Most of us experience some kind of anxiety at some point in our lives and it can seem like it’s come about for no apparent reason. First of all, let's understand why we get anxious. Anxiety is caused by your brain seeing something as a threat and then prepares your body to deal with it.
As all of us are unique, we all may see different things as threats. For example, somebody may get anxious in a cinema because it is dark but loud. However, there are things that would be the same for a few of us. Below is a list of a few that seem to be common for a number of people.
Crowded Spaces - Being in an incredibly busy setting doesn’t feel like the safest place to be. There are people surrounding you and you aren’t completely free to move about how you want to. Once you notice that, you may start to feel overwhelmed or trapped which can lead to feeling anxious.
Work - There are a number of different things that can be stressful at work but it usually either falls down to the workload or the people. If you feel you have too much work to cope with, you may start to worry that your job is in jeopardy which would then leave you vulnerable financially. That’s why you may feel anxious at work, because although it’s not a physical threat, it impacts your life heavily. With people you may start to feel anxious because of conflicts or relationships that will impact your work life.
Social Situations - Many people experience social anxiety whether on a mild level or a severe one. I’m not a psychologist but in my experience, there can be a lot of pressure in social situations. People may judge you for how you look, talk and act which then makes us self-conscious and self-aware. We may also feel trapped with people as you cannot express yourself freely. Most of us censor ourselves on a daily basis in order to get other people happy and avoid an unpleasant situation. Although this isn’t a dangerous situation, your brain may perceive it as one as you aren’t relaxed and you feel the need to behave a certain way. If you don’t behave a certain way, then the outcome is unknown, which could be dangerous. A lot of people with social anxiety fear embarrassment, which is a very unpleasant feeling and one which your brain may tell your body to get away from a situation where there is a potential embarrassment.
Death Anxiety - Some people fear death, in fact a lot of people are probably worried about dying. Because of that, they may be on high alert for situations that could cause them to die. The sad truth is that we could die at any moment. Of course, with that knowledge, your brain may perceive any situation as life threatening and will deter you from being there. This can make it difficult for people to get out and about and enjoy their life.
Stage Fright - That would most likely fall into the category of being fearful of embarrassment. It is more intense though if you are performing to a number of people. When performing or giving a speech, you are subjecting yourself to the judgement of others which means there is a higher chance of embarrassment than being out shopping. You may also be worried about not doing your best, which could lead to a negative result (i.e. auditioning and then not getting the part).
Exam Anxiety - There is a lot of pressure on exams as they impact your future (especially if planning to continue through education). Although this isn’t life threatening, you are aware it impacts your life. Because of that pressure you can feel anxious as it can be considered a dangerous situation by your brain.
Driving Anxiety - There are many accidents that happen on a daily basis on the road. There is a lot of pressure when driving and it can be dangerous which is why some people may get anxious when they are driving.
Lifts - These are a common trigger for people, and can cause anxiety because of the fear of getting stuck. There a many films where people get stuck in a lift (elevator) and it’s quite possible. Being trapped in a confined space can trigger anxiety or even panic attacks as your brain perceives the threat as being trapped and out of control meaning you cannot get out whenever you need to.
I know that this might sound like a miserable list but it can be very helpful to understand where your anxiety comes from and what triggers it. Once you know your triggers, you can start to break down why it is a trigger for you. Is it being trapped, is it fear of embarrassment or is it something else entirely?
By understanding ourselves better, we can find ways to improve on it. We can make goals or plans to tackle our fears and hopefully overcome them to a point where we can enjoy life fully. Anxiety can be debilitating… but it doesn’t have to be.