How to identify and manage your anxiety triggers

Anxiety is estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population, making it the most common mental health disorder alongside depression. Why people experience anxiety can be for many reasons — for some, anxiety attacks can happen for no reason at all, while others find they have multiple triggers that cause their anxiety. 

Because of this, it’s important to discover any anxiety triggers that you may have, as identifying your triggers is an important step in managing them. 

You’re overtired 

If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’ll likely feel a lot more anxious the next day. Researchers have found that a lack of sleep — which is common in anxiety disorders — may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying. 

This is because sleep deprivation amplifies anxiety by firing up the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex — the regions associated with emotional processing.

Manage this by practising good sleep habits. Your pre-sleep activity should be relaxing so your body knows when it’s time to go to sleep. Have a consistent sleep schedule and create a bedtime routine. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, and turn off screens at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. 

You’re feeling unwell

We’re all guilty of it, taking on the role of Dr Google when we don’t feel so great. But before you know it, your runny nose is now not just a symptom of the classic cold but of one of the rarest tumours ever.

Chances are it’s not and these extreme conclusions can cause anxiety to skyrocket, especially for people who are already afraid of health problems. 

Manage this by not googling symptoms. Self-diagnosis through search engines will only lead to excessive worrying and anxiety. Speak to a doctor instead — a trained professional can diagnose you better than the internet or yourself. 

You’re in an overcrowded space

Crowded rooms, public spaces, or even getting together with friends can be highly stimulating. Your brain is processing information from the noise of crowds or from the conversations you’re engaging in.

This can make you feel claustrophobic and worry that something might happen. When a person has an overactive nervous system, they become sensitive to stimulation and anxiety kicks in. 

Manage this by breathing deeply to help slow your breath down and prompt feelings of calm and relaxation. Also, through mindfulness practices, you can increase your self-awareness to become better prepared to handle your symptoms in public. 

Your hormones are at play

If you experience anxiety around your time of the month, you’re not losing your mind. You are actually experiencing a very common spike in anxiety due to hormonal fluctuations. 

It’s this shift in hormones that can cause you to experience PMS or symptoms related to perimenopause and is responsible for making you feel edgier than usual. 

Manage this by eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in animal products that can help ease the anxiety-inducing effects of PMS. Stay active with exercise and practice mindfulness such as yoga and meditation to reduce your stress hormones.

You’re thinking about money

In 2019, it was reported that 9.5 million Brits suffered mental health issues as a result of financial anxiety — so it’s fair to say that feeling anxious about money is pretty common. When our bank accounts aren’t looking good, we often aren’t feeling good either.

Money can be a safety net and without it, you may feel vulnerable and anxious. Worrying about unpaid bills or loss of income can trigger anxiety symptoms from rapid heartbeat to sleep problems. 

Manage this by speaking to someone. Open up to a loved one, acknowledge the problem and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Money Advice service offers free and impartial help for people experiencing financial difficulties. Get in touch online or over the phone on 0800 011 3797

You’re in a disagreement with someone

It’s common for conflict to set off a distress signal in the body. Even if it’s just a small disagreement, it can still cause you to worry about saying something that others will disagree with or have general fears about doing things that might bother other people. 

The fear of conflict is common, especially among those with social anxiety. It’s a type of people-pleasing behavior that typically arises from a deep rooted fear of upsetting others. 

Manage this by shifting your mindset to see disagreeing as thinking. Learning to argue healthy is a key part of effective adult life. Taking on this approach will change your understanding of disagreeing — especially in professional environments, from unproductive to productive. 

Margaret Hefferman’s 2012 TED talk on why we need to “dare to disagree” shares some great insight on this. 

You’re burnt out 

When you take on too many responsibilities and tasks, you’re likely to feel extremely anxious and overwhelmed. Anxiety manifests as nagging feelings of tension, worry, and edginess, which may interfere with your ability to concentrate and get on with daily tasks. 

When you’re feeling burnt out, your body releases stress hormones and these cause the physical symptoms of anxiety such as exhaustion and reduced performance. 

Manage this by regaining your balance. Avoid burnout by looking out for the warning signs, like taking on too much or not having time to yourself. When you are feeling stressed, take a break and choose something that gives you what you need. 

You’re thinking about past trauma

For some, memories fade away with time but for those who suffer with an anxiety condition such as social anxiety disorder, or a trauma-related disorder such as PTSD, it may feel like you’re constantly reliving moments from the past that you’d rather forget. 

Many present situations can trigger these memories, even things you don’t necessarily remember consciously, but have impacted your thoughts and feelings which cause you to feel anxious in the moment. 

Manage this by avoiding certain experiences, situations or people that trigger flashbacks or other symptoms. These might include smells, sounds, words, places, books or films. Some people find significant dates especially difficult, such as the anniversary of a traumatic experience. It can help to plan ahead for these times and focus on self-care when they arise. 

Although anxiety is a part of life, try not to let it control you

Unfortunately the anxiety you experience may never fully go away, but you can learn to identify your triggers and effectively manage your symptoms in a way that will allow you to feel more safe, secure and in control.

2 responses to “How to identify and manage your anxiety triggers”

  1. This is helpful. Learning to identify triggers and how to manage them has been helpful to me in managing my PTSD.


    1. Thanks for reading Chris, I’m happy to hear you find it helpful & I wish you all the best on your journey managing PTSD

      Liked by 1 person

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