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How to Calm Depression & Anxiety by Identifying Stressors That You Can and Can’t Control

Updated: May 5, 2023

Woman experiencing depression & anxiety sits on the couch hugging a pillow and staring out her window

How to calm your nerves by identifying your triggers

Key takeaways:

  • The modern world has lots of stressors

  • Identify your triggers to know what causes you depression & anxiety

  • Stress triggers can be external or internal

  • Make a list of your triggers

  • Pay attention to your body

  • Practice mindfulness techniques like meditation, journaling, walking, and yoga

In our modern world of constant social media scrolling and endless disturbing news feeds, it’s not surprising that so many of us feel anxious and depressed. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the U.S. affecting approximately 40 million people age 18 and over.

Depression and anxiety can be caused by much more than just the news and social media. Major life transitions like going through a divorce or breakup or surviving the death of a loved one can bring lots of stress and sadness. Even more mundane events such as bills piling up, a job interview, or arguing with your partner, though, can have a huge impact on your mental health if you don’t know how to calm your mind and chill.

We talk about identifying your stress triggers and present mindfulness techniques for calming the mind and body.

What we can and can’t control

When it comes to depression & anxiety, it’s important to recognize the factors that are in our control and those that aren’t. If you’ve been working too much and burnout is setting in, you can easily identify this as a stressor that you might choose to resolve by taking some time off or cutting back your hours to recharge. If you’re dealing with a less concrete and ongoing situation that makes you anxious, such as the pandemic or a challenge to some deeply held beliefs, then the causes of your stress might be slightly out of your control.

When the causes of depression & anxiety are out of our control, that’s when we most need to use techniques to calm our minds and nervous systems. If you can’t remove yourself from the anxious situation, you can at least employ some exercises that can help ease the stress.

How to identify your triggers

Identifying factors that trigger your anxiety will go a long way in helping you manage stress and calm your fears. Triggers can come in the form of internal stressors such as fears or phobias or external stressors like losing your job, going through a breakup, or experiencing change in your environment. Here are some ways to identify what causes your anxiety.

1. Make a list of situations that cause inner turmoil

Pay careful attention to the situations that are in your control versus those that are not. If a needy friend is draining your energy, you might tell him or her you’re only available during certain hours or days of the week. However, if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship or job, that’s not entirely in your control and we’ll discuss ways to take care of yourself while you’re dealing with that ongoing stressor.

2. Pay attention to your body’s response to events

Sometimes, our bodies respond to an event before our thinking mind does. If you’re in tune with your body, you might notice certain situations provoke a physical response. When we get nervous or anxious, we might experience:

  • A rapid heartbeat

  • Stomach problems or “butterflies”

  • Sweaty palms

  • Dizziness or shakiness

Make note of the environments, people, or issues in your life that bring on this kind of physical response. This can point the way to the root causes of anxiety.

Mindfulness techniques for managing depression & anxiety

When our stress triggers are ongoing or not totally controllable (financial concerns, grief, emotional trauma), it’s important to have techniques for calming the mind and finding moments of peace in the midst of a tumultuous situation.

Research shows that activities centered on mindfulness can have a huge impact on anxiety and stress levels. According to Healthline, “Mindfulness is about paying attention to daily life and the things we typically rush through. It’s about turning down the volume in your mind by coming back to the body.”

The more we can pay attention to the present moment and the sensations in our bodies as opposed to our racing thoughts, the less anxious we’re likely to feel. Here are some activities that cultivate mindfulness.

- Meditation

Some people feel intimidated by the thought of sitting still for too long. But, even a quick three-to-five-minute meditation is better than nothing at all. You can find a range of free, guided meditations online and there are also several apps that can walk you through the process. Simply taking a few deep breaths can also foster an immediate sense of calm and groundedness.

- Journaling

Many people find it helpful to write down their thoughts. Again, a few minutes at a time is better than nothing. If you can’t spare 30 minutes to write out your deepest emotions, start with just five minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing (writing down the first thing that pops into your head without editing yourself). You can also try keeping a gratitude journal by writing down three things you’re grateful for each day.

- Walking

Going for a walk can be a great way to destress. Moving your body and paying attention to the sights, sounds, and scents as you walk will get you out of your head and into the present moment. If you’re able to walk in nature, all the better. Studies show that being outside in a natural environment can have a calming effect on a person’s nervous system.

- Yoga

Yoga has been used for centuries for both its physical and mental health benefits. Yoga is about getting out of your head and paying attention to your body – and being patient with yourself as you progress. Attention is placed on the breath as you move through each pose, giving you an anchor to come back to if your mind starts to scatter.

Anxiety and depression may be common mental health issues, but they don’t have to control your life. By identifying your triggers and implementing mindfulness techniques, you can foster a sense of calm even amid the most trying situations.

Treating depression & anxiety

At the Love Discovery Institute, we offer helpful ways of drastically reducing anxiety and depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. If you’re ready to get started with therapy, make an appointment with one of our psychotherapists today. If you’re unsure of how we can help, call us at 305-605-5683.

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