Anxiety disorders can range from mild, like nervousness and increased fatigue, to severe panic attacks that prevent you from completing daily tasks. Even mild anxiety can prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest, and constant stress can negatively affect your brain function.
So if you or a loved one are suffering from anxiety, what can you do about it? You can effectively treat and manage anxiety through medication or psychotherapy. However, if you are waiting to see your doctor or want to work toward managing it on your own, learning how to recognize your anxiety triggers is a helpful first step.
At A Cognitive Connection, we specialize in cognitive and behavioral therapies that range from professional counseling to brain training exercises. Our goal is to help Colorado Springs residents understand and improve their brain function to experience the best quality of life. If you need help managing anxiety or depression, we’d love to talk to you and provide some resources to help. You don’t have to face mental illness alone.
Anxiety symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, depending on the type and severity of your anxiety disorder. You are probably already familiar with how your body reacts to anxiety triggers, but understanding your symptoms is the first step toward identifying your triggers. You may even discover some signs that you didn’t know were anxiety-related. Here are some common anxiety symptoms according to Mayo Clinic:
Feeling tense or nervous
Sense of danger or impending doom
Increased heart rate
Lack of appetite
This is not a comprehensive list, and you may experience other physical or emotional symptoms. For example, severe anxiety disorders can lead to chest pain or secondary depression if left untreated.
Techniques for Recognizing Anxiety Triggers
When identifying anxiety triggers, you want to look for patterns. If you can identify specific triggers, you can either work to reduce your exposure to those triggers or come up with coping strategies before you reencounter them. Understanding your physical and emotional responses to daily stressors is the first step toward managing your anxiety disorder. Here are a few techniques you can use to track anxiety triggers:
Keep a Journal or Use a Tracking App
Record anxiety attacks and the events leading up to them in a journal or app. You can either try to identify a trigger when making the entry or look for patterns after you have a few weeks of entries. This can also be a good place to write down symptoms to see if you have more severe reactions to certain triggers.
Identify Major Stressors
Do you have a certain thing in your life that you can’t stop thinking about even when you’re not having an anxiety attack? Major life changes like job loss, relationship changes, or moving can make anxiety symptoms worse. Brainstorm coping strategies to lessen your stress or talk to a therapist about it.
Work with a Therapist
Working with a therapist can help you identify negative thought patterns that may be triggering your anxiety through techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy. They can help guide you through memories of anxiety attacks and identify triggers that you may have overlooked.
Reflect on Past Experiences
Past trauma can be a source of anxiety, so think about past experiences that negatively affected you and how they may impact your anxiety attacks.
How to Reduce Anxiety Triggers
There are ways to reduce anxiety triggers, such as eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your body. Exhaustion or drops in blood sugar will make it harder for your body to cope with stress. Some triggers can be avoided altogether once you pinpoint them. Others need to be dealt with through medication, psychotherapy, or other coping mechanisms.
Make sure you choose an appropriate strategy for the type of trigger you are dealing with. For example, alcohol, caffeine, and certain medications can be triggers, in which case it’s acceptable to avoid the trigger by switching coffee for decaffeinated tea or talking to your doctor about alternative medications. If your trigger is conflict or social events, however, avoiding the trigger is not going to help you in the long run. For more information on common triggers, check out this article from Medical News Today.