As many of you know, I have experienced anxiety since childhood and I have done a lot to ease anxiety and find my own balance. The causes of anxiety can be different for everyone, but it’s worthwhile looking at what triggers us the most so we can change or amend our behaviour or lifestyle.
But first, what are the symptoms of anxiety?
Psychological symptoms of anxiety include worry, spinning thoughts and insomnia due to a racing mind. Anxiety can also affect the body – causing issues such as a racing heartbeat, nausea, headaches and muscle tension. These symptoms can easily be confused with hectic modern lifestyles, leaving many feeling ‘out of balance’ or ‘out of control’ without necessarily understanding why. This, coupled with a lack of day-to-day management options, results in many wading through life with little support.
For me, anxiety began in early childhood. I was an extra sensitive introverted child, shy and lacked confidence. Early on I watched my mother suffer with anxiety and I guess in many ways I saw her and believed that this world was something I should be worrying about. My core fears stemmed from learned behaviour initially, but advanced as life went on.
I was always a wanderer, a bit of an explorer and I think the earliest trace of when anxiety began was probably when I was about age 4. I was on holiday with my parents and grandparents at the time, somewhere in the Mediterranean, probably Spain and while my parents were by the pool with my grandfather I decided to go for a wander. An innocent exploration of my environment and also I thought I would go and look for my grandmother who had gone to her room in the hotel.
Now being 4, I had no idea about directions or where my grandmother’s room was, but I thought I would find it, so I wandered. I felt quite at ease for some time, but after a while I became little nervous as I got lost.
Little did I know during that time my parents and grandparents were running around the complex in a complete panic trying to find me and I think I wandered into a stranger’s room who asked me if I was okay.
A few minutes later my parents turned up, panicked, shouting and screaming at me and I think from this moment on I believed I couldn’t trust my instincts or the world, and a generalised panic started.
As time went on after a challenging experience on a school stage where I didn’t do something right according to the headmistress, she took me aside into her room and told me I had embarrassed the whole school. So, this reinforced my growing belief that I could not trust myself or people and a growing shame about who I was began. I guess from early on I carried the belief that I had to please other people, to get everything right, to be a perfectionist and it was best that I just didn’t take many risks in my life.
So the cause of my anxiety was triggered by the early traumas and escalated from those moments into adulthood.
Fast forward to my forties and while anxiety is still arising a lot, it’s more triggered by activities and choices that I make and life changes, but overall my anxiety has lessened considerably.
Like many people the ongoing causes of my anxiety have included the following:
- Working long hours to meet goals and deadlines. Those deadlines being outer and self-imposed pressures and worry that I cannot meet those deadlines. Working too much and not giving myself rest and time for reflection really heightens my own anxiety.
- Food and diet. I have discovered that if my diet is poor for a time that this can increase and sometimes cause anxiety also. If I eat too much gluten or dairy that can increase my anxiety, along with too much coffee. I also recently discovered that an intolerance to the sulphites in wine not only increase anxiety but have caused anxiety for me. I can be feeling quite calm and relaxed, but within a few hours of one glass of wine my heart beat has gone from a calm 70 beats per minute to nearly 100. This has caused me to have panic attacks during the night. So, diet can be a major factor when it comes to anxiety.
- Medication. I have never really taken medication over my life, but I know of many people who did not suffer with anxiety have found the cocktail of drugs often given to them by the medical profession has caused anxiety or has heightened already challenging anxious feelings.
- Financial Pressures. Worrying about the future can be really challenging. Money worries have been a big thing for me, wondering if I will be able to pay my rent and often taking me to the extreme of thinking that in the future I will be a homeless bag lady on the street. This is how extreme anxiety can feel.
- Losing someone close to you. Loss, be it from divorce, relationship breakdowns or death can be heart-breaking and the anxiety that comes from being left alone for the first time can make us feel hopeless, frightened for our safety and for some make them feel they can’t cope. My mother struggled to cope with every day things after my father died. He had taken care of the money side of things, paying bills and everything else. She used to be really anxious on the telephone, so sorting things out after he died was painful for her. The loss of someone can also cause anxiety that makes us feel worry about losing those we love in the here and now. After my father died I found it difficult to not believe that loved ones would leave so I tried to control my reality to stop people from leaving or dying. This put me in a constant state of anxiety and worry.
- Health Issues. If we become ill for any reason this can begin anxiety, even for those who never experienced anxiety before. Worrying about our own wellbeing can be really hard. My mum was diagnosed with cancer in late 2018 so this did not help her anxiety. It also increased my anxiety because I began worrying about her future and planning for her death. Even though she seemed to be coping well through chemotherapy, it didn’t stop the heightened anxiety that I felt from the fear of the future.
- Social Anxiety. Social anxiety was a biggy for me and it is still something I have to work through regularly. Fearing what people think of us can be a real drain on our energy, that it sometimes can feel too much of a risk to socialise, yet by avoiding socialising it ends up perpetuating the fears we have, unfortunately.
- New Experiences. For many people, we can have a generalised anxiety about trying anything new, be it from dating for the first time in a long while, to learning new skills or getting a new job. All of these bring up natural fears and anxiety, but for those of us with more intense and clinical anxiety it can be debilitating on many levels.
- Feeling lonely or isolated. If we have moved to a new place or we have lost those we love or fallen out with friends and family this can increase the symptoms we can feel from anxiety.
So as you can see, there are many causes of anxiety. Some of us experience many of the above reasons as to why we suffer, whereas others may have one like social anxiety, but none are easy and it’s important we find ways to manage our symptoms or find our own way to balance life activities that are more healthy and wholesome for us.
A good website to find out more about anxiety is Kalms where you can find tips and advice on how to spot anxiety.
What Safer Treatment Options Are The Best For Anxiety?
Like the causes, this can also vary. Everyone is unique and not everything will work for everyone. We all have different types of anxiety, we have different physiology and responses and while medication works for some, others wish to go down a more natural route, like me.
Mindfulness is very big in self-help circles and is becoming more well known across the world. It sounds a simple process but it takes practice. With mindfulness you begin to accept and allow what arises for you when anxiety comes up. You also become more grounded in your body by witnessing what is taking place for you emotionally, mentally and physically. There are many books on the topic if you want to try mindfulness for anxiety and there are also free courses and groups in countries worldwide.
The doctor Kelly Brogan talks about the link between depression and the gut. How often many of us, especially in the west, are highly inflamed because of the foods that we eat that aggravate the body and gut. The link between the brain and the gut has been discovered and so it stands to reason that changing the diet can have a knock-on effect on reducing the symptoms. I know it can be hard because when in the grip of depression or anxiety for example, we go for comfort foods, but often the very foods we eat increase the anxiety. As I said above gluten and dairy affected me a lot, along with excess sugar and beverages that aggravate my stomach and even go so far as to increase my heart rate. So looking at the diet is essential.
Aromatherapy for anxiety
It is great that aromatherapy is becoming well know in the way that it can help with mild anxiety.
Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, and other aroma compounds, with claims for improving psychological or physical well-being.WIKI
Food grade essential oils like that of Kalms Lavender capsules can be an excellent alternative to other methods for calming anxious feelings. We simply need to go out into nature and see how much simply smelling a rose or feeling the breeze of pine trees blow through the air on how much our sense of smell can change how we feel. Taking aromatherapy internally is still relatively new for me, but I know many who do this and have found significant shifts in how they are feeling with many different issues.
Psychological symptoms of anxiety include worry, spinning thoughts and insomnia due to a racing mind. Anxiety can also affect the body – causing issues such as a racing heartbeat, nausea, headaches and muscle tension. These symptoms can easily be confused with hectic modern lifestyles, leaving many feeling ‘out of balance’ or ‘out of control’ without necessarily understanding why. This, coupled with a lack of day to day management options, results in many wading through life with little support. ~ KALMS
And for the first time in the UK, there is an option to relieve the symptoms of mild anxiety with uniquely prepared, pharmaceutical quality lavender oil – in a one-a-day capsule available HERE.
Professor of Psychiatry Dr Siegfried Kasper, who was involved in a number of the clinical trials comments;
‘’This is a very exciting development for anxiety as the research demonstrates the unique lavender oil capsules not only reduce both physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety but also have a beneficial effect on health-related quality of life, without problems such as sedation, addiction or interaction with other medications’’
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is treatment option that I have opted for in the past. For anxiety this helped me when I was feeling a sense of moderate to serious anxiety. If I was in the middle of a panic attack, a few drops of CBD oil under my tongue really reduced the symptoms. It has been good quality CBD oil though, there are many manufacturers out there selling it cheaply, but the way it is processed is not great. So if you do decide to go down this route, research thoroughly. It has been studied for its potential role in treating many common health issues including anxiety, depression, acne and heart disease. It is something that needs to be tried to see if it is a treatment option for you. I always keep a bottle in my medicine cabinet for when life pressures become too much.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been a widely used therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
CBT addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves. As the name suggests, this involves two main components:
Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions, contribute to anxiety.
Behavior therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety. ~ HelpGuide
Hypnotherapy is one of those things that either works or it doesn’t for you. I have tried different types of hypnotherapy in the past and as someone who has experienced anxiety for a long time, my mind is very good at controlling my thoughts in a negative sense. I was very adept at not allowing anyone to give me suggestions, so general basic hypnotherapy did nothing for me, but someone who used a technique that called a confusion script helped my mind get so confused that I was able to take in new ways of thinking and being. I wouldn’t say it was perfect and worked completely, but it did help somewhat.
Listening To Music
I find certain types of music very soothing for anxiety, listening to something called Binaural beats has been very good to calm me when I am distressed.
My blog is my own online journey that I began to help me decipher and make sense of what was going on for me initially. I now do Facebook LIVES to process my feelings and also do a mental health podcast. This has helped me give a voice to the fears that I can feel or go through due to anxiety. You can also privately journal in a notebook, because sometimes getting how we feel down onto paper helps us objectify what is happening instead of drowning in the fear.
Choosing What’s Best For You
There are more ways of managing anxiety. I have listed just a few, so I would honestly say to simply try what you are drawn to. What works for some may not work for you and vice versa, but most important remember that you are not broken because you experience anxiety, but instead a highly sensitive human being who is sensitive to the world around them and within them.
Never let anyone have you believe that you need fixing or that you should just snap out of it, this is not how anxiety works. Quite often anxiety has been building over years for many of us, so it takes time and self-compassion to take the journey required to find our own inner peace and self-acceptance.
To help, Kalms have a great campaign going called #LiveLifeReady and have created an anxiety pack that could help you monitor your symptoms and keep a diary, along with tips for calming anxiety. The campaign encourages you to describe how you live your life with anxiety, using the hashtag #LIVELIFEREADY. This can range from listening to music, journaling, exercising, meditation and more. Click below to download the #LIVELIFEREADY Pack
If you want more support and advice regarding anxiety pop by Anxiety UK for further information.