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Diving into the root cause of your anxiety

Have you ever wondered how you can best support yourself through anxiety? and what may have contributed to your experience? Then this post is for you!

Like most things, there are a multitude of factors that can contribute to you experiencing anxiety. Some may be genetic, and many things may be environmental. Here we'll talk about many characteristics which can increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and are also things you can work on healing to begin regulating your nervous system. It's hard to create an exhaustive list, so this by no means includes every root cause, and it's also important to acknowledge that many of these may be contributing to your experience at the same time. Now lets dive in:


  1. TRAUMA - It can be easy to overlook signs of unresolved trauma from our childhood and from any period in our lives, especially when those traumatic experiences are 'little t' trauma. You may be wondering, what does little t trauma really mean? These are events that exceed our capacity to cope and cause a disruption in emotional functioning. These distressing events are not inherently life or bodily-integrity threatening, but perhaps better described as ego-threatening due to the individual left feeling notable helplessness. Some examples include: interpersonal conflict, big life changes, loss, financial difficulties, etc. This article from Psychology Today talks about the difference between Big T and little t traumas and how we can begin to work through them. These traumas can have an impact on how we live and how we function, and its valuable for us to work through what these may have looked like in our lives and begin to resolve some of those emotions we may have stored or may have repressed because we didn't have the tools to cope with it at that time.

2. PERFECTIONISM - Much of my experience with anxiety was created by the pressures I put on myself, and this can create a lot of anxiety for many. When our nervous system is dysregulated (often due to many factors) the pressures that we put on ourselves can often become too much. Perfectionism tries to tell us that we must give 110% at all times, and that everything must be perfect. This can go hand in hand with anxiety because both of them will try to control the uncontrollable, and will result increased stress and judgement when things do not go our way. If you resonate with signs of perfectionism, reframing could be incredibly helpful. When we re-write the narrative, we are better able to see a balance perspective and begin to deconstruct those perfectionist tendencies.


3. PEOPLE PLEASING - Another common factor that can lead to increased anxiety is people pleasing. There are many reasons for people pleasing including: fear of rejection, fear of judgement, fear of abandonment, the desire to fit in, the desire to feel loved, etc. These tendencies can often be rooted in our beliefs, and they may become part of who we are. Much like perfectionism, people pleasing can increase anxiety because we often neglect our own needs to meet the needs of others. Not only do we prioritize others needs, but we also completely ignore our own needs, boundaries, and mental health. People pleasing CAN be overcome when we begin working on the relationship with ourselves. Learning to love and value ourselves just as we are is vital, as well as placing boundaries that ensure our needs are being met too.


4. LIFESTYLE - As I've mentioned above, there are often many factors that contribute to our experience with anxiety, and lifestyle factors can often worsen these root causes. The three main lifestyle factors that highlight contribute to our experience with anxiety are: sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Sleep impacts our lives in more ways than we may even realize. There is lots of research to support that getting enough sleep every night can decrease your risk of many common medical conditions, and help as a protective factor against memory loss as we age. Ensuring we prioritize our sleep (the best we can!) can make all the difference. Exercise is another key building block - especially when it comes to anxiety. Anxiety is your body trying to protect itself, and often it can cause a ton of built up energy in your system. When we exercise, we can dissipate some of that built up energy and it can make us feel more calm and refreshed. Nutrition is another important topic, which I could probably write into a blog post of its own - but here I want to highlight the importance of being mindful around caffeine. Caffeine can cause us to feel more symptoms of anxiety, even if we aren't anxious in that moment. Now I totally understand if you're a big caffeine person, and its not about going cold turkey and never touching caffeine again, but it is about evaluating if coffee is serving you and how you can limit it, or switch the type of caffeine you're consuming to best support your needs.



5. MEDICAL FACTORS - This is a topic all on its own, but I do want to highlight that if you're newly experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it can be very important that you check in with your doctor and ensure nothing else is going on. Many hormonal conditions (such as hyperthyroidism) can mimic symptoms of anxiety and its important to rule those out. I also just want to highlight the impact that previous medical experiences can have on our mental health, especially medically traumatic events or chronic health conditions. These many begin to impact our mental health overtime or reduce our energy/motivation. Be mindful of your experiences and please reach out for help if you are in need.


All of these factors may impact our lives in one way or another, and the first step to understanding where your experience with anxiety may stem from or be influenced by is to be aware. I hope this helps you to reflect on how experiences may have influenced your experience with anxiety, and serves as a reminder that you CAN heal. Though we may not be able to change the past, we can make conscious effort to make steps toward healing now and into the future.


You are so strong, never forget that.


Sending love,

Carly



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