When You Can Quickly Identify Your Anxiety Triggers, Your Life Gets Easier!
Everyone worries sometimes, but if you find yourself constantly bogged down by your fearful thoughts and emotions, you might be experiencing anxiety. Hope is not lost. Here are some helpful tips to help you handle anxiety triggers and prevent them in the future.
DISCLAIMER: This is post is intended for informational purposes and is not medical advice. Consult your physician for more detailed, personal medical direction.
40 Million Adults Suffer from Anxiety
An estimated 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders, and over two-thirds of them are women. Anxiety disorders can be acute, like agoraphobia or claustrophobia, or generalized anxiety disorder, which includes a slew of stipulations to be met to be diagnosed.
You don’t have to be experiencing panic attacks, be diagnosed, or meet the requirements set forth by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (the official guide used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental health disorders) to be dealing with anxiety.
In fact, a simple way you can help yourself is by acknowledging that your excessive worrying or anxious behaviors are not “normal:” that you deserve to put time and resources into calming anxiety and making a better life for yourself.
So even if you don’t have the highest levels of anxiety, the fact that you clicked on this article might mean that perhaps the levels of anxiety you are feeling are getting in the way of living the fruitful, free life you’ve been wanting.
What Is Anxiety
Anxiety is a reaction to stress that can be both psychological and physical. It is an extension of our natural biological flight or fight response, which sends out signals to our sympathetic nervous system. You might feel an increasing heart rate or breathing rates as your blood reroutes its way through your body, preparing you for any threat that might be thrown at you.
But when your body isn’t actually responding to a life-threatening situation, all those physical responses can be counterproductive, making us nauseous, lightheaded, or even causing diarrhea. The psychological response is most commonly characterized by excessive worrying, racing thoughts, or irrational fear or panic.
What all anxiety disorders have in common is that they bring unwarranted stress or fears into your mind that get in the way of daily life. Whether that anxiety can be linked to reasonably stressful situations, like starting a new job or going on a first date, or if it can be linked to irrational responses to everyday stimuli, giving yourself a wealth of coping strategies will help you calm anxiety and feel in control.
What Are the Signs I Have Anxiety?
Symptoms of anxiety can be felt across many parts of the body and mind, making them all the more confusing and overwhelming. To break it down, anxiety symptoms are categorized as either physical, cognitive or behavioral.
Physical symptoms include what I’ve already mentioned as the body’s fight or flight responses. Your heart might race. Your palms might sweat. You might have trouble breathing. Physical symptoms can also be more acute, like muscle tension, nausea or vomiting, changes in vision, or tingling in extremities like your fingers or toes.
Cognitive symptoms are the thoughts or feelings you can’t shake. You might have trouble concentrating, feel irritable, or experience negative thoughts about your own ability to regulate your emotions. You might be saying to yourself, “I feel crazy” or “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
Behavioral symptoms are when those thoughts manifest. You might find yourself avoiding anything you worry will spike anxiety, like people, places or even memories. People who experience social anxiety might avoid parties, even if they know everyone there, or people with fear of public speaking might avoid speaking as much as possible in a group presentation.
Avoidance is only one of the “safety” behaviors you might be unconsciously using, which provide temporary anxiety relief. You might find yourself speaking quickly in a meeting to get the attention off you quickly, or standing in the back of the room to avoid interaction, or using drugs or alcohol before a big event to ease your nerves.
You can find a more robust listing of anxiety symptoms here.
For me, my anxiety feels like a tightness or panicked feeling in my chest, surrounded by my worrying thoughts that fixate on things entirely out of my control. I find myself avoiding interactions that cause spikes in my anxious feelings, like saying hello to someone I knew from years ago or walking into a restaurant before the person I’m meeting gets there.
If these symptoms sound familiar and you experience them more often than you would like, it’s probably time to try to handle your anxiety triggers.
How Do I Know My Anxiety Triggers?
The first step to reducing a problem is, as the cliche states, acknowledging that there is one. But the second is being genuinely interested in why and when it happens, without putting blame or shame onto yourself. You can make those steps by setting about some sort of way to note or record your anxiety triggers.
In most cases, life is full of discomfort. That discomfort is not inherently bad, and actually is a big part of what makes life good. If the discomforts result in generalized anxiety or anxious feelings, start keeping track of the exact situation that pushed you past your limits.
Remember that a trigger can be a person, a place, an activity or event, or even a memory. It’s helpful to be honest and specific about the circumstances leading up to and during an anxiety spike, so you can best predict and prepare for the next time.
When I first noticed my anxious thoughts, I began keeping a log of them in my journal. I noted the situation, details about other parts of my day (like whether I’d worked out that day and what I’d eaten), and how severe my reaction was.
How Can I Handle My Anxiety Triggers?
If you can begin to recognize your anxiety triggers and your anxiety spikes, you can name them for what they are. If you can name a problem instead of ignoring it, you have a much higher chance of being able to actually tackle it.
If you know what symptoms keep recurring, when you spot those symptoms, take a moment to breathe and tell yourself this is just your anxiety and that you remain in control. You are not at fault, nor are you “stupid” or “weak” for feeling this way. You have to find the tools to push forward and live daily life as unimpeded as possible.
5 Coping Strategies for Calming Your Anxiety
If possible, remove yourself from the anxiety inducing situations, especially if it makes you feel unsafe. If a certain person or place is toxic and that’s why you’re feeling anxious, you have the control to get yourself out. But if regular life tasks or activities are what cause your anxious feelings, here are five ways to calm both anxiety’s physical symptoms and mental ones.
If you can find a sense of accomplishment in your day or in the moment, that satisfaction can go a long way in making you feel productive and capable.
Try crossing an item off your to do list (either by doing it or deciding not to), or do a small two minute task (like washing that dish or throwing away trash from your car). Try finishing a task you’ve been putting off for a while. You’ll be proving to yourself that you are capable of making choices that benefit you and not feeling stuck.
Accept that you cannot control everything. There is always someone or something else in the equation and that can actually alleviate any pressure you’re putting on yourself to stay in control of a situation.
If you find yourself still panicking, as yourself, “Rationally, how bad is this? What is the nightmare version of events I am afraid of? Is that even possible?” Then follow up by asking, “What would I do to cope if that actually happened?” Often the answers are much more manageable than the unlikely nightmares we concoct in our heads.
Write your anxious thoughts down to get them out of your head and in front of you. Hopefully you’ll feel the immediate anxiety relief of that simple release.
You can also speak with a friend you trust, either about how you’re feeling to get their support or to distract yourself. If you don’t have time or access to write or chat with a friend, try saying how you’re feeling out loud to yourself. By getting it out into the space, you take the burden off yourself of being the only one feeling how you are.
Focus on the physical setting around you and your own physical body. Breathe deeply following one of the several breathing relaxation techniques, like 5-5 breathing.
As you breathe, either close your eyes or take in the space around you. If you can concentrate on the details of the physical space around you, I find it helps me remind myself that I exist in this physical space outside of my own head. I feel more in control and my surroundings feel less like they can overtake me. You can also try massaging your hands to release oxytocin or lightly running a finger over your lips to trigger a parasympathetic calming response.
Forgive yourself for the lack of control or the helplessness you have felt at times, or you feel even now. There is a gap between your real self and your ideal self, and that is normal. Focus your energy on how you can move forward positively now.
Break the endless cycle of worrying and then being mad at yourself for worrying. Treat yourself with the same kindness a friend would treat you with.
Stop Anxiety Triggers Quickly and Reduce the Toll Anxiety Has on Your Life
As you move forward on your journey handling anxiety triggers, remember that anxiety is a normal, human response. It can save our lives when we really need it. It’s not a matter of getting rid of any fear or worry you have, but rather it’s about learning to control it when it grows to excess.
As Newt Scamander, beloved hero from Harry Potter Universe’s “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them,” says, “My philosophy is if you worry, you suffer twice.”
You deserve a life lived without impeding worry, no matter where you’re starting from.
About the Author: Kaleigh Howland loves to write about how an honest understanding of the world around you leads to a better life. You can follow her writings and opinions on feminism, film, and living an empowering life @kaleighbleu across all social platforms.