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You can think of anxiety as an alarm bell of sorts. It is warning us that a threat is present or looming. In humanity’s earliest days, more often than not, this alert system enabled our species to survive. However, for most people today, you can feel anxious for “no reason.” Of course, some dangers exist, and our hard-wired system remains essential.

That said, modern stressors and triggers are usually not life-threatening in that saber tooth tiger kind of way. This shift can make it tricky to discern your anxiety’s trigger. Even worse, you can be left wondering if there’s any trigger at all.

What Causes Anxiety?

In a literal sense, the answers are endless. There could be stress or trauma in your life. It could be related to your genetic makeup and/or brain chemistry. Genuine or imagined threats in your environment can play a role. Whatever the underlying reason, anxiety is a result of our sympathetic nervous system trying to protect us. We perceive a threat, and our bodies kick into action.

Woman sitting on a blue couch with her hands in prayer position looking very anxious | demonstrating how the sympathetic nervous system tries to protect us

But there’s a rub. Our sympathetic nervous system doesn’t know the Stone Age is over. When your brain commands it to get busy, it matters not if the threat is making a challenging phone call rather than being charged by a predator. This reality can contribute to a general sense of confused anxiety. In a way, you get stuck in the fight-or-flight response and cannot discern why.

Learning to Identify Anxiety Triggers

An important step toward addressing this situation is educating yourself on the possible anxiety triggers in your life. Here are some examples to get you started:

1. Triggers That Are Unique to You

Let’s start here. From your earliest memories to earlier today, you have your own personal history. Based on this experience, you become anxious for some pretty specific reasons. It might be a person, a smell, or a location. Learning to identify these individual triggers is a major step toward understanding your emotions, e.g., anxiety.

2. Your Physical Health

If you’ve got something going on medically or you’re worried about getting sick, do not underestimate how much this can create anxious thoughts. Not to mention, some of the medications you take for such conditions may also have anxiety as a side effect.

3. What You Consume (And How)

Certain things you consume (e.g., caffeine), by definition, are anxiety producers. The food and drink you consume keep your body fueled. If the quality of the fuel is poor, you increase the odds of feeling anxiety. Again, when you do not keep a regular eating schedule/routine, anxiety is more likely.

4. Specific Events

The answer might be more obvious than you imagine. You could be underestimating the power of a seemingly everyday event to cause anxiety. Consider any of the following:

William Oxley Thompson Library at The Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio | illustrating how you may study for a big test here that you may be feeling anxious about

  • Financial worries.
  • Large social events (social anxiety is very much a thing).

5. Negative Thought Patterns

Your inner monologue plays a huge role in your daily moods. These can fly below the radar. Criticizing and judging yourself creates fertile ground for chronic anxiety. Unfortunately, you can add to the cycle by feeling negative about yourself for getting anxious.

Suggestion: Keep a Journal to Manage Your Anxiety

Don’t leave things to chance. Get an old-fashioned notebook and pen, and monitor:

  • When you feel anxiety.
  • What you were doing right beforehand.
  • How you responded.
  • What methods do you use to calm yourself? (If you don’t have any, here are a few suggestions.)

Person at a table writing in a journal | demonstrating how journaling can be effective at calming anxiety symptoms

This practice can help eliminate some of the confusion related to anxiety. It will also come in handy during your therapy sessions!

Anxiety Therapy Columbus Ohio

Feeling a bit anxious at times can be a very typical response to life’s stressors, but many people who feel these symptoms on a regular basis do not seek treatment. If you think this is you, please contact us for professional help. Anxiety is treatable and manageable, and you’re not alone. Our therapists are here for you.