How to Identify and Reduce Triggers in Anxiety
Have feelings of worry, fear, or tension become a daily occurrence? You may be suffering from anxiety. For some, it can also cause panic attacks and physical symptoms such as chest pain.
You are not alone. Anxiety disorders are common, and what causes them can be complicated, which can be a combination of factors including patterns of thinking, perceptions, and environments. Some events, emotions, or experiences can cause the symptoms of anxiety to begin or make them worse. These moments in particular are called triggers.
Triggers are different for each individual person, but many people have a range of the same triggers, and most people have multiple triggers. For some, anxiety attacks seem to be triggered for no reason at all.
Therefore, it’s best to uncover what your own triggers in order to better manage them. In this article, I’ll help you learn how to identify and reduce your anxiety triggers.
Symptoms of Anxiety
If you suffer from anxiety, you may have:
- Uncontrollable worry
- Muscle tension
- Fast heartbeat
- Difficult sleep or insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical discomfort
- The feeling you’re on edge
Experiencing these symptoms regularly for six months or more means you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), although there are other types of anxiety disorders as well.
What Can Trigger Anxiety?
Anxiety triggers can include but are not limited to:
- Caffeine: Excessive consumption of caffeine, if not regular consumption, can trigger anxiety and make symptoms worse.
- Health Issues: Medical conditions, like heart problems, overactive thyroid, and low blood sugar, low iron.
- Medications: Prescription and over-the-counter medications, like hormonal birth control and cold medications (the list of side effects may list anxiety, so read the labels and inserts).
- Relationship Issues: Some people find conflict within their family, including spouse and other members, can be a trigger.
- Stress: Stress caused by life events like graduation, death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss is a common trigger.
- Conflicts at Work, School, or Home: Disagreements between co-workers, classmates, or family members.
- Social Events: Social anxiety triggers can include attending parties, school, concerts.
- Low Iron Levels: Many of the symptoms of anemia are similar to anxiety.
- Finances: Worried about paying bills or saving money for retirement can trigger ongoing stress and anxiety.
- Substance Abuse: Alcohol and other substances such as amphetamines.
- Public Speaking: Performing in front of an audience.
- Interruptions in Sleep Patterns: Disrupted or inadequate sleep.
- Changes in Routine: Starting a new job, having a baby, or beginning university, for example.
Tips for Identifying Your Triggers
Once you identify and understand your triggers, you can work on how to avoid them and cope by learning coping strategies to handle the triggers when they occur.
Some tips for identifying triggers:
- Journal: Write down when you notice your anxiety and record what you think may have led to its trigger. There are also some apps which can help you do this on your devices as well.
- Work with a therapist: Anxiety triggers can be difficult to identify, but counsellors, therapists, and even hypnotherapists are trained to help dig out what your triggers might be, using talk therapy, journaling, art, EFT (tapping) and other methods.
- Be honest with yourself: Anxiety can increase negative thoughts and poor self-judgments. This can block trigger finding because of anxious reactions. Be patient and willing to explore your past to help identify how it may affect you today.
- Identify major stressors: Those major life stressors like relationship issues, job change or loss, pregnancy, or the death of a loved one can all point toward anxiety. Take a moment to think about any current stressors that may currently affect your level of anxiety.
- Reflect on past experiences: Previous trauma can be a trigger. Take a moment to consider how negative past experiences might still affect you.
- Keep a thoughts inventory: It is helpful to be aware of what you are thinking about, what are you saying to yourself about a situation and what pictures are you making in your mind.
- Listen to your body: Is it something you’re eating or drinking? Caffeine, sugary foods, and alcohol can all raise cortisol levels within the body, which in turn can increase anxiety.
If you set aside a good portion of time and dedicate the energy to identify your triggers, you can develop the proper coping techniques for managing your condition. Once you find your anxiety triggers, you can learn how to cope with them.
Coping and Reducing Anxiety Triggers
Self-help tips for coping with anxiety:
- Schedule time in the day to worry, limiting anxiety’s dominance.
- Exercise regularly to reduce stress
- Get proper sleep
- Limit caffeine intake
- Tell the anxious part of your mind “I don’t need protecting right now”
- Maintain a daily routine to reduce uncertainty
- Use your imagination to create positive outcome potentials.
- Meditate or use self-hypnosis audios or techniques.
The practice of focusing the mind is meditation. Mindfulness is a type of meditation involving the focus on feelings, thoughts, or bodily senses that happen in the present moment. This helps to slow the racing thoughts and calm the mind. You can’t think about the past or the future if you are in the present moment.
Guided imagery is a type of mediation involving visualization of scenes to stimulate relaxation. For example, a sunset on a beach visual can help distract the anxious state and encourage positive thoughts and feelings.
Count backwards from 200 by twos or 1000 by threes. This brings the conscious analytical mind into the present moment. If you forget where you were, simply pick up where you left off, and allow your mind to wander to whatever number it chooses.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. You can try this for 10 minutes several times per day.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on the stomach, just below the rib cage.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through the nose. Draw your breath down toward your stomach. The hand on your chest should remain still, and the hand on your stomach should rise.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and draw them inward while exhaling slowly. Keep your lips pursed while exhaling. The hand on your stomach should move down to its original position.
Dealing with anxiety triggers may involve confronting a triggering situation head on, such as joining a public speaking group. This can allow someone to learn the tools and gain experience speaking in public so that it no longer becomes a trigger. Anxiety support groups or therapists can also help give you coping tools to face anxiety triggers.
Hypnotherapy can help delve into the subconscious to help find the root cause of the anxiety, while aiding to address and cope with the root cause, which can assist in your dealing with the triggers.
If you feel you need a little more help understanding hypnosis and its benefits, you can learn more about how hypnotherapy can help your anxiety, and also read up on 4 types of anxiety that can be relieved with hypnotherapy. You can also contact me for any questions you may have or book an appointment.
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