13 Sneaky Things in Your Home That Trigger Anxiety
Anxiety triggers aren't always easy to identify—if fact, they could be the ordinary things in your home that you would never suspect.
Home is supposed to be a safe space
Sadly, that's not true for everyone that suffers from anxiety—which is a sizable number of people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million people—that's almost one in five people. Women suffer more than men, and children aren't immune either. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25 percent of kids age 13 to 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common form of anxiety, but there are other types such as panic disorders, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Treatments vary depending on the disorder and individual but therapy, medication, self-care and avoiding triggers help. You're not alone—check out the 14 things only people with anxiety can understand.
Not everyone recognizes their triggers
"The things that make us anxious are different for each person," says therapist William Schroeder, LPC, co-director of Just Mind, a counseling service. "Some people may not even notice since these things get woven into day-to-day life." You might pick up on subtle things like the urge to eat or drink more or zone out. Or the trigger could produce a mild panic attack—a tightening of the stomach or back muscles, say, or your heart rate speeding up. For example, here are some silent signs of high functioning anxiety.
Your ex's clothing
Your ex's flannel shirt is still hanging on a hook in your closet, or her coffee mug sits in the cupboard. "It's not uncommon for a person to come in depressed, stressed, and anxious and they aren't sure what's causing it," says Schroeder. "Often our anxiety runs in the background and we aren't conscious of it." Items from past relationships can make you feel sad, depressed, or anxious. "Think about removing those items for a bit if they seem to be causing more negative associations than positive ones," suggests Schroeder.
A wristwatch or a clock may be a sneaky anxiety trigger because on most occasions we only look at it when we're preparing to go somewhere or already running late. "I have had some clients who are triggered by the clock; because they often run late the time causes them anxiety and shame. One suggestion I have for them is to use tools like LeaveNow. It's an app that allows them to see a countdown timer on their phone instead of the clock. It's more useful as it's tremendously concrete," says Schroeder. You may also want to try time management tips from highly productive people.
Showering is often the best part of our morning routine because we can relax and linger under the warm water. "Some clients don't like showering as it can be associated with the scramble to get ready for work," says Schroeder. "Anxious thoughts can flood their head as they think about their day instead of enjoying the activity of showering." Schroeder invites his clients to be more mindful of the physical sensations—warm water, steam, cleansing—to take the stress out of getting ready. Try shampoos or soaps with a new scent or even a new showerhead with different settings to create a new experience.
Stacks of bills and forms
"There is nothing worse than a desk that instantly reminds you of how overwhelmed you feel," says Schroeder. He suggests a reset: "It just means cleaning up and getting things organized in a way that makes you feel clean and prepared for the next day." Separate your bills and emails by urgency—the ones you have to deal with today, the next few days, and next week. "It helps to think about what your environment is like and the one or two steps you can take to improve it," adds Schroeder. Here are more tips for coping with anxiety.
Turn off notifications
Sure there are apps that can help you relax, like the Calm meditation app, or LeaveNow. But there are thousands of apps that come with a constant stream of notifications. All those pings are especially troublesome for people who have a heightened sensitivity to noise—you might not realize the notifications are making your existing symptoms worse. "I suggest people take the Marie Kondo approach to their apps and clean house and cut out those that don't bring them joy. Then cut out notifications as much as is possible," advises Schroeder.
We spend a lot of time on social media. Roughly a third of the people on social media spend more than 15 hours a week using the various sites, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Gazing at the highlight reels of other people's lives is a great way to make yours look miserable by comparison—and that can be a gateway to stress and anxiety. Schroeder advises taking regular breaks from social media while reminding yourself that people only tend to post their best life. Try more natural remedies for anxiety relief.
The wrong wall color
"Colors often are activating for people in a variety of ways," says Scott Allen, PsyD, a psychologist at the Just Mind counseling center. "In our waiting room at Just Mind, we actually removed items that were red because they triggered several clients," he says. "Pay attention to how different colors make you feel and read more about the science-backed secrets to creating a stress-free home.
The hum of fluorescent lights, a refrigerator motor winding up, a doorbell, or even a dog barking next door can prompt anxiety—though you might not be aware of it. "Notice those things that bother you and work to cut them down or out. Fluorescent lights can be turned off and replaced with softer—or brighter—lights, whichever reduces your anxiety. If the doorbell gives you goosebumps or uneasiness, says Schroeder, he recommends Ring Doorbell (a home security product). "You can use it without a chime—your phone alerts you when someone's at the door."