad sleep habits can trigger anxiety. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or if your sleep hygiene is poor, you’re might be opening yourself up to added anxiety.
It goes without saying that stress itself, whether due to dramatic events or simply low-grade, constant worrying, can seriously damage your ability to manage anxiety in a healthy way. From serious stressors such as the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, or job loss, to more menial stressors like spilling coffee on your shirt or being yelled at, stress often acts as a trigger for many people.
- Fear of Future Trauma
Some people, such as soldiers returning from war, are at a greater risk for anxiety attacks because of the trauma they’ve experienced. Simply thinking about past trauma can create the perception that it’s going to happen again, triggering anxiety.
Although not an exhaustive list, these are some common and very real anxiety triggers.
Everyone experiences anxiety and panic in different ways, for different reasons. For those who have friends or family that suffer from anxiety, it’s important to empathize with them and provide the support they need, even though we may never understand exactly what they’re experiencing. Thankfully, there are some ways to help minimize anxiety’s harsh effects!
Here are ways to combat anxiety when it rears its ugly head at us.
Ways To Combat Anxiety
Immediate remedies: do these when experiencing anxiety in the moment.
- Relax. This, of course, is easier said than done, but try to assess the situation and remove yourself from the trigger. Then focus on relaxing your entire body and mind.
- Step away. Find a space away from the trigger to collect yourself. This might just be a walk around the block, some exercise, or meditation.
- Breathe deeply. Sometimes simply taking slow, deep breaths can keep you from going into a full on panic attack. Slow, deep breaths slow down your heart rate and help divert your thoughts and focus to your breathing and away from the trigger.
- Aromatherapy. Using essential oils like lavender, rose, and sandalwood can induce calmness in your brain. Keep a bottle of lavender with you to take out and smell when you experience an anxiety trigger.
- Affirmations. To combat negative self-talk, speaking positive truths over yourself while in the heat of battle can help clear your mind and focus on positivity. Repeating something as simple as, “I’m a peaceful and focused person,” can ward off negative thoughts.
Long-Term Management: to maintain a healthy lifestyle that helps keep anxiety at bay, practice these tips in your daily routine.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. Since these cause dehydration, limit the amount you ingest. Replace it with water instead.
- Exercise. Exercise is great for a number of reasons. One of those is the release of endorphins, which makes you happy and feel good.
- Get good sleep. Instead of staying up til all hours, aim to get 6-8 hours every night. Invest in a good bed, good sheets, and put down your electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
- Laugh. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety. It also release endorphins and boosts your immune system.
- Think positively. We’ve touched on this already, but positive thinking keeps you from negative thinking. While it can be very difficult to replace cycles of negative thinking, by making a conscious effort to incorporate positive thinking into your daily habits you might see a surprising improvement in your everyday stress and anxiety.
- Limit input (from TV, news, etc.). In a media-driven world where we are constantly connected, this one can be difficult. But if you’re prone to panic attacks and anxiety, limiting the amount of bad news you take in may help you to achieve more stability in your mood and feelings. Creating a more calm environment in terms of outside input may help you to more effectively focus, monitor, and control your own mood and stress cycles.
- Affirmations. Make this a daily habit. Get up in the morning (or before you go to bed), stand in the mirror, and give yourself a pep talk. Speak healthy, positive attributes over yourself. Doing this daily will help you maintain a positive mindset.
Even if you don’t experience anxiety yourself, knowing common triggers and tips to help ease anxiety can do lots for your loved ones who struggle with anxiety.
What are your triggers? How do you calm your anxiety? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!