7 Lesser-Known Causes Of Anxiety (And How To Move Past Them)
Are you stuck thinking anxiety is in your genes? Think again. Anxiety can be caused by a huge range of issues — many of which are within your control. Here are seven causes of anxiety that often go undetected:
1. You're holding onto well-meaning advice.
As a child, you probably heard the same cautionary phrases over and over again: "Never talk to strangers," "better safe than sorry," etc. This well-meaning advice often stays with us and dictates our lives as adults. Sometimes, it can cause us to become overly cautious and too focused on danger.
Have a think about any phrases you were told as a child and consider how they could be negatively affecting you now. Once you've identified these, rephrase or rewrite them so they're more positive. For example, you could write, "life is an adventure" instead of "always be careful." Remind yourself of these new, constructive phrases to ensure they become beliefs that truly help guide you through life.
Anxious thoughts can appear out of nowhere and quickly spiral out of control.
2. You have negativity bias.
Anxious people tend to dwell on problems more than people who don't have anxiety. This bias can cause them to focus excessively on negative things, making it impossible for them to feel calm and content.
One way to reverse this trend is by establishing a daily gratitude practice. Every morning, make a list of three things you're grateful for in your life, three things that went well yesterday, and three things that you're looking forward to today. Completing this exercise not only gives you a mood boost, it actually trains your mind to look for more positive things in your everyday life.
3. You believe all your thoughts.
Anxious thoughts can appear out of nowhere and quickly spiral out of control. When we believe all of our thoughts to be true, the mind can be a scary place. If you have the thought that you're not good enough and you believe it to be true, it could trigger horrible feelings of shame and embarrassment and hold you back from pursuing life's opportunities.
Though we don't have much of a say over the thoughts that pop into our minds, we do have control over how we respond to them. If we recognize that our thoughts are just mental reflexes, we can let them go before they get too powerful. Remind yourself that a thought is just a thought, not a fact, and let it go before it can influence your feelings and behaviors.
4. You're up in your own head.
When we're anxious, the mind is a whirring mass of overactivity and it's hard to switch off or think straight. A simple way to calm the mind is by bringing awareness into your body. According to the Greater Good from the University of Berkeley, connecting with the body can help tune out distractions and observe thoughts and feelings. The next time you find yourself getting anxious, try focusing on how your feet or arms are feeling instead.
5. You're running on empty.
Self-care often takes a backseat to more "pressing" responsibilities like work or child care. But many people don't realize that when our brains aren't given time to recharge and rest, we can't perform at our best.
We often think that taking time for ourselves is selfish, but the opposite is true. If you're tired and stressed, you're not going to be bringing your A game at work. Similarly, being anxious and exhausted with the kids means you can't be there for them in the way you'd like to. When you take care of yourself, everyone else in your life benefits too.
Schedule some much-deserved self-care into your daily routine and make sure you stick to it. Self-care practices could include taking time for a yoga or exercise class, enjoying a long bath, or going on a walk out in nature.
6. You're beating yourself up.
Many of us are simply not aware of the way we speak to ourselves, but our inner monologue holds great importance. A study by Dr Kristen Neff, an expert on self-compassion, found that when we're kind to ourselves, we're less likely to feel anxious.
Today, try to take note of the way you're speaking to yourself and put it through the "friend filter." Ask yourself, "Would I speak to my best friend like this?" If the answer is no, work on changing your inner voice to one of kindness, support, and understanding. You're likely to feel less anxious and more motivated as a result.
Many of us are simply not aware of the way we speak to ourselves.
7. You underestimate yourself.
Anxious people tend to overestimate the size of problems and underestimate their ability to cope with them. In order to approach a hardship with confidence, remind yourself that you have already overcome your fair share of difficulties and gained valuable life experience because of it.
With a pen and a piece of paper, write down some of the challenges that you've overcome in the past. No matter how seemingly big or small, write them down. Then make a note of the valuable life experiences that you've had — perhaps being a parent or maintaining a fulfilling job. Finally, write down some insights that your life has taught you about the world and the people around you.
Recognize that this list adds up to make you a very capable, experienced, and competent person. With this knowledge, you're well-equipped to face the future with confidence.
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.