20 Habits That Make Your Anxiety Worse from 20 Habits That Make Your Anxiety Worse
20 Habits That Make Your Anxiety Worse
Many Americans struggle with mental health dilemmas on a daily basis. While awareness of these conditions is ramping up, there are still many who are unaware of how to identify and treat what’s going on with their mental health. Anxiety, for instance, is excessively common, and seems to be on the rise. In America, current estimates show that at least 40 million adults struggle with anxiety at any given time.
But perhaps just as prevalent as the anxiety disorders themselves are the habits than may make symptoms worse. While many of the causes of the mental health condition are largely unavoidable (which you likely know if you do live with an anxiety disorder), there are certain factors that can amplify or exacerbate some symptoms. The difference between a manageable anxious feeling and a full-blown debilitating anxiety attack may be somewhat within your control. Avoiding triggers of symptoms is a good place to start. Without even realizing what can induce these symptoms, people often fall into habits that give them the worried, jittery, anxious thoughts they wish they could avoid.
Symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person. But common signals you might experience the condition include rapid breathing, nervousness, feelings of panic or doom, sweating, and trembling, among other uncomfortable experiences. To mitigate the effect of these symptoms on your life, try to steer clear of these 20 habits that may make them worse.
Always Checking Your Phone
Phones serve as tempting distractions from our daily lives, offering the promise of constant social interaction and stimulation. However, their effects might be more detrimental than beneficial. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have been shown to increase symptoms of anxiety and depression in those who use them. Even checking your email too often could have a harmful effect, according to a 2017 report by the American Psychological Association. The habit of constantly checking for notifications was associated with higher reported stress levels across the board.
People who experience anxiety are actually more likely to drink alcohol in general, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America — though that might not be the best thing for their mental health. A 2012 study showed that heavy alcohol use can actually change the wiring of your brain and make you more prone to experiencing symptoms of anxiety.
Coffee has its health benefits, but overdoing it could ramp up your anxious symptoms. Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning that it can increase heart rate and make people feel more alert. However, studies show the stimulant effects of caffeine can also make people with anxiety feel more restless and exhibit stronger symptoms. If you need a beverage with less caffeine, you might want to try one of these energizing alternatives to coffee in the morning.
Do you crave carbs when you’re sad? There could be some biological influence at play. According to the Mayo Clinic, carbohydrates are thought to increase the serotonin in your brain, easing anxiety and boosting your mood. Whole grains, such as quinoa, whole-wheat breads and pastas, and oatmeal, have essential nutrients that keep you energized throughout the day.
Eating a Low-Fat Diet
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as salmon, walnuts, and canola oil, have been shown in studies to reduce damaging inflammation and calm down symptoms of anxiety. If you don’t get enough of these healthy fats, you will likely feel the effects. Other reasons you should eat more fat? Fats help your heart, your brain, and numerous other organs in your body to function at their best.
Eating Too Few Calories
People sometimes underestimate the number of calories they really need in a day, especially when they’re calorie counting for the purpose of weight loss. But that’s a really bad idea, both for your physical and mental health. When you’re not eating enough, your body gets really stressed. In one famous study investigating the effects of a calorie-restricted diet, the repercussions of just one diet stretched to impact the remainder of participants’ lives, even sending one to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. While the specifics of these effects are still unclear, we do know that dieting worsens existing mental health conditions — including anxiety.
Getting Road Rage
Driving is definitely stressful — especially when you’re running late or running into a particularly nasty concentration of traffic. But getting angry about whatever incident you drove through won’t help. In fact, it will only serve to give you the physical symptoms of anger, such as an increased heart rate and muscle tension. These physical symptoms can actually end up making you more anxious after the fact.
Moderating your own negative self-talk can be tricky, especially in a society so prone to poor body image and worry. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking is essential for mitigating stress. There are some simple things you can do to improve your self-image. Try a few of those out and focus on fostering gratitude to brighten the monologue going on in your head.
Skipping the gym one day isn’t going to make much of a difference, and could actually be a good idea if your body is feeling sore or strained. However, if you’re skipping it every day, your mental health could start to pay a toll. Studies have shown that a lack of physical activity — such as, for example, sitting all day — can lead to an increase in feelings of anxiety. Luckily, you don’t have to work out intensely to mitigate these effects. Even low-intensity movement can make a drastic difference in your mood. Go for a walk after work or hop in the pool with your kids. Any movement, no matter how intense, is beneficial for balancing your stress hormones.
Not Drinking Enough Water
Many people don’t even realize it, but they fail to drink enough water every day. Think about it: Do you even know how much water you’re supposed to be drinking? If you don’t drink enough, a number of physical effects can happen. But dehydration can have effects on your mental health, too. Since dehydration ramps up your heart rate and can make you feel light-headed — both of which are symptoms of anxiety attacks — it can make people prone to panic attacks extra anxious.
Not Paying Bills on Time
Financial stress is a common trigger for people suffering from anxiety. By putting off paying your bills, you’re letting those stressors pile up. Find an organization system that works for you so that you don’t miss deadlines on important bills. They’re not fun to pay, but they’re even less fun to worry about while they remain unpaid.
Taking time to rest and regroup, whether it’s through meditation or taking time to laugh with friends, is crucial for managing anxiety. When you’re overcommitted, you’re less likely to have space for these rejuvenating activities. There are ways to fit mindfulness into even the busiest of schedules — but making sure you don’t overcommit and stress yourself out is a good habit to get into.
You might be procrastinating specifically because you’re feeling anxious — but seriously, putting off that stressful task is not going to make it go away. The only way to get rid of the anxiety your to-do list is giving you is to plow through it, one thing at a time. If you’re overwhelmed by the big picture of how much you need to get done, try compartmentalizing your to-do list into smaller, more manageable tasks. Every time you accomplish one, your brain actually will release a dose of dopamine, giving you a sense of achievement and fighting off those swirling anxieties.
It might be a great way for millennials to save some cash, but that’s about it. It’s not a great weight loss solution and it’s not a great habit for your mental health, either. Skipping meals can cause a dip in your blood sugar, which can crash your energy and your mood. It can also mess with your anxiety — make sure you eat consistent, nutritious meals throughout the day. If you’re too busy in the morning to make breakfast, try one of these on-the-go options.
Smoking cigarettes is a nasty habit for more reasons than one — cigarettes can affect your cancer risk, mess with your lung health, and put you at risk for tooth decay. But the substances in cigarettes can actually affect your mental health, as well. Though people often will reach for a smoke in a time of stress, this relaxing effect is temporary. In the long term, smoking is associated with increased anxiety and tension, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Spending All Day Inside
Sure, staying inside is nice and cozy, but you don’t want to overdo it. Sunlight has a large number of health benefits and is necessary to balance your circadian clock. According to research reported by Time, fresh air and sunlight can boost feelings of vitality, help you fall asleep better, and even mitigate symptoms of depression and anxiety. A little fresh air can do a whole lot of good!
Staying In Every Weekend
Especially if you’re someone who struggles with social anxiety, staying in can sound like a breath of fresh air. And going out to socialize? Well that must make anxiety worse, right? But that’s not always the case. No matter your levels of extroversion, isolation can make things worse. Social support has been proven to mitigate feelings of anxiety, and maintaining close relationships is a crucial component to anxiety treatment. Isolation, by contrast, only serves to leave you alone with your anxious thoughts — which may worsen your symptoms.
Staying Up Late
Night owl or not, you should be paying attention to your bedtime. Sleep and your mental health go hand in hand, and when you don’t get enough sleep, it can significantly worsen your depressive and anxious symptoms. One recent study showed that getting less than eight hours of sleep can worsen negative thoughts that lead to anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a lack of sleep can make anxiety worse — which then leads to a more difficult time falling and staying asleep. It’s a vicious cycle. Try to get those eight hours when you can.
Many types of drugs can have side effects that cause anxiety. Some of these drugs are necessary to take due to another medical condition — ADHD, for example, or asthma. For medications that otherwise improve your quality of life, it may be worth enduring a little extra anxiety. However, illegal drugs and unnecessary supplements don’t have many benefits to your overall wellness. Stop taking these immediately — and try and eradicate these other hidden sources of anxiety from your life, as well.