Since I can recall, anxiety has been my constant companion, even if it is not welcome.
I have found that therapy, meditation, and self-help books are helpful in dealing with my thoughts racing and spiraling. But lately, I’ve noticed a sudden increase in anxiety at the same time every afternoon — no matter what I’m doing. This recurring anxiety spike happens when I’m working, spending time with my kids or relaxing on the weekends. Usually, it’s around 4-6 p.m.
My mood seems to plummet. Sometimes it’s accompanied by a racing heartbeat and an intense fight-or-flight feeling.It can feel like an overwhelming sense of fear, and I want to just curl up on my couch and forget it. Because it’s been happening so frequently I have begun to feel anxious thinking about this part of my day, trying not to schedule anything important during these hours, and just hoping to get through it.
If you have an anxiety disorder — which is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults every year — then you know what it’s like to feel debilitated by anxiety. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says people with anxiety disorders “frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.” And the American Psychological Association notes that those with anxiety disorders “usually have recurring intrusive thoughts.”
Why is this anxiety recurrent every day? And, more importantly, how can it be stopped?
Luckily, just because it’s common doesn’t mean you have to suffer. There are many options. many ways to cope with anxiety ―Even the one that happens every day at the exact same time for seemingly no apparent reason.
Recurrent anxiety: What is the cause?
Despite how annoying this particular anxiety issue can be, it isn’t exactly uncommonThis is a.
“Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry and nervousness that is often accompanied by physical symptoms of sweating, heart palpitations, stomach pains or nausea,” said Desreen Dudley, a licensed clinical psychologist for Teladoc. “Anxiety is often triggered by an upcoming event or an unknown outcome to a circumstance, in which a person worries about what to expect or anticipates a negative outcome, respectively.”
Because our brains can learn anxiety, “our bodies and brains often learn to react with anxiety at a certain time of day or in certain situations,” Dudley said. “For example, I treat many patients who experience onset anxiety in the morning when they get ready for work, especially if their job is a great deal of stress for them.”
It’s possible to condition ourselves to have anxiety at the same time every day, albeit subconsciously, added Suraji Wagage is a registered clinical psychologist who also serves as the director of The Wagage Clinic. Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness
“We are constantly making connections between seemingly unrelated stimuli each day, which can become ingrained associations,” Wagage said.
Insomnia can cause you to feel wide awake after you fall asleep. “Some patients have paired being in bed and being awake by repeating the experience of being awake in bed over and over, so now even if they are sleepy when they lie down, lying in bed actually elicits wakefulness,” Wagage explained.
The same goes for anxiety-provoking past events. We can also associate them with the present day. It could be after you have experienced trauma at a specific time in the past, or at certain times of the year or with certain weather conditions. You feel the same anxiety every day, or the weather forecast is the same.
Recurrent anxiety can be caused by a lack or distractions. That’s why it can crop up on the weekends or in the evenings.
“We often don’t have time to worry when our day is filled and busy, and anxiety can creep in when we have unstructured time,” Wagage said. “This is why many people report that they feel suddenly anxious at night when everything else is taken care of and it’s time for bed.”
Sanam Hafeez is a New York-based neuropsychologist who directs the Sanam Hafeez Center. Recurrent anxiety may also be an indication of generalized anxiety disorder. Comprehend the MindColumbia University, and as a Columbia University faculty member.
“Suppose your anxiety seems to increase at night,” Hafeez said. “In that case, the amount of caffeine you had during the day, medications and certain medical conditions can contribute to the increased anxiety at night.”
Stress, brain chemistry, genes, and stress are all factors that could contribute to anxiety recurring. “Even skipping meals, health issues, medications, or personal triggers that remind you of a traumatic event or bad memory can cause anxiety at the same time every day,” Hafeez added.
“Our bodies and brains often learn to react with anxiety at a certain time of day or in certain situations.”
Recurrent anxiety during the afternoon is a common occurrence
According to research, anxiety symptoms tend to be more severe in the afternoonOr evening in comparison to the morning.
Dudley suggests that anxiety levels peak in afternoons could be related to the time of day you are referring to.
“If your afternoons are usually filled with many tasks that need to be done — child care, transportation or afternoon meetings for work — you may subconsciously associate afternoon with a past or anticipated stressful event, which would trigger your anxiety around this same time of day,” she said.
After you’re triggered, your anxiety takes over. “Anxiety tends to have a cascading effect,” Wagage said. “First, even subconsciously, we pick up on something like our heart beating a bit faster for no particular reason, which then leads to a thought of ‘uh oh, something is wrong with me,’ which then leads our heart to beat even faster and sweating and shaking to start, which leads to even more catastrophic thoughts and so on.”
“This is to say that even if something very minor, or nothing in particular, triggers the initial anxiety symptom, anxiety can self-perpetuate into a spiral,” Wagage continued. “This spiral can then get paired with the time of day when it happened.”
Another possible reason could be a physiological trigger. This could mean that you are feeling more stressed in the afternoons. Or, it may be related to blood sugar drops.
“Some individuals may experience more stress or demands at a specific time of the day, or their glucose levels may fluctuate as the day progresses, which may trigger or exacerbate fatigue or mood and anxiety changes,” said Leela MagaviJohns Hopkins-trained regional medical director and psychiatrist Community Psychiatry MindPath Care Centers
Magavi suggested that feeling tired can trigger afternoon anxiety, especially if you have so many things to complete. Of course, “frequent rumination and negative thinking could worsen mood and energy,” Magavi noted.
Recurrent anxiety: How to conquer it or avoid it
Begin by researching. Over the next few weeks, collect as much information as you can about your recurring anxiety.
Wagage suggests that you ask these questions:
- When do you feel sudden anxiety most?
- What would your anxiety score on a scale from 0-10?
- Did you observe any physical sensations or thoughts that were associated with your anxiety, such as thoughts of worrying?
- When you were anxious, what did you do?
- Do you have any other contexts worth noting For example, did you have a bad night’s sleep the night before? What was your most stressful work day? When did you drink coffee? What medications did you use?
She said that even the act of observing your anxiety in this way “transforms the experience fundamentally.” Now, you are on the outside looking at your anxiety, which can “lessen the intensity of the emotion.”
The next step is to try changing the pattern. “Try being somewhere else at that time of day and doing something else, like watching a movie with a friend, taking a swim, or going for a hike,” Wagage said. “If the anxiety arises while doing this activity, practice recognizing it and then continuing what you were doing. Exercise may be particularly helpful because there is overlap between the physical sensations during and after exertion and anxiety — we can start to reinterpret these uncomfortable sensations as part of exercise rather than anxiety.”
One important thing to note: You shouldn’t try to avoid the anxiety. “Anxiety is part of life and challenging, fulfilling things often come with anxiety,” she said. “Rather, you want to be able to do the things that are meaningful without being held back by anxiety.”
Hafeez advised being present when anxiety strikes. “Be aware of the moment that you are in when these anxious thoughts appear,” she said. “Once you are aware of the present moment, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths into your low belly.”
“Learn to accept that not every thought signals a sensible reason to worry, and not every thought is true,” Hafeez continued. “Instead of believing the thought, arguing it, or trying to fix it, let the thought come, label it (such as ‘judgment’ or ‘worry’) and replace your negative thought with a positive one.”
It is also possible to determine what triggers your anxiety so that you can address it. For example, if you are “experiencing anxiety due to caffeine consumption, it may be helpful to dilute [your] coffee or switch to tea,” Magavi said.
If you “experience burnout around this time, it may be helpful to take a break to walk or stretch,” she added. “Healthy distractions can decrease the activity of the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain.”
Magavi advised listing all your successes, including the small wins, to help you stop ruminating about negative thoughts. She also said to repeat positive affirmations, write gratitude letters to yourself, visualize success, and imagine victories in order to “alleviate anticipatory anxiety and negate negative feelings associated with rumination.”
Also, you could set aside any time when you feel anxious, to read, rest, talk with your family, make lists, write, journal, pray or do arts. It is a great idea to seek help in these situations.
“Some of my patients schedule to see me during these recurrently stressful times,” Magavi said. “Scheduling an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist during these times could help pinpoint triggering and alleviating factors, and consequently, expedite the healing process.”