I used to think my anxiety was general anxiety and that made it incredibly difficult to identify my anxiety triggers. However, with the help of CBT and a process of elimination I came to the realisation that my anxiety was not general anxiety, it is social anxiety.
What is the Difference Between the These Two Types of Anxiety?
Well the NHS describes Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as “a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than 1 specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.”
Whereas Generalised Anxiety can be triggered by a variety of different things, Social Anxiety is more about social settings, social interactions and the fear of being judged or watched. Both types of anxiety can coexist with each other which could explain why when I became aware of my anxiety I felt that GAD best described the anxiety I was experiencing, however, I believe social anxiety is my main symptom of anxiety and has caused me to struggle to relax, and can mean my thoughts spiral and that is what makes it difficult to identify the triggers and cause of the anxiety I experienced.
Identifying Your Triggers
This can be difficult and uncomfortable to do because essentially you have to expose yourself to those triggers to figure out where they come from. This sounds a lot more intense than my experience has been, I mean there has been tears and feelings of hopelessness but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is empowering knowing that you know what is for you and what isn’t, to be in a position where you can say no to the things and people who bring you nothing but anxiety, worry and stress.
This time we have had to spend sitting with ourselves has been uncomfortable, even for someone like me who always loved my own company. Don’t get me wrong this time with myself hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my own company, it has just made me realise that I actually enjoyed controlling the time I spend with myself, I liked controlling what I did and what I didn’t have to think about. Being with myself has exposed me to some of the things I was doing that wasn’t allowing me to be the best version of myself. So yes, sitting with ourselves is uncomfortable but without those moments of solitude discomfort how do we be the become the best versions of ourselves?
So How Do You Even Identify Your Anxiety Triggers?
One of the ways to help identify your triggers is to eliminate any outside influences that can heighten your anxiety. Therapy helped me to think about the things I was doing that could be making my anxiety worse.
Think about your; caffeine intake, alcohol consumption, sleeping habits, day to day life, work environment, living arrangements etc.
You want to think about the things in your control, and the changes you can make today, could you cut down on your caffeine intake one coffee at a time? Could you go to bed an hour earlier tonight?
Do not stress yourself thinking about the long term just yet, because the short term changes we make today puts us in a better position to change things in our future. Eliminating these things can make it easier to identify what it is that is causing your anxiety to affect your day to day life.
Reflecting on our day or our interactions with people and making a physical or mental note when that worry and social anxiety arises is a great way to identify your triggers. Sometimes the uncomfortable conversations we have with people make you confront some of our suppressed emotions and feelings. We have to ask ourselves is it them or is it us and then act accordingly.
Think about; how you manage uncomfortable situations with others, do you speak up or stay quiet? How you feel about yourself when you are around certain people, do you feel good about yourself around these people? What was going on throughout your day, was there a particular moment you felt anxious?
It is uncomfortable to basically expose yourself to your triggers, as humans we are naturally drawn towards comfort and familiarity, so this whole process of identifying triggers is an uncomfortable one, but growth generally isn’t very comfortable, you are reshaping yourself, unlearning and learning, this is a process, one that takes time, patience and kindness, so always be kind to yourself.