7 Little Things You Don't Realize Cause Anxiety

by Brianna Wiest

I have a feeling historians will refer to this generation as either The Age of Anxiety or of Disconnected Connectedness — and the two have a lot to do with one another. We all seem to be suffering silently from a kind of apprehension nobody can quite place their finger on, and what we don't realize is that anxiety is what happens when we're disconnected from ourselves, in body, mind or spirit. It's what happens when we don't take care of our basic needs, or lack the emotional intelligence required to be able to navigate through our daily thoughts and interactions. It's what happens when we desperately try to resist an experience because we've associated an illogical outcome with it.

Getting through it isn't warding the feeling off forever. This isn't one of those "If you're going through hell, keep on going" situations. If we are ever going to help our anxiety, we need to be able to make conscious decisions to work toward facing it, listening to it, feeling it, and acting accordingly — and we can start here. The little things you didn't realize were the cause of your anxiety (and how to start taking care of yourself so they aren't anymore):

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Identifying With It

You've mistaken a bad feeling for a bad life; a bout of anxiety (even if it is recurring) as a sign that everything is falling to crap and you're a broken person with a broken life because of it. This is what happens when you identify with anything that is not your essential self. You can relieve your anxiety instantly by reminding yourself: "I am not my body, I am not my feelings, I am not my thoughts; I am the being that is in this body, experiences these feelings, hears these thoughts."

Not Spending Enough Time With People You Love

Socializing seems to be a thing of leisure these days, but it's an essential part of who we are as human beings. It's a basic need, not a luxury. In our minds, social media often takes the place of actual socialization — but it keeps us informed, not connected, and we need to feel connected to feel at peace. Try taking a few more weekends off to spend with family, call your grandparents, prioritize the people in your life as much as you do the things.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Being dehydrated will instantly make you tense up, especially if you drink coffee during the day. Dehydration interferes with proper brain/body function, which, in technical terms, sends you emotionally off the rails.

Lacking Structure

This one is more simple than it would seem: when you know what's coming and you know what to expect in your hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week life, your brain can turn off the "fear the unknown for survival" function. There's a reason people thrive in structure, and it's usually that: you're able to transcend your inherent apprehension to what you're unsure of, and can truly show up to whatever it is you're going to do. Not to mention when you anticipate a routine of positive things in your life, you mentally prepare for them (which helps with creativity and the like).

Being Bored Because You Have Too Much To Do

You know that weird thing that happens when you know you have a lot to do so all of a sudden you just decide not to do any of it at all? Yeah, that's a defense mechanism, and it's happening more often than you think. A lot of anxiety is rooted in simply being bored. But you're not actually bored — you're deflecting from what you need to be doing, numbing your life because you're afraid to face it (even things as simple as the mild discomfort of starting a project you're not wildly inspired about). Streamline, cut down, and create goals that are actually feasible. Think quality far beyond quantity. You'll be more mentally stable for it.

Having Low Blood Sugar

Your brain uses sugar (glucose) as fuel. If your levels are particularly low and/or drop too fast, it will trigger a “fight or flight” response that will send cortisol through your body to deal with the threat which, in this case, is low fuel. If you're worried about extra calories, try something healthy, like fruit.

Resisting Feeling Anxious

Most of the time anxiety is the result of not being able to merge our brains and our hearts. Essentially: we have an emotional experience that we can't make sense of, so we resist it. In that resistance, we suffer. We become hyper-sensitive to anything that may cause us to experience the emotion we're trying to avoid. Anxiety is what happens when you try to control the external factors that may lead to that outcome. The only way to win is to let yourself feel, which is how you allow it to pass.

Images: Giphy(5); nkashirin/Flickr(1)