I never really understood anxiety growing up. However, after hearing so many of my friends and colleagues talk about their own anxiety, and a recent panic attack of my own, I decided to explore the topic. The following is based on the results of my own questionnaire for which over sixty-five volunteers have helped me by sharing their own experiences with anxiety so that I might be able to make some sense of it and write on the topic. Through it, I hope to bring some semblance of relief to those who suffer from it.
Anxiety is a powerful event that many people suffer through. I know personally that when I am experiencing anxiety, I try my hardest to talk myself out of it. I take deep breaths and go through the logic behind why I am anxious and try to bring myself down, usually because it is preventing me from sleeping. Yet, it seems that my logic has little or no impact on what I am feeling.
In my recent survey about anxiety, sixty percent of survey-takers claimed to have little to no control at all over their anxiety. More than half of the people suffering from it felt they are barely capable of handling it when they experience it, only adding to the ferocity of the anxiety. With this lack of control, might we be able to at least to identify and avoid the triggers of our anxiety?
It isn’t a simple answer, sadly.
First, we have to identify what our own personal triggers are. For many, the triggers are elements of their everyday life. On top of that, triggers tend to vary depending on the person.
Some triggers of anxiety less commonly mentioned in the survey include:
- Tragedy (various dimensions)
- Responsibility (various dimensions)
- The news (various dimensions)
- Alcohol (physical)
- Caffeine (physical)
- Public speaking (social)
- Leaving the house (social/environmental)
- Flying (environmental)
- Confined spaces (environmental)
- Bad weather (environmental)
Other mildly mentioned triggers are:
- Commuting (occupational)
- School (intellectual)
- Being alone (social)
- Relationships (social)
- Large crowds (social)
- Loud noises/places (environmental)
- Lack of sleep/rest and exhaustion (physical)
- Oversleeping (physical)
- Stress (physical/mental)
- Change (mental)
- Failure and the fear of failure (mental)
- Overthinking (mental)
- Money issues (financial)
Right there, we have a rather large list of things that can spark our anxieties. To make matters worse, many of the triggers we’ve listed so far are also symptoms of anxiety. Things like stress, lack of sleep, and fear of failure can all be caused by anxiety, and also create a vicious cycle of suffering.
More Common Triggers
Based on the survey, illness and medical health issues seem to be more common triggers of anxiety. Many people dread getting sick. I personally know someone who caught a stomach bug that had such a devastating impact on them that they spent the next several years of their life being paranoid over what they ate and potential signs of illness in their bowel movements.
Other people have issues with hormones and the impact that hormones have on their bodies. Some women mentioned having their anxiety triggered every time they get their period because of the way their bodies feel during menses. Illness or physical discomfort of any kind is often unexpected and is always unwanted. When such things occur during moments where someone is already enduring stress and anxiety, it can only exacerbate the problem.
Social and Occupational
Another set of triggers mentioned in the survey are quite relatable: Social situations, family, and work as stressors. With work and family, there is plenty of room for conflict, pressure, and overload of responsibilities. There are things like marital issues and the dread of divorce, or the dread of being fired or laid off. Both of those scenarios can directly and drastically change one’s lifestyle.
Low morale in the workplace, in the family, or in other social settings can have a large impact on a person as well. Depression, or any form of negative energy for that matter, can be contagious and can bring a person’s mental well-being down, even if they have no other major stressors at the time. In a family setting, children can create an enormous amount of stress for parents, with no exact “rulebook” to use as a means of dealing with them appropriately.
Based on the survey, one of the most significant triggers of anxiety is uncertainty. Humans are naturally creatures of habit. We have routines, procedures, schedules, calendars, planners, and organizers. We demand structure so much that we have a name for basically everything that we can think of (seriously, try to think of something that doesn’t have a name).
With our innate desire for such structure, it makes sense that unexpected or unknown items can create anxiety in a person. Thoughts of the unknown future, pondering the meaning of existence, not living up to one’s own expectations, not accomplishing one’s goals, or simply being faced with new and unexpected challenges or experiences can throw one’s mental balance off.
Also, we tend to lose sight of our own goals sometimes. Tunnel vision can occur when we put all of our focus on only one aspect of our lives. For example, let’s say your workplace is going through some major changes (new things, uncertainty: triggers) and you put all of your focus towards making sure that you and your colleagues get through these changes, and that you all end up being successful and well in the end. During this process, your mind may tend to focus mostly on work, and you may put off little things that aren’t work-related. Soon enough, those little things build up.
Your family relationships may begin to crumble, your love life becomes dull or in danger, your car begins to fall apart, and your finances get out of control. It may seem that your entire world has fallen apart all at once, even though it has been slowly building— you just didn’t necessarily see it coming.
This kind of tunnel vision can easily occur when we get into the habit of taking care of other people’s problems; you selflessly want to take care of other people and make their lives easier but have caused yourself suffering by doing so. On top of that, during the times when things start to fall apart we may not see how it all happened, or maybe we do but don’t understand why we couldn’t prevent it. We set expectations for ourselves so high and hold ourselves accountable for our own failures. By letting ourselves down, we may begin to suffer from self-doubt.
The Inner Voice
This brings us to that demonic inner voice. It seems odd that our minds are our own worst enemies sometimes, that we can have an inner voice that seemingly wants us to fail and suffer. Perhaps it is some sort of personified guilt that overly manifests itself. Whatever it is, the thing everyone needs to know is that it is normal!
Humans go through moments when we are afraid of our own success when our thoughts and self-esteem get in our way. If you have a hard time accepting that, please look at any and every weight loss program, rehabilitation program, and even prison. All around us are people who have “failed” in some way, shape or form over and over again. Why do motivational speakers make us feel so good? Perhaps it is because they silence those self-doubts that dominate our lives, even if only for a short period of time.
Are you still not convinced? Perhaps you are willing to believe that humans have negative thoughts, but you are different because your inner voice is stronger or never goes away. If that is the case, I would personally recommend listening to some music.
For example, “Sad But True” by Metallica is sung from the perspective of one’s self-sabotaging mind, laughing and mocking at the body/person that hosts it. I would also suggest Linkin Park’s “Papercut” is about a constant nagging and judging inner-face that causes constant self-doubt, shame, and paranoia.
Don’t believe the front that some people put up— everyone suffers from this to some extent. Some people may be at moments of success in their lives and you may hear or read about it, making you feel left behind in this world, but remember that you’d be excited too if you were able to break through that voice and prove to it and yourself that you can be successful as well.
You are not alone.
You may be troubled, you may be suffering, you may feel like a complete and total wreck at the moment, but the fact that there are songs about this kind of thing and that there are so many people out there not accomplishing their goals on a regular basis means that you are normal.
How do we break through this anxiety? How do we treat ourselves and become successful and care-free? Find out in Volume IV, concluding on April 25th, 2018.
Whatismyhealth © 2018