What causes anxiety and stress?
Triggers to Anxiety
Triggers are influenced by emotion, so when we are feeling more relaxed events don’t bother us as much. On the flip side, when we are struggling (e.g. in times of work-related stress, hangover, illness) small things can start to trouble us. We can have fears of objects like spiders, dogs, dirt, etc. However, fears can be more abstract such as a fear of the dark. Other abstract thoughts can be related to other people, of how we might come across to others in the future, e.g. thinking about a presentation or social situation in the future where we might look anxious. Bodily reactions of anxiety can become triggers, running up the stairs could get our heart rate up, and this can become a trigger to a thought “I am going to panic”, and that can be enough to set off anxiety.
Stress and Anxiety
Periods of high stress can raise our baseline anxiety, we would have all experienced occasions like this. If this is prolonged, we might start to dwell on there being something wrong with ourselves for feeling this way. When the events that caused the high stress resolve we can be left with the unhelpful thoughts, such as “I cannot cope”. Additionally, we can develop unhelpful ways of coping, such as taking precautions that become habits, e.g. avoiding certain situation or drinking. Elevated stressful periods can leave us with exaggerated coping mechanisms that previously worked before. Going on unchecked (or not updated) our precautions and strategies that are no longer needed can maintain an anxiety disorder, such as striving for perfection or worrying – in places and at times when the opposite may be needed.