Today, I’d like to speak to you about what triggers anxiety, mainly.
Now, if you usually ask me what the main anxiety triggers are, I’ll say, “Well, how long is a piece of string?”
There are literally hundreds of anxiety triggers and no single person’s anxiety profile is going to be exactly the same as another person’s anxiety profile.
So, by anxiety profile, I mean the unique set of circumstances, background, behaviors, triggers and responses that makes up a person’s specific type of anxiety.
However, I have been asked this question time and again and I have narrowed it down to three main things that, when you get stuck, triggers anxiety.
Now, those three things are:
- Thoughts of the past
- Feelings of powerlessness in the present
- Fears for the future.
So, any of the things that triggers anxiety are usually going to be grounded in one of these three things and I will go into them in detail:
Number 1: Thoughts of the past
I’ve seen a lot of things floating around out there on the internet and social media, pictures and people saying that dwelling on the past is related to depression and that can be true.
However, we’re talking about anxiety today so I just wanted to say that thoughts about the past and memories of the past do definitely trigger anxiety and the reason for that is: so much trauma comes from the past.
And I don’t mean – it doesn’t have to be deeply rooted, super traumatic trauma that you’ve been through.
It can simply mean things that you’ve learned throughout your life, lessons that you’ve taught yourself, little stories that you’ve made up in your head based on your experience in the past that has led you to respond to circumstances in an anxious way.
So, say for example, you were chased by a chicken as a child and that has led to you having a phobia of chickens in the present.
That means if you were to go into a chicken coup or into an area that contains chickens, you are going to respond in an anxious way due to the lessons that you have learned from the past.
A lot of times, the trauma that triggers anxiety is underlying.
A lot of times, these won’t be things that you’re even consciously aware of.
Many, many times, anxiety triggers that are based on trauma and thoughts of the past are underlying and you’re not even consciously aware of them.
So people are sometimes quick to dismiss, saying, “No, I had no trauma in my life. I’ve had a really happy life and I have anxiety for no apparent reason.”
And I’m not saying it’s important to dig into what that trauma might be but what I am saying is that it’s important to be aware and to accept that you probably do have underlying traumas that you’re not consciously aware of that caused you to have anxiety reactions in the present.
Often, these traumas don’t make sense.
Often, you don’t know why or what they are, but that’s a really good sign that it’s trauma if it comes on suddenly and without any sort of warning.
If you’ve never had an anxious reaction like this before, often it’s linked to trauma as well as having a tired body which is what brings me to the next thing that it could be.
It’s feelings of powerlessness in the present. That’s the second thing that really triggers anxiety.
Number 2: Feelings of powerlessness in the present
For example, perhaps you’re caught in a bad relationship. Perhaps, you’re in a job that you hate. Perhaps there’s conflict with friends or family members and that is what’s causing your anxiety in the here and now.
The good thing about triggers that take place in the present is you’re often highly acutely aware of them and you know exactly what’s causing it and you know exactly why.
So that’s a good thing and it gives you a lot of power.
It allows you to see that your circumstances are what’s triggering your anxiety.
Once you know what that is, you can then begin to take the steps to separate your emotions from the anxious reaction that you’re having in the present.
That will help you think more clearly and a little more smartly in the present and will allow you to take actions based on what’s logical rather than what you feel emotionally motivated to do.
So that’s an anxiety trigger that’s related to the present.
Number 3: Fear about the future triggers anxiety
The third (and this is probably the most popular belief out there) is that fear of the future triggers anxiety, and this is true.
A lot of worry symptoms are based on fears for the future.
There’s two things that I just want to say here.
One is, past behavior is usually what determines future behavior.
And when I say behavior, I mean reactions, emotional reactions and actions and behavior that don’t really have much logic to them.
So, if you’re feeling triggered by worry for what’s going to happen in the future, that’s usually because of a lesson that you’ve learned in the past.
You’ve learned that worry is a way of processing the possibility of what might happen in the future and it’s this belief that you need to have control everything in your life that really feeds into the worry.
The truth is you don’t have complete control of your life, and this triggers anxiety.
Even when you feel like you have complete control, you actually don’t.
You just have a feeling of complete control.
So, the much better way to handle is it just to say:
“Look, I’m resilient and I am able to handle whatever life throws at me. It’s not necessary for me to have control over every outcome at every point in my life. It’s not necessary for me to be able to predict what might happen in the future and what my possible reactions might be, it’s not necessary for that because no matter what happens, I can cope. I will be okay.”
And that’s true, that’s absolute truth.
The second truth about why the fear of the future triggers anxiety is:
Your will always feel the most uncomfortable right now – here, in the present.Even when you are reliving traumas from the past or are worrying about the future, here right now is where you’re experiencing life, and is where you’re going to be feeling your pain.
So, worrying about the future is not something that you need to do, it’s not necessary.
It’s something that your brain will automatically do anyway that you don’t need to think about it.
You don’t need to make sure that you worry and that’s a pattern that unfortunately, many people have taught themselves that in order to try and have control over what’s coming up, they need to worry about it and think of every possible outcome.
So that’s from behavior rooted in the past.
So, as you can see, memories from the past and feeling out of control in the present and worries about the future have this thread that kind of weaves through them, which triggers anxiety.
The anxiety will go from the past into the present and your mind dwelling to the future and then it will come back into the present back into the past again. And so often, this is underlying and you don’t even realize that it’s happening. All you know is that you feel completely wigged out and out of control.
The key is to learn to become present in the moment
Really grab yourself where the anxiety has you – which is now, right now, which is in the here and now.
I have a free panic self-help meditation, and you listen to it while you are having the panic attack and it counts you from 20 down to 1 and by the time you get to one, your panic attack is finished.
That panic attack is done, it cannot come back and it cannot hurt you again and you listen to it with each and every panic attack and you teach yourself a really useful tool to be able to get yourself out of panic attacks if and when they hit which is always in the present.
No matter where the anchor is that triggers anxiety – past, present or future – where panic gets you is always in the here and now.
So, that’s really important to think about. Do go and download my panic self-help meditation. It will really help you.
Love + light