What are anxiety attack triggers? Did you know what your triggers for anxiety are? Anxious people are highly sensitive. Things that other, less sensitive people wouldn’t even notice can really set us off. Not that it’s bad to be highly sensitive, but it is very important to identify these triggers so that we can take the best care of ourselves.
I’ve had anxiety ‘issues’ long enough that I can notice certain patterns. For example, I may have resolved panic attacks in a particular situation, and then when something changes that I’m sensitive about, the triggers come back. And with it, the dreaded anxiety and panic attacks…
This happened recently at one of my weekly Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon is a place where I go to work on changing myself so that I can be happy and serene no matter what is happening around me. If the people I love are in crisis, I can still be calm and reasonable, and yes, serene.
You would think an Al-Anon meeting would be the best place for someone with panic attacks right? But I’m telling you, there are 3 things about this meeting that make me really anxious. And all 3 of these anxiety attack triggers have to do with me being a very sensitive person.
Trigger #1. this particular meeting is lead by one of my best friends. Now as much as I love her, the fact that she is in the room bothers me. I know this is partly due to the fact that I have shared my deepest darkest serets about my anxiety with her. She doesn’t have an anxiety disorder or panic attacks, so on some level, I think she doesn’t understand me.
Complete bull! This is so distorted. She may not have social anxiety or panic disorder, but she certainly has lived through her share of trials and tribulations (including her mother’s cancer and her own serious health issues). In the end, I know my thinking is faulty and my friend loves me and doesn’t judge me. But when I am feeling sensitive, watch out. Just the fact that she is sitting in the meeting can make me really anxious.
Trigger #2. In this meeting, we go around the room and share one by one. No one is obligated to share, you can just say ‘pass’ if you wish. But this doesn’t matter. I feel myself starting to have symptoms of anxiety when the focus of the room is coming around to me. When the person right next to me is sharing with the group, my heart is racing and I’m starting to sweat. It’s as if I have prolonged performance anxiety.
Trigger #3. Room change. We recently had to change the location of this meeting from one room in a church to another room. The room it’s in now is large and open. We set up chairs in a large circle. I hate sitting in the circle. Especially because when I get anxious I feel off balance and feel I can literally fall out of my chair. I just liked having the meeting in the old room, where we were seated around a table.
So How Do I Deal With These Triggers?
The gift of having so many years of experience with panic attacks is that I know how long it takes for me to overcome triggers for anxiety, and I know exactly what to do.
I am NOT giving up my Al-Anon meeting because of these anxiety triggers. I continue to show up week after week, I practice my tools when I feel anxious, if I get close to a panic attack, I “float” through it a la Claire Weekes. If I actually have a panic attack, I do the Panic Away 21/7 technique.
I am starting to feel better 4 weeks after the room change. It takes 16-21 times of repeating something to make it a behavioral habit. So I know it will take this many meetings where I show up, sit in the circle, accept the situation, and float though my fears. And then I will be fine with it.
I am also listening to a short hypnosis mp3, Overcoming Agoraphobia, before I leave my house for the meeting. It reassures me that I’m safe.
I don’t think its bad to be highly sensitive. We have caring, giving, helping personalities, and that is a beautiful thing, yes? We just need to remember to give ourselves the same care and love that we give to others.
What triggers your panic attacks?
I wish you peace,