5 Surprising Things Fueling Your Anxiety
Have you ever woken up feeling great, but then somewhere along the way your mood just flips? Have you ever lost patience for seemingly no reason at all? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of some triggers you might never have thought of.
From increased blood pressure to digestive disturbances, stress can impact the body in myriad ways. But sometimes accurately identifying the cause of your anxiety is difficult.
Here are five ways you may be adding undue anxiety to your life, as well some solutions to help you carry on better, less stressful days.
1. The Anxiety Trigger: Putting Off Little Things
Not surprisingly, procrastination is number one on this list. Procrastination has been associated with “Criticism of Self and Behavior” (which is closely related to the Self-verification Theory) as well as “Achievement Difficulty.” In simpler terms, procrastination is usually results in people being overly critical of themselves and unable to achieve their goals; it’s a vicious cycle. But the worst thing about procrastination is that the anxieties associated with it are directed inward AND they add “to-dos” to your future, making it a toxic double whammy.
But procrastination goes much deeper than just putting off a task you’re not fond of (i.e. laundry). Many people put off things that ultimately impact the rest of their days, weeks, months and lives. Here are some common things people tend to put off that later cause them anxiety and undue stress:
- Buying household necessities: Shampoo, soap, detergent, coffee…etc. How many times have you said, “I think I have enough, so I’ll just get that next time I’m at the store?” You may often find that you need these items before you visit the store again and become frustrated with yourself for not being prepared. And there’s no double whammy worse than being frustrated with yourself and not having coffee in the morning.
- Getting gas
- Sending/scheduling payments
- Using the restroom (Sounds crazy? Happens all the time.)
The Solution: Unfortunately, they don’t sell procrastination shock bracelet. If they did, I would be their first customer. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do:
- There’s a great guided meditation mp3 by Andrew Johnson that many have had success with. (It’s also available via iTunes for a mobile or tablet device.)
- Two other books that might inspire you to kick your procrastination to the curb are How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age by Linda Sapadin and, my personal favorite, Getting Things Done by David Allen.
- Remember the feelings of frustration and anxiety from your past experiences with procrastination, and remind yourself of the last time you put something off and it only got worse. (And no… this time is not different.)
2. The Anxiety Trigger: Clutter
As I mentioned in a previous article, a cluttered home can lead to a cluttered mind. You may think that being surrounded by clutter, clothes and tchotchkes is just your “way in the world,” but it may be causing you deeply rooted stress, leaving you with a short fuse throughout the day and preventing you from reaching your true potential in terms of focus and creativity. Additionally, clutter typically leads to misplaced items, which can spark stress in a time of need.
The Solution: If you find yourself surrounded by clutter, day-in and day-out, you likely just haven’t developed a good system for organizing. While I’m typically opposed to the “out of sight, out of mind” school of thought, in this case, it’s perfect. Professional organizer, Courtney DiCarlo, advises that you spend a few days noting your habits: Where do you toss your things when you get home? Where do you tend to put your mail? Where do clothes end up after you change? Once you understand your habits, you can better set yourself up for anxiety-free success by strategically placing containers and catch-alls in those spaces to better organize your things. Some things that might be particularly helpful at reducing your stress are:
- Mail organizers (And please do not keep things you will never read or open. It will only lend to more clutter AND guilt.)
- A hair accessory organizer (This has cut my morning stress in half, which has helped cut my husband’s morning stress in half — it’s all connected.)
3. The Anxiety Trigger: Friends Who Complain a Lot
We’ve written about the stresses that accumulate when dealing with toxic friends — it can be miserable. Unfortunately, many people aren’t even aware that a negative friend or presence is at the root of their anxiety.
When you’re with a friend who excessively complains or speaks negatively about others frequently, it may make you feel like you need to compensate by being extra positive, talking them off the proverbial ledge. Additionally, it prevents you from being able to feel many of the emotions you may be feeling. It’s a stressful responsibility you’re forced to take on. And since this “positivity compensation” usually happens naturally, it can leave you stressed, anxious and unaware of where your anxieties are rooted.
The Solution: First and foremost, you have to accept that this friend is toxic, as much as you may love him or her. Some people are afraid to admit that a friend is toxic, as it may imply the relationship is in danger — but it’s not. (Or rather, it doesn’t have to be.) Accepting a friend’s toxicity simply allows you to flip a mental switch, so that you can better cope with a friend of this nature.
In some cases, this may include things like asking for separate checks upon sitting down to lunch or carefully selecting the setting in which you socialize — some friends are better in social groups and some are better one-on-one.
Judith Orloff, MD laid out a great plan for dealing with various type of toxic people in her article, How To Deal with Emotional Vampires. There are also some great books to read on this subject that may help you stay centered, such as Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships by Susan Shapiro Barash and Toxic People: 10 Ways of Dealing With People Who Make Your Life Miserable by Lillian Glass. (I just ordered my copy of the latter.)
4. The Anxiety Trigger: Running Late
“On time is 15 minutes late!” an old professor used to say to me. It’s annoyingly truthful. Tardiness is the anxiety trigger we’re all guilty of now and then.
The worst thing about “running late” is that it typically happens in the morning, setting a tone for your entire day that includes angst and feelings of being rushed — not fun.
Additionally, tardiness triggers emotions of disappointment and stress that are directed inward. It affects everything from how people perceive you to how you perceive yourself. Experts also say that chronic lateness is not necessarily associated with poor time management, like many believe. It’s often a characteristic or mindset that ought to be more closely explored.
The Solution: I’ve personally never been a fan of the “set your clock ahead” trick. In my eyes, all it promotes is further bargaining with yourself. Here are a few tricks from Lifehack.org that I think are brilliant for the chronically tardy:
- Don’t check your email or voicemail right before you leave: That “last quick check” will almost always take more time than you think. It can wait.
- Add time: Always add 25% to your time estimate to get anywhere or do any task. If you think it takes 30 minutes to get to work, give yourself 40. If you need 12 working hours to finish a proposal, give yourself 15.
- Don’t take take on too much: It’s okay to tell people no now and then, especially when saying yes is going to wear your time thin, cause you anxiety and later make you feel guilty for not getting everything done. This applies to everything from a neighbor asking for a favor to your significant other asking for ironing help in the morning. Check your timetable first.
- Plan ahead and prepare: If you mindlessly set things in obscure places while lost in thought (guilty), resulting in a maddening search at the last minute in the morning, gather your things the night before. (Do not procrastinate this.)
5. The Anxiety Trigger: What You’re Wearing
This may sound silly or shallow compared to the other “real problems” in your life, but in your day-to-day, the wrong attire can cause massive anxiety. Here are some common stress-triggering mistakes:
- Not dressing for the weather or only dressing for the weather: It’s hot, so naturally you may wear slacks and a short-sleeve top. But then later in a restaurant or office, you’re freezing (or hot) and unable to concentrate.
- Wearing clothes that are too tight: Sure you might need to lose a few pounds, but do you really need that stressful and self-deprecating reminder every time you sit down?
- Wearing shoes that hurt your feet: I’d say this is for our female audience only, but I know better.
The Solution: This may sound excruciatingly elementary but the solution is simply to plan ahead. Think about your day, where you’ll be and what you may be doing. Here’s a few things that help:
- Dress in layers or bring layers to add.
- Carry band-aids on you (in case your shoes act up).
- If your day is important DO NOT wear white.
- On that note, keep a Tide stick handy. (I have searched far and wide for an organic version of the Tide stick, to no avail. Hopefully you don’t have to use it frequently.)