Taming the Anxiety Monster – Part 3
The first two parts of this blog series introduced you to a different way to approach anxiety. Part one focused on communicating that all anxiety inhibits cognitive functioning and productivity and how dismissing and judging your anxious self keeps you trapped in a constant anxiety cycle. Part two provided an education on how your various internal parts need to be acknowledged and soothed in order to attend to your protector parts and vulnerable parts in a more nurturing way. The final part of this blog series will wrap up by helping you understand five external factors that may be contributing to increased levels of anxiety.
- Caffeine Consumption
Caffeine is the most ingested stimulant in the world (2). Most people do not consume toxic amounts of caffeine; however, those prone to experiencing frequent nervousness may be experiencing higher levels of anxiety from caffeine consumption. In an older study of people with anxiety disorders, symptoms of anxiety improved by abstaining from caffeine and continued to experience relief after a six-month follow-up (1). In another older study, caffeine was found to increase anxiety, hostility, and psychotic symptoms (3). Take a moment to reflect: is your caffeine intake negatively impacting your overall well-being?
- Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol use disorders are often a co-occuring diagnosis with anxiety disorders (4). Many seek out substances to numb or relieve unwanted anxiety. It is not commonly understood that alcohol consumption can actually increase anxiety symptoms when the alcoholic substance leaves the body (4). When people with anxiety use alcohol to find relief from their symptoms, it can create a vicious cycle of chronic drinking to reduce anxiety which leads to increasing anxiety symptoms (5). Take a moment to reflect: is your alcohol consumption negatively impacting your overall well-being?
- Smartphone Usage
Smartphones are convenient for keeping us connected, accessing instant information, and helping us with productivity. These devices go with us everywhere; they sit in our pockets, purses, and night stands and are rarely outside of arm’s reach. However, the constant notifications create distractions and have the potential to keep us feeling anxious (6). All those unread texts messages, emails, and social media notifications cause us to feel like we have unfinished tasks and keep us in a state of unrest. Take a moment to reflect: is your smart phone usage negatively impacting your overall well-being?
- Lack of Quieting Yourself
“Quieting after both joyful and upsetting emotions is the strongest predictor of life-long mental health” (7). The absence of rest from emotions causes overwhelm and has the potential to increase anxiety (7). Learning to create a rhythm of experiencing emotions followed by moments of rest (or internal calm) can help you experience satisfaction and refreshment, instead of overwhelm and anxiety. Take a moment to reflect: is your inability to quiet negatively impacting your overall well-being?
- Not Taking Days Off
Learning to say no to work can be difficult in a culture focused on productivity. Even when we aren’t doing work we are paid for, we can fill up our days off with household chores and mental work. Dr. Caroline Leaf is a neuroscientist and expert in helping people learn how to live without mental overwhelm. Her podcasts and books repeatedly express the importance of taking a day off every seven days to give yourself a mental break. She highlights that a day off should include practicing doing nothing, disconnecting from technology and others, and setting boundaries (8). Take a moment to reflect: is overworking negatively impacting your overall well-being?
This three-part series on anxiety is a small introduction to the maladaptive nature of worry and how you can make internal and external changes to find relief from its debilitating effects. You don’t have to live the rest of your life with a mind that cannot stop racing, a body that won’t relax, and a daily experience that leaves you exhausted and overwhelmed. After reflecting on each of the five areas above, check-in one final time. If you answered “yes” to one or more of the questions, but you are unsure what to do next, reach out to a licensed counselor today.
- Bruce, M., & Lader, M. (1989). Caffeine abstention in the management of anxiety disorders. Psychological Medicine, 19(1), 211-214. doi:10.1017/S003329170001117X. Retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/caffeine-abstention-in-the-management-of-anxiety-disorders/F407459F72A69CA597EA3F8FDB6E6606
- Daly, J. W., Holmén, J., & Fredholm, B. B. (1998). Ar koffein beroendeframkallande? Världens mest nyttjade psykoaktiva substans påverkar samma delar av hjärnan som kokain [Is caffeine addictive? The most widely used psychoactive substance in the world affects same parts of the brain as cocaine]. Lakartidningen, 95(51-52), 5878–5883. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9889511/
- Winston, A., Hardwick, E., & Jaberi, N. (2005). Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(6), 432-439. doi:10.1192/apt.11.6.432
- Blaney D., Jackson A.K., Toy O., Fitzgerald A., Piechniczek-Buczek J. (2019) Substance-Induced Anxiety and Co-occurring Anxiety Disorders. In: Donovan A., Bird S. (eds) Substance Use and the Acute Psychiatric Patient. Current Clinical Psychiatry. Humana, Cham. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-23961-3_8.
- Kushner, M. G., Abrams, K. & Borchardt, C. (2000). The relationship between anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorders: A review of major perspectives and findings,
Clinical Psychology Review,
Vol. 20, Iss. 2,
Pgs 149-171. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-7358(99)00027-6
- Sohn, S.Y., Rees, P., Wildridge, B. et al. Prevalence of problematic smartphone usage and associated mental health outcomes amongst children and young people: a systematic review, meta-analysis and GRADE of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry 19, 356 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2350-x
- Coursey, C. (2016). Transforming Fellowship: 19 Brain Skills That Build Joyful Community. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House Inc.
- Retrieved from https://drleaf.com/blogs/news/why-do-we-feel-guilty-about-taking-breaks-how-to-take-the-most-affective-brain-breaks