How To Manage Common Anxiety Triggers

May 2024

If you have anxiety, chances are you don’t want to do anything that makes it worse or causes a panic attack. Common symptoms of a panic attack include sweaty palms, feeling like you can’t breathe, a tightening in your chest, or a racing heart. (By the way, these are also warning signs of a heart attack. So, it’s important to learn to tell the difference — and get medical help right away if you suspect the problem could be your heart.)

Left untreated, anxiety can get in the way of life. Treatment for anxiety — therapy, medication, or a combination of both — helps many people prevent or reduce symptoms of anxiety. Prevention also involves knowing and trying to control some common anxiety triggers.

More than 30% of people will experience anxiety at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety triggers differ from person to person. While you can’t control some causes of anxiety, such as genetics, there are some things you can.

Read through this list of common anxiety triggers and what you can do to control them, so you can live life to the fullest.

Too much caffeine

You may down a triple-shot latte to jump-start your day, but all that caffeine may trigger or worsen your anxiety. Caffeine increases your body’s levels of epinephrine — one of the hormones responsible for the flight-or-fight response. Caffeine also constricts your blood vessels, so too much can contribute to feelings of a racing or rapid heart.

Research finds that more than 480 mg of caffeine — the equivalent to five 8-ounce cups of coffee — can trigger panic attacks in people who have panic disorder.

What you can do. If caffeine makes you jittery, limit your consumption. Plus, it’s not just caffeinated beverages like coffee, teas, sodas, and energy drinks that you need to cut back on. Caffeine is also found in chocolate, packaged goods, and even some bottled vitamin water and over-the-counter pain medications. So, always read the label.


Many adults don’t get enough sleep. Sleeping problems and anxiety are a two-way street. Insomnia — trouble falling asleep or staying asleep — can make it more difficult for you to manage daily stress, which can worsen anxiety. Among people who have anxiety, an estimated 50% also have insomnia, according to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews.

What you can do. For optimal physical and mental health, adults need at least seven hours of quality sleep each night, according to guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. To tackle sleep problems, practice good sleep hygiene. This includes maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine four to six hours before bedtime, and shutting off electronics at least two hours before bedtime.

If you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. They can make sure you don’t have another medical condition that is causing your sleep issues.

External triggers

External triggers are situations or events that cause you to feel anxiety symptoms. Common external triggers of anxiety include:

  • Socializing with other people.
  • Giving a speech.
  • Taking a test.
  • Going through financial difficulties, such as losing a job.
  • Dealing with grief or the loss of a loved one.
  • Going through a major life change, such as becoming a parent or getting a divorce.
  • Getting a diagnosis of serious illness, such as cancer.

What you can do. Getting treatment from a mental health professional can help you tackle these external triggers. Deep breathing exercises may also help when you’re feeling overwhelmed in the moment, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Try “5-3-7” breathing: Breathe in slowly for 5 seconds. Hold the breath for 3 seconds. Exhale slowly for 7 seconds.

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