Those of us living with anxiety know exactly how debilitating it can be to suffer from overwhelming thoughts throughout the day, and how it can affect our jobs, relationships, and daily routines. For some people, the stress of thinking about having an episode ultimately then leads to a panic attack – it often can seem like there is no way to win! Learning to recognise your own anxiety triggers is a useful process as it then allows us to have enough foresight to break away from what is causing the episode.
What are Anxiety Triggers?
Anxiety does not always have a direct cause, especially for those who have just been diagnosed, so do not panic if you can’t nail down exactly WHY you’re feeling this way. Over time, people begin to recognize the subtle cues that may lead to intense feelings of panic. Whilst these triggers are not the direct reason that a person is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, learning, and recognizing triggers is one way that many sufferers use to manage their condition.
A common misconception of anxiety is that all triggers are logical – of course, it makes sense that when put in high-stress situations we would naturally feel more anxiety, and in some cases this is true. However, with a generalised anxiety disorder, what may trigger one person may in no way affect another. Triggers can be subtle and the sufferer themselves may not even recognize them for a significant period of time.
Anxiety and Food
What we eat has a huge affect on our mental well-being. Most people are aware that eating regular meals and staying hydrated is important to stay healthy – but not everyone understands that WHAT you eat makes a huge difference too. Pay close attention to what you’ve consumed recently when you’re feeling particularly anxious. Quite often, the usual culprits tend to be artificial flavourings and colourings that are found in junk food, but each person is affected differently. Logging down these patterns can help you find a cause.
Medications Can Cause Anxiety?
Medications are naturally designed to make changes within your body, but often they can come with unwanted side effects. Hormone-based drugs, such as birth control pills, can often be an underlying factor as to why a person is suddenly feeling more anxiety. Daily supplements can also be a factor. Caffeine is a common trigger for many people, so perhaps it would be worth cutting back on your regular Timmies trip to see if it makes a difference in your wellbeing.
Can Alcohol Trigger Anxiety?
It’s a common misconception that alcohol and drugs are used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety – after all, how many times have we seen people pour a glass of wine after a long day? Although self-medicating in this way may make you feel better in the moment, in the long term it is likely to affect your mental health.
Try cutting down on alcohol and seeing if it makes a difference!
Alcohol is naturally a depressant, although it may not feel like that at first! It alters the level of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which then leads to you feeling anxious. Most likely you will feel these affects after the alcohol has worn off and so may struggle to make the connection with the underlying cause.
Sleep Patterns and Anxiety
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial in allowing your mind and body to rest and repair. Stress and anxiety can cause sleep problems and lack of sleep will make existing problems worse, creating a negative cycle which can be hard to escape. Worrying about getting enough sleep is also a common problem amongst anxiety sufferers. Creating a healthy sleep environment and retraining your body to wind down is important when trying to correct these issues. Meditating before bed, putting down the phone and eliminating all sources of noise and light are some of the ways you can do this.
How to Deal with Anxiety Triggers
Although it may seem tempting to simply avoid everything that causes anxiety, this is an oversimplified solution to what is a vast and complex mood disorder and in most cases is certainly not practical when trying to lead an regular lifestyle. Learning what triggers you is important and in some cases, such as foods, alcohol, and caffeine, avoiding them entirely can be beneficial, but for the most part, triggers are better overcome than avoided.
Working with a trained therapist will give you the tools need to prepare for anxiety-inducing situations and how to best work through them. During therapy, patients learn how their thought patterns contribute to their anxiety symptoms. Learning to change those patterns is crucial in reducing the likelihood and intensity of an anxiety attack.