It’s no surprise that there are now more recognized causes of anxiety than ever before – more and more people are being diagnosed with anxiety-related symptoms, or undergoing treatment for a debilitating anxiety condition. And it’s not just big issues that are causing us to become a ball of nerves, either, there’s a whole host of everyday causes. While therapy can help you to reduce the causes of anxiety, and learn to cope with the symptoms better, there’s something to be said for trying to avoid the triggers. Here are some of the most surprising causes you’ve probably never considered…
Bright colored icing and eye-catching sprinkles might make you twice as likely to reach for a doughnut or cupcake, but they aren’t doing your anxiety levels any good. Hundreds of people report feeling anxious and experiencing mood swings after consuming food additives such as aspartame, food coloring and dyes. There are even ongoing investigations to link these additives to conditions such as ADHD and autism in children. At the moment, it’s thought that these artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins which then disturb your nervous system, causing abnormal function, and symptoms of anxiety. This is thought to be one of the number one causes of anxiety right now.
Food sensitivities vary drastically in effect, from full-blown allergies that can be life-threatening to intolerances that cause headaches or digestive problems. But even the most mild sensitivity can cause anxiety and heavily influence your mood. Studies on gluten, chocolate, soy and dairy have shown that they can have a big impact on your hormone levels, and cause uncontrollable anxiousness. Try cutting them out one at a time to see what makes a difference to your mood.
Back in 2009, Tufts University conducted a study on athletes. They found that mildly dehydrated athletes regularly recorded feeling angry, tense, fatigued and confused – but these symptoms disappeared when the athletes rehydrated, and were recorded much less frequently when the athletes didn’t dehydrate. Repeats of the study have recorded the same verdict, so make sure you are drinking enough – it’s essential for the smooth-running of both your mind and your body.
When was the last time you skipped a meal? Most of us live hectic lives, and it can be just too easy to decide to use mealtimes for something else instead, or to lose your appetite if you are already feeling stressed. It seems it doesn’t do us any favors, though – skipping meals cause a drop in blood sugar, which causes symptoms of depression and irritability. Long term, this can cause some serious issues, along with other symptoms such as confusion, weakness and dizziness. Make sure you always eat something, even if you grab something to go.
You’ll probably be surprised to learn that there is a whole load of over-the-counter medicines that contain caffeine. Everything from migraine relief to decongestants, cough medications to weight-loss tablets are packed with the chemical, which increases the heart-rate and provides extra energy. Unfortunately, it’s also been linked with drastically increasing anxiety levels, especially when used long-term. And if you consider all those cups of coffee you have during the day, you are probably consuming far too much. Opt for caffeine-free medications when possible, cut down on coffee, and check out the side-effects of any other meds you take. Even herbal remedies such as St Johns Wort can increase those uneasy feelings.
If you are having a hard time, it can be tough to break the negative thinking cycle. Here’s the reason you should, though – negative thinking has been proven to have a long lasting effect on your emotional health. Automatic negative thoughts, or ANTs, are very quick, unconscious criticisms that the mind creates when stressed. They are rarely helpful, and can often lead to problems such as irritability, crying and depression. Once they’ve established themselves, they can be hard to fight, so try to cut down on them as much as possible, and seek out a good therapist if you need help. Once they are gone, your anxiety levels will be much lower.
Many smokers claim that their habit helps them to relax and calm down, and alcohol is much the same. It’s important to remember that these drugs are stimulants, though, and they don’t have a naturally calming effect on the body. Nicotine is proven to raise the heart rate and cause feelings of alarm, and smokers are three times more likely to suffer from panic attacks. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also found that most sufferers are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs to calm down, but frequently report feeling more stressed afterwards. Ditch them, and let your brain learn to calm your mind and body. These stimulants are the leading causes of anxiety attacks, so it’s well worth cutting down to see if they effect you.
There are plenty of other causes of anxiety, but these are the ones most people are shocked by – and that cause the worst anxiety effects. Try cutting these items out one at a time and recording how you feel throughout the day to see the real effect that they have on you – and remember to leave it a few days to let any chemicals leave your body. If your anxiety doesn’t improve, try seeing your GP. What is your biggest anxiety trigger? I’d love to know how you manage it!
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