Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice.
It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you.
It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room.
The only one you can hear.
Anxiety seems to be a near-universal condition. In the United States alone, approximately 40 million adults – or 18 percent of the population – suffer from an anxiety disorder.
And these numbers represent only the diagnosed (i.e. reported). The actual number is likely to be significantly higher.
The truth is that society is somewhat to blame (not to negate our own sense of responsibility.) We’ve managed to build a 24/7 “constantly connected” infrastructure that has permeated into schools, businesses and elsewhere. Many people are under constant pressure to succeed; most ironically by leveraging this very infrastructure. This only exacerbates the problem.
“Prevention is the best cure” is a universal axiom within the medical community, including within the mental health sphere. Understanding what “triggers” certain symptoms or condition can – in some instances – drastically reduce the likelihood of a symptom or episode.
Here, we focus on ten established “triggers” that are known to induce anxiety symptoms and anxiety conditions. It is our hope that, by understanding what provokes anxiety, each one of us can better mitigate any adverse consequences.
Here are ten common triggers of anxiety that we need to avoid:
Consumption of alcohol, as it relates to the onset of anxiety, is a “Catch-22.” After a Always period of dealing with anxiety and its related stressors, some will turn to booze in order to calm themselves down.
As a depressant, alcohol can “accomplish” this task – but only temporarily. After this initial period, alcohol becomes the catalyst for anxiety – and this is the true danger in relying upon the substance to ease anxious thoughts and feelings.
Finding a more constructive and sustainable outlet is strongly recommended by medical professionals.
2. Inadequate nutrition/diet
Our brain is a “hungry” organ in that it requires certain nutritional components – at adequate levels – in order to properly function. Further, as the brain uses up much of our body’s resources (i.e., energy), it’s critical that our gray matter receives said nutritional components, and in the right amounts.
A typical “Western Diet” is one that is heavily processed; lacking in nutritional value to sufficiently provide for the brain and body. According to Dr. Eva Selhub, Contributing Editor at Harvard University’s Health Publications:
“…studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to the typical “Western diet,” and have shown that the risk of (mental illness) is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.”
Nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals recommend minimizing the consumption of processed foods and increasing the amount of whole, natural foods we eat.
3. Anti-social behavior
Depending on one’s personality, the desire to engage with fellow human beings can fittingly range on a scale of 1 to 10. Introverts, for example, require sparse social interaction, while extroverts require social interaction as a means of energy and motivation.
Secluding oneself to the extreme, however, can cause some unintended consequences. Too much solitude, particularly for introverts, can result in some serious overthinking – a prelude to an anxiety episode.
This is a highly individualistic and subjective recommendation, but we should seek some type of social outlet for the betterment of our mental health.
4. Certain sensory inputs
Certain lights, smells or sounds can (sometimes, inexplicably) negatively affect our state of mind. In addition to being an annoyance, they cause a stress reaction – and, more specifically, an anxiety reaction.
Noise, especially loud or blaring sounds, can activate and height the activity within the amygdala – a part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Smells and sounds are much more nuanced but are nonetheless a trigger of anxiety in some.
In understanding and accepting the notion that certain stimuli can provoke an anxiety response, we are better equipped to manage our environment.
The determination to push ourselves and create a better life is a respectable trait. However, some individuals possess a drive that – at a certain point – becomes more of a liability than an asset. Such folks do not “live in the moment” of any marked success, but instead, succumb to the “next big thing.”
Constantly working to achieve this “next big thing” can alter brain chemistry to where any perceived “setback” can ignite a sense of anxiety.
Practicing mindfulness, meditation or gratitude can help keep things in perspective.
6. Lack of sleep
Sleep is essential to normal functioning of the brain. When we deprive ourselves of this vitally-important state, any number of unintended consequences can surface. This includes, of course, adverse psychological consequences.
Lack of sleep often leads to an inability to sleep, aka insomnia. Ultimately, our mental and physical health suffers as a result.
If getting a good night’s rest becomes a consistent problem, it is recommended to seek medical advice.
7. Low blood sugar
As mentioned, the brain is a hungry organ; it requires a steady supply of glucose and other nutrients in order to function properly. Without these nutritional components, we’re susceptible to diabetes-like symptoms – shakiness, dizziness, weakness, etc.
Furthermore, low blood sugar creates unnecessary stress for the brain. As a result, the brain will perceive this inadequacy as a threat, which can trigger an anxiety episode.
The solution is to consult a physician, nutritionist or other expert who can recommend a dietary regimen that benefits your unique needs.
8. Poor stress management
Without a proper ability to manage stress, we’ll easily succumb to anxiety triggers – both internal and external. Stress both creates and exacerbates thoughts and feelings of anxiety; making stress management a priority for those who desire to alleviate anxiety and its associated symptoms.
Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing can help in dealing with these triggers.
9. Negative thought patterns
Negative thoughts breed negative thoughts, the consequences of which can be devastating in nature. As important, negative thought patterns have a tendency to worsen in degree over time, resulting in a negative spiral that some cannot manage to get out of.
Related article: 10 Habits That Make Anxiety Worse (And How to Avoid Having Them)
Positive activities can counteract some or all of the anxiety experienced as a result of such thought patterns. Sports, meditation, or yoga are all activities that can reduce negative and anxious thought patterns.
10. Loss of direction
For those that once had “a vision” for their life – and (realistically or perceivably) saw this vision crumble – they are prone to experiencing high levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
These folks tend to be extremely competitive and goal-oriented individuals. Therefore, losing one’s sense of purpose is devastating. Similarly, others that “lose their way” tend to experience bouts of anxiety to some degree.
Again, mindfulness, meditation, and practicing gratitude can help put things in perspective. Practice sitting in silence on a consistent basis, and you may just find the ever-elusive answer to this complicated problem.