Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It’s future thinking in a negative way. While it’s normal to have concerns from time to time, chronic anxiety leads to loss of appetite, insomnia, compromised immunity and other diseases.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, is a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist, Teaching Faculty Member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, shares five common anxiety triggers and offers insights and tips for what we can do to get back into ease.
Once people hit 40, they feel as if the years are going quicker and the money is running out. They panic. They look at the math and it simply doesn’t add up to a life of abundance. They’re plagued with thoughts of an unknown future with medical expenses, costs for housing, food, and with every item added to the list, they get more and more anxious.
“Some people go into denial because they feel such an intense of fear. While it’s normal to want to shift your thinking, avoidance only leads to more anxiety,” explains Dr. Hafeez. She suggests settling the mind with information and action. “The more you know about your retirement goals and create a plan of action, the more you can include other family members, shift finances and get clarity on what’s real. Information combined with action will give a sense of control.”
2. Job Loss
Years ago, people would rebound faster from job loss. Within a month they would find another job often at a higher salary. Saving a bit of money as an “emergency fund” to keep up with expenses should there be a job loss was also a possibility. Times are very different now. These days people lose their job and it creates a complete upheaval in their lives. Finances are depleted and it could take months before getting another job and at times, people accept less money just to have a salary.
“I have patients with good careers anxious that there will be a cut back and they’ll be let go without any idea what to do next. This scarcity mindset leads to anxiety. I always remind them to explore other income generating options of interest to them currently so they don’t feel as if their well-being is solely determined by their employer. Anxiety is rooted in fear and this fear is quite common, unfortunately,” says Dr. Hafeez.
When you’re anxious about your health, it dominates your mind. “The worst part about health-related anxiety is that it makes you feel worse and prolongs any kind of recovery,” warns Dr. Hafeez. A lot of people make the mistake of researching different conditions online and self-diagnose. They get overwhelmed with all the possibilities of what may be. “The best thing to do is take control of your health by staying current with doctor visits, exercise, eat healthily and focus your attention on optimal health,” she advises.
Marital strife is a common cause for anxiety. “It’s very common for people who are going through divorce to lose weight due to anxiety and stress. Night anxiety is also common which is when you can fall asleep, but then suddenly awaken out of a sound sleep feeling sad, panicked, unable to go back to sleep,” Dr. Hafeez says. “When anxiety interferes with one’s ability to eat and sleep, consulting with a therapist can be helpful. Divorce is a major life event that radically changes one’s life. Depression and anxiety are common,” she adds.
5. Terrorism and Other Acts of Violence
We live in a very different world today. Unfortunately, every time we board an airplane, enter a shopping mall, go to a concert, the movies or send our kids to school, we get anxious. Terrorism is intended to make people fearful and anxious. What can we do?
“Again, anxiety is triggered by a loss of control. It’s rooted in a feeling of possible danger without warning. So be vigilant. Observe your surroundings. Report anything that seems suspicious. Put an emergency plan in place with family and loved ones. When triggered by anxiety ask, what do I need to know here? What can I control in this situation? Then do what you must to feel better and prepared,” recommends Dr. Hafeez.
The common thread here is to first acknowledge the feeling of anxiety, then assess the source of it, then access information and make an action plan to make you feel more in control.