15 unexpected, everyday things that can trigger your anxiety

Anxiety seems to be the mood of the age. When everyday stress builds over time, anxiety can tip beyond the red line and give rise to a range of mental illnesses. Anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias are some of the major illnesses that are triggered or alleviated by long-term anxiety. Apart from keeping the obvious enemy in check--stress--we need to watch out for the seemingly harmless foes that we entertain through the day. Here's a list of 15 everyday things that can trigger or aggravate your anxiety.

If you are struggling with anxiety or diagnosed with anxiety-related disorders, observe your lifestyle for a week and check if any of these triggers make you feel more anxious than others. They could be your primary triggers. 

1. Caffeine

Caffeine: I love you not. Source: Shutterstock

Some of us just can't survive our day or even be ready to greet it without our shot of caffeine. But coffee quite partial in its loyalty. Thanks to your caffeine gene CYP1A2. This determines how your body responds to coffee, tea, and other drinks with caffeine in it. If this gene is present in its quick-metabolizing version within you, your body takes in the good benefits of tea and coffee, but if this gene appears in its slow-metabolizing version, then, well let's just say you sip in a cup of anxiety every time you reach out to a caffeinated drink.

2. Sugar

Refined sugar is one of the primary culprits to trigger anxiety. Source: Youtube

Sugar has faced so much backlash recently that to add another reason to cut ties with it seems unnecessary. However, if you are struggling with anxiety, reducing sugar intake will go a long way in regulating your mood and how your symptoms respond to treatments. Sugar is made of those things that are the perfect fodder for the anxiety monster. Research reveals that the more sugar you have, especially refined sugar, the more anxiety-prone you become. Why? Inflammation.

Inflammation is how the body responds to injury. What we didn't know before but are clear about now is that this injury doesn’t have to be purely physical. Mental and emotional stress, pain, or trauma can cause inflammation, too.

3. Hormonal Imbalance

Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance. Source: DrLam

There is a reason women are more susceptible to heightened anxiety or panic attacks when they near their periods. Change in hormones can trigger strong emotional reactivity as is in the form of pre-menstrual symptoms. When this couples with imbalances caused by stress, the effects can be overwhelming.

Just before periods, there's an imbalance between estrogen metabolites, progesterone, and cortisol, which can make you more sensitive to triggers and stress.

4. Alcohol

Alcohol puts you at a high risk of anxiety disorder as it rewires the brain. Source: Pinterest

Alcohol is the first thing most folks turn to deal with anxiety and stress, but this has so many negative effects on the brain and the body that it isn't worth the initial buzz that numbs out the stress and pain. Research reveals that alcohol accelerates processes that worsen anxiety and also makes you less immune to other mental illnesses in the long run. Recent studies reveal that drinking alcohol can rewire your brain, which will take years to get back on to a healthier track.

5. Bad gut health

Leaky gut syndrome increases LPS bacteria and trigger anxiety. Source: Pinterest

Your gut and brain are so interlinked, it ain't funny. Your gut is called the second brain and is often more quick and intuitive in picking signs of danger and stress than your brain, probably due to how we evolved as a species. That's why we have that knotted feeling when something seems off but we don't know why exactly. Health problems like the leaky gut syndrome (intestinal hyperpermeability) can trigger anxiety. This is caused by higher LPS (lipopolysaccharide), which can cause inflammation and trigger anxiety. If you suffer from frequent bouts of anxiety, get yourself a health check to rule out medical factors.

6. Food sensitivity

Food sensitivity doesn't always come with evident reactions. Source: Nourish Balance Thrive

The foods you eat create your biochemistry. If you are sensitive to specific food, such as gluten or dairy, having these even in small portions can increase anxiety.  According to Functional Medicine Practitioner, William Cole, D.C., when patient's go off specific foods that they are specific to, their anxiety reduced drastically.

7. Nutrient deficiencies

Low levels of lithium, vitamins, and magnesium are linked to anxiety. Source: Self-care

Vitamin and mineral deficiency has become so common that we assume it's normal. We fail to acknowledge how much our body requires specific vitamins and minerals to function. well. Low levels of lithium, vitamin D, and magnesium are all associated with anxiety.

8. Inflammation

Inflammation in the brain reduces dopamine and causes anxiety. Source: Balancing Brain Chemistry with Peter Smith

Inflammation is a common factor in mental illnesses and other psycho-somatic symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, disassociation, etc. Inflammation is caused by and triggers a high level of NFkB. The lower the level of this protein complex, the lower the anxiety. Anything that increases inflammation in your body, increases your anxiety.

9. Viral infections

Autoimmune diseases and viral infections are linked to anxiety symptoms. Source: LinkedIn

Multiple studies have found a link between mental health issues (anxiety and depression) and viruses that trigger common infections. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) are the main culprits here. Make sure your immune system is strong enough to keep these infections at bay. These bad guys are associated with multiple autoimmune diseases, which can have major physical implications as well.

10. Blood sugar problems

Include foods that can naturally balance blood sugar. Source: HealthSite

How balanced are blood glucose level determines a large part of how good we feel. The brain can feel dips and spikes in blood sugar in the form of mood swings, fatigue, inability to focus etc. There are many organic ways in which you can balance your blood sugar. 

The other triggers of anxiety are what you allow to enter your system through your mind. While work stress, financial constraints, medical or mental health concern in the family, fights or disagreements in the family are common causes, there are invisible causes that can add to the problem.

11. Excessive thinking 

Use your alone time to indulge in your senses and relaxation, not just to reflect and think. Source: Shutterstock

Alone time is great, but the primary function is to get in touch with yourself, feel centered, and at peace. When people use the time they get alone to indulge in incessant thinking that is neither helpful nor functional, it can lead to anxiety. If you have the luxury of spending time alone, use it to do creative tasks like learning to play an instrument, paint, sketch, doodle, journal, work with your hands and engage your five senses as much as you can. You can bake, cook, swim, take a walk outside, play with your dog etc. All of these reduce stress. If you choose to think about your issues, worry about the past, or try to figure out ways to face your future, you are adding more stress to your life than you already have. Explore meditation; it's the key to intelligence beyond thinking.

12. Lack of goal setting and direction

Goal setting and achievement can fight anxiety when done with balance and awareness. Source: Shutterstock

Interestingly, being too goal-oriented can cause anxiety as much as lacking any kind of direction. When you don't set goals for yourself, you are more likely to have thoughts that go all over the place and have more time to worry about the uncertainty of life. While it is true that creativity doesn't need goals to spring forth, having goals channel creativity into art that can be seen and experienced. Even those who feel they are better off without goals cannot help but feel a fear about their future. Goals are good. And they can be anything: personal growth, completing a book, learning how to bake, more inward focused such as being more present or calm, becoming a better listener, taking your dog for a walk every day for a month.

13. News

Studies reveal that those who watch news regularly are more prone to anxiety. Source: Pinterest

Yup, now we know. The media industry thrives on triggering primitive emotions such as fear, sadness, and anger. The more sensational they can get, the more likely it is to mess with our mental health. Studies reveal that those who watch the news regularly showed much higher levels of stress and anxiety. A few experts have found that fearing a certain disease or illness due to media exposure actually increases the person's chance of acquiring the disease. Constant fear, even in small doses, isn't good for our immune system.

14. Skipping mental breaks or recess

Give your brain a break from cognitive tasks. Source: Shutterstock

Just like how your body needs to rest between two races, your mind needs to rest before two long mental runs. Sleep isn't enough to do this because your mind is still busy processing and filing away inputs that are lying excess from the day. Consciously make time for mental breaks during work, between tasks, at home, and even during a commute.

Switching between tabs to finish up work emails, checking tickets for a concert, finding the nearest cafe, and checking off to-do lists within a few minutes isn't something to be proud about. Give our brain a break and do things that require it to do nothing but chill. Anything that inspires the brain without overly stimulating is a good thing. Listening to calming music, reading a book that allows you to feel good, and indulging in your sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch is the best break you can give your brain.

15. Decision fatigue

Decision fatigue can lead to anxiety. Source: Shutterstock

This ties back to the previous topic. Having to make too many decisions in a day is NOT a good thing. Whether they be business decisions or deciding what to cook or wear, constantly indulging your brain to engage in cognitive and evaluating skills is exhausting. Plan a few things ahead so that your week is relaxed. Even simple things like deciding your meals, outfits, mode of transport, kids' schedules etc. makes your week whole lot more relaxed and enjoyable.

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About Author

Keerthana Panneer


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