Your question: Why do I get anxiety in the afternoon?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this article I will respond to why some people feel anxiety during the evening, or at some specific time of the day, proposing strategies to help you cope with the feeling of anxiety.

Experiencing anxiety is annoying and exhausting. An unpleasant experience that generates physical and psychological symptoms, but is nonetheless common and necessary to live with. Anxiety puts your body in a state of alert, it basically warns you that there is a threat, real or not, and prepares you to face it.

The problem is when your anxiety becomes recurrent and intense and diminishes your happiness and overall quality of life. When anxiety occurs at a specific time of the day it can be for several reasons, either because you associate this time of the day with something negative or because your body and mind are more stimulated at that time.

The evening is a time of day that means different things to many people. For some it is a period of work, for others a period of rest. Whatever your case may be, if you experience anxiety specifically in the afternoon there is something going on in your body that generates these symptoms.

Anxiety is common, even if it is intense and recurrent, it is something that happens constantly and does not have to define you as a person, and it has a solution. It is necessary that you first get to know your body and how anxiety works before you start applying strategies to improve.

It is a difficult process, but you are already taking the first step by seeking help to get better on your own.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s response to a real or imagined threat, which triggers both physical and emotional symptoms that are bothersome and distressing. Some of these are:

  • Tachycardia and duration
  • Intense fear or sadness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent worry
  • Fear of losing control
  • Desire to run away or escape from a situation
  • Muscle tension
  • Headache or stomach ache

Why do you feel anxious in the afternoon?

The truth is that anxiety does not ask for permission to appear in your life, it simply appears when it considers that there is something too stressful or threatening that you must face, and it overflows you with intense emotions and unpleasant physical symptoms.

Time perception and anxiety are closely related. One study showed that the feeling of anxiety makes people feel that time is passing faster(1), which in turn triggers more anxiety, as people feel that the activities or responsibilities they had to accomplish during the day fade away because of the state of anxiety.

The evening in particular is a period of the day that makes people feel stressed. In many jobs such as those related to customer service, the afternoon is the busiest time for work and customers. For stay-at-home parents, the afternoon is the most hectic time because children are most active.

Even if the afternoon is a time of rest for some people, the afternoon can generate anxiety because anxious thoughts accumulated during the day are presented at this time, generating excessive worry.

What can you do?

In any case, regardless of the time of day when anxiety occurs during the day, coping with anxiety is aimed at reducing both physical and psychological symptoms, and accepting anxiety as part of life, learning to differentiate when it is normal and necessary, and when it needs our attention to prevent it from damaging our mental health.

Write to understand your feelings

In a journal you can write down and specify exactly what you mean by “crazy”. It is important to learn to name our emotions to eventually work on them. In this document I attach a link to an image that shows a circle with different emotions. You can look at them and find one that gives a name to what you are feeling in an anxiety attack, and then we would be clearer where to work to improve.

Guided Imagery

In this exercise(2), in addition to inhaling and exhaling slowly, you will close your eyes, and visualize a scenario that generates calm and happiness, and distracts you from the negative thoughts that come with anxiety. It can be a beach, a mountainous landscape or even a pleasant memory. You will apply this when you start to feel the anxiety episode. This technique takes time and training, so don’t worry if you initially feel that it doesn’t work for you. 

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This technique(3) consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a specific moment. It is useful when you are experiencing a lot of physical agitation or you feel that you have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and find it difficult to control your emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Whether you are in your room, in a car or a public place, you can sit and practice this exercise in silence, breathing slowly as you do it as many times as you feel necessary to decrease the anxious symptoms.

In my experience…

Whether in the morning, afternoon or evening, anxiety, when it appears, sends you a kind of “message” regarding that period of the day in which it occurs recurrently. Very often, it is related to the fact that you spend a lot of activity and effort at this time of the day that is already taking its toll and wearing out your energies, generating anxiety as a response of alertness and fatigue.

Therefore, you must learn to identify what are the triggers of your anxiety in the course of the day, because learning to know yourself, you are taking the first step to build a stronger and more confident personality, dealing with anxiety in a more effective and functional way.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that you have the capacity to improve, although sometimes your mind makes you believe that you have no solution. It was a pleasure to write to you.

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