Self-Care for When You Can't Avoid Anxiety Triggers
Self-care is a vital tool in reducing anxiety in general, and self-care becomes even more important when we can’t avoid our anxiety triggers (Triggers Can Make Anxiety and PTSD Flare Up). Anxiety triggers are those things—people, places, situations, or experiences—that increase the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety. Sometimes, avoiding triggers is helpful in managing anxiety; for example, if large groups of people make anxiety worse, it’s possible to manage that by meeting friends one-on-one rather than at a party. Other times, though, such a strategy isn’t possible. In times when you can’t avoid anxiety triggers, practicing self-care is incredibly helpful in dealing with anxiety.
Why Self-Care Helps When You Can’t Avoid Anxiety Triggers
Anxiety keeps us trapped in our head. With anxiety, we tend to overthink everything, over-analyzing our every move, thought, and feeling. Automatic negative thoughts kick in, and we are consumed by shoulds and shouldn’ts (I should be able to handle this; I shouldn’t have said that and so on), worries, what-ifs, and fears. The more our anxiety is triggered, the more we catastrophize (I’m the worst parent in the world and I’m ruining my kids’ lives) and engage in all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking (my boss has to think I’m perfect because if I make a mistake, she’ll fire me).
Many times, we can’t avoid our roles in life, even when these roles become anxiety triggers. To be sure, we do have control over our lives: for example, if a partner is impossible to live with we can end the relationship, or if a job is toxic we can seek new employment. A nasty trait of anxiety, however, is that it sticks with us and often follows us into a new relationship or a new job.
It’s a good thing that we can’t fully avoid all of our triggers, for doing so would be life-limiting. When anxiety and anxiety triggers beat us up, one of the best ways to counter anxiety is to pick ourselves back up, gently and kindly, though self-care (Why Self-Care is Important for Physical and Mental Health). Taking care of ourselves teaches us that we’re important and worthy. Self-care also nurtures the body and mind and strengthens us to stand up to anxiety. When we practice self-care when we can’t avoid anxiety triggers, we start to emerge from the trap keeping us imprisoned in our head.
How to Practice Self-Care When Anxiety Triggers Can’t be Avoided
Ways to take care of ourselves are seemingly endless. Any activity that calms the mind and nurtures the body is a form of self-care. Sipping hot tea while taking a bubble bath can be relaxing and anxiety-reducing; unfortunately, that’s not very practical when you’re sitting in the doctor’s office, at a work meeting, or standing on the sidelines cheering for your child’s team while surrounded by other parents.
Self-care is, indeed, possible in situations like these. These four tips will help you take care of yourself when you can’t avoid anxiety triggers:
- Know your boundaries and enforce them. In any anxiety-provoking situation, identify what you can and cannot tolerate. Focus on what you can do and the aspects that are good.
- Take care of your physical self. Having a water bottle with you will allow you to stay hydrated and reap physical and mental benefits. Avoid hunger, and fill your body with nutritious meals and snacks (Nutrition and Mental Health). Pack nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit, and other healthy and convenient foods to eat on the go. This will tame anxiety.
- Let yourself just be. Anxiety triggers can cause us to judge ourselves, and we often beat ourselves up. Adopting an attitude of acceptance of what is, of non-judgement, will help you tolerate those situations and people that trigger anxiety. Care for yourself by allowing yourself to be the way you are in the moment without beating yourself up.
- Practice mindfulness. Anxiety triggers pull us into the land of worries and fears, both real and imagined. When this happens, our attention and energy follow. Practicing mindfulness is a form of self-care that will keep you rooted in the moment despite anxiety triggers. Find something on which to focus and funnel your thoughts onto that rather than on the anxiety trigger.
Practicing self-care is an effective way to manage anxiety in the face of triggers. What do you do for self-care when you must face your anxiety triggers?
Peterson, T. (2016, November 3). Self-Care for When You Can't Avoid Anxiety Triggers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, March 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2016/11/self-care-for-when-you-cant-avoid-anxiety-triggers
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Nice list of 4. Definitely need to take care of mind and body. If you are not feeling good, then anxiety and depression have their 'haydays'. Must live in the moment; not in yesterday or tomorrow. I'll keep more aware of the anxiety triggers because when they happen they can last for hours and even days and weeks.