The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that slightly over 18 percent of adults (between the ages of 18 to 54) in the US suffer from anxiety disorders. In fact, this number is probably much higher since many people don’t get diagnosed or seek professional help.
Now more than ever before, people are extremely stressed out due to their hectic lifestyles and the rat race culture that they’re immersed in. Sooner or later, something’s got to give and anxiety creeps in and wreaks havoc mentally and emotionally.
In this article, we’ll look at 4 external triggers that cause anxiety. While meditation, mindfulness and a light hearted outlook on life is highly effective at battling anxiety, the food you eat and your habits could be adversely affecting you without you even realizing it. These need to be fixed too if you wish to manage your anxiety.
1. Lack of Sleep
The Dalai Lama once said, “Sleep is the best meditation.” Trying to get by on 4 or 5 hours of sleep daily is going to wear you down. You’ll not have enough rest and over time, you’ll experience sleep deprivation. It’ll be harder for you to concentrate and you’ll be more irritable.
This lack of sleep can lead to increased anxiety because you’ll constantly feel like you’re in a harried state with frazzled nerves. The average adult needs about 7 to 8 hours of good sleep every night. Ensure that you’re getting sufficient sleep.
The current trend of grinding and ‘hustling’ to make progress by burning the candle at both ends is often touted by self-help gurus as the be-all and end-all of achieving success. However, attempting to achieve success by sacrificing your sleep will wear you down and may cause you to have anxiety disorders.
This is one of the worst habits out there and should be eliminated at all cost regardless of whether you have anxiety or not. Many people smoke because they feel that it relaxes them and gives them time to think.
Yet, the moment they’re deprived of cigarettes for longer than they’re accustomed to, they get anxious and experience withdrawal symptoms. Tobacco merely creates an illusion of calmness.
Start on a plan to quit smoking and stick to it till you’re rid of this deadly habit. Smoking indirectly leads to anxiety and a myriad of other serious health problems. Nothing good ever came from being a smoker.
3. Caffeine Overload
While caffeine may seem relatively harmless, it can trigger panic and anxiety in people suffering from such disorders. Most people love their morning cuppa and can’t start the day without it. Yet, even small amounts of caffeine can make those prone to anxiety experience symptoms such as sweating, heightened arousal of the nervous system and they may even tense up physically.
Caffeine creeps into many foods from sodas to chocolates. It’s not just coffee or energy drinks that are culprits. Try and slowly wean yourself off caffeine. You’ll want to keep a food journal to track your consumption. What gets measured, gets managed.
4. Excessive Sugar and a Poor Diet
Sugar is the cause of many health problems ranging from diabetes to the current obesity epidemic that is sweeping the United States and the rest of the world. Artificial sweeteners are no better and in fact, are more detrimental and toxic than sugar.
Sugar is also found in carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, white rice, etc. The body transforms the carbs into glucose and this will spike your blood sugar levels. Diabetes cases have skyrocketed around the world because of our heavy consumption of carbs and the high fructose corn syrup found in so many processed foods.
So, how does sugar and your diet affect your anxiety?
For starters, people who suffer from anxiety issues will experience a spike in their blood sugar levels when they eat foods containing sugar. They may feel nauseous and start perspiring. They may also experience shakiness, flushing and increased anxiety.
As for your diet, you are what you eat. Your brain requires chemicals to function optimally and those chemicals are produced from the nutrients in the food you eat. So, it goes without saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Give your body the proteins, healthy fats and good carbs that it requires so that your brain can be healthy.
Keep your eye on these 4 triggers and if you’re affected by any of them, you now know what to do. Breaking old habits is hard but it can be done. Do it gradually and you’ll find that you’re less prone to anxiety.
“A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.” – Mark Twain