Why Do Certain Situations Make Your Anxiety Worse?
Let’s face it. We’ve all struggled with anxiety at some point in time. However, there are certain situations that make anxiety worse for all of us. Maybe it’s having that conversation with your spouse or your boss. Maybe it’s driving in rush hour traffic. Maybe it’s going to the grocery store when you know it’s going to be crowded.
Whatever the trigger is that makes your anxiety worse, it’s important to know a few quick tricks to help ease the stress and anxiety in the moment. Yet, before we dive in, let’s talk about why certain situations make your anxiety worse.
Anxiety is simply your body’s physical response to a stressful event. Anxiety can have many different causes such as stress, body chemistry, traumatic events, and genetics. When you’re in a situation that feels scary to you, your body may take your fear about the outcome of a conversation or other event as a real threat.
For example, you may be nervous about having a conversation with your boss regarding your raise. You’re afraid that the conversation might not go well.
This is a rational concern. Yet, you know no matter the outcome of the conversation, you’re not in any physical danger. However, your brain doesn’t. Sometimes the chemical signals that are sent when you’re afraid or nervous can be misread by your brain and cause a more significant response than is needed.
For this example, you’re not in any physical danger. However, your fear triggers a very real response inside your brain so that your brain releases the same chemicals it would release if you were running from a bear. All your brain knows is “I’m not safe.”
When your brain has received the cues that “I’m not safe” it is it’s responsibility to get somewhere that is safe. Whether that’s helping the body to fight it’s way to safety or run to safety, the brain has to increase the energy available to the central organs that can provide safety to the body as a whole.
In order to bring calm back to the body and decrease anxiety, we have to remind the brain that it’s safe and all we’re doing is having a conversation. Even though that may be difficult at the time.
While the causes of anxiety may differ, the way we calm the body and subsequently the anxiety is the same. Here are five ways you can control your anxiety right now.
5 Ways You Can Control & Overcome Anxiety In High Pressure Situations
Number One: Acknowledge Your Anxiety
When you’re in a stressful situation or you feel your anxiety coming on, the best thing you can do is acknowledge what is happening. If you try to ignore it or just hope it will go away, it will be more difficult to control in the end.
The best thing is to acknowledge your anxiety as it comes on so you can take action right then to make it better.
Self awareness here is key. Take note of your breathing, your heart rate, and other factors so you can make sure your anxiety is getting better – not worse.
Number Two: Plan How To Bring Your Anxiety Down
Once you feel your body reacting in an anxious way, it’s now time to plan how you’re going to make the situation better and remind your brain that you are safe. Use your problem solving skills to see in what ways you can make your anxiety better.
If there’s nothing that you can do to decrease your anxiety in that second (like removing yourself from a situation) then make a plan for what steps you will take soon. For example, if you’re on a train and feeling anxious then make a plan to take a walk outside by yourself as soon as you get off the train. Slow your breathing and focus on how that walk will make you feel.
Number Three: Act To Decrease Your Anxiety
Now that you’ve made your plan, take action. Do the things that you know will decrease your anxiety. Take a walk outside. Take frequent breaks. Meditate. Go for a drive.
It’s important here to understand your body and what things help to decrease your anxiety. Listen to music you enjoy. Play fetch with your dog. Take a bath. Do whatever makes your body relax.
Number Four: Revitalize Your Body
Taking care of your physical body is crucial to keeping your anxiety in check.
Make sure that you’re getting enough rest, eating the right kinds of food for your body, and taking appropriate self care steps to ensure that you’re in good health. This is especially important when you know you’re facing a high stress situation.
For example, if you’ve got finals coming up, the last thing you want to do is to stay up late or eat a ton of sugar. The combination of a lack of sleep and sugar overload is the perfect recipe for anxiety.
When you know you’re facing a tough situation, make sure to get lots of rest and treat your body with care.
Number Five: Set Realistic Expectations
Be kind to yourself and give yourself the grace you need to make the best of the situation that you’re in. Don’t set absurd goals and then be frustrated with yourself when you’re unable to meet them.
Be realistic with your expectations and your goals. This will help to decrease your stress which will help you avoid anxiety altogether.
A Final Note…
Remember when you’re feeling anxious that your body is having a physical response to a perceived threat. Basically, your body is getting ready to either flee from the perceived threat or to stand and fight. This means your heart rate speeds up along with your breathing. Your body is getting ready for war.
To counteract that effect and bring anxiety under control, you must relax the body. Bring the heart rate down, relax the breathing, and remind your brain that you’re not in a situation where you will either have to fight or flee. You can use all five of these tips to do just that.
Controlling and overcoming anxiety is marathon not a sprint. Make sure to use these tips every single day to keep your anxiety at bay. Remember, there’s support out there to help you along your journey to complete health as well. You’re not in this alone.
If you’d like more support on your journey to overcoming anxiety or other issues, click here to send Dr. Fritz a message or click here to schedule a complimentary 15 minute consultation.