Are you feeling like your anxiety has been getting worse lately? From the worries that keep us up all night to the panic attacks that can occur without warning, living with anxiety can feel like navigating a minefield. But did you know there are certain habits we do every day that make our anxieties worse?
Today I’m here to share 15 habits that could be contributing to greater levels of anxiety and what simple actions we can take toward reclaiming control over them. So if any sound familiar perhaps it’s time to think about how we can break them and start on the path towards overcoming our anxieties.
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15 Common Habits That Make Anxiety Worse:
So, if you are looking for a way to manage your anxiety and improve your life, start by breaking some of these bad habits. You will likely see an improvement in your symptoms almost immediately! If you find that you are struggling with any of these or have other bad habits that contribute to your anxiety, please reach out for help!
1. Drinking Too Much Caffeine
Taking in too much of your favourite caffeinated beverage can be a tough habit to break, but it may be the key to calming anxious feelings. Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine stimulates the nervous system, leading to higher levels of anxiety. This is because the body begins to rely heavily on caffeine as a source of energy and becomes dependent on it for normalcy.
Additionally, drinking too much caffeine can cause jitteriness, palpitations, sweatiness and overall feelings of being overwhelmed which are certainly not conducive to living life feeling at ease! Caffeine can also interfere with medication used to treat anxiety, making symptoms worse!
But don’t worry, cutting back doesn’t have to mean an end to your daily cup of joe! Instead, try swapping out your more potent beverages for more moderate alternatives like Earl Grey tea or freshly brewed kombucha. With just one small change, you could be well on your way towards reducing anxiety levels!
2. Not Drinking Enough Water
We all know dehydration isn’t good for our health, but did you know that it can also have an impact on our mental well-being? Our bodies are made up largely of water, and dehydration can affect us in more ways than we may realize, leaving us feeling anxious and out of sorts.
Studies have found a link between dehydration and increased anxiety levels due to dehydration prompting the release of hormones such as cortisol, which are known to make us feel overwhelmed and trigger those feelings of worry that can quickly escalate into full-blown panic attacks! It’s just one more reason why it’s so important to be mindful of your hydration levels, especially during these uncertain times when our minds can often feel overloaded from everyday life.
3. Over Scheduling Yourself
Our modern lives are full of hustle and bustle, multiplied tenfold by the need to stay connected with technology. Yet juggling too many tasks and priorities daily can be an exhausting endeavour that leads to dehydration, mental fatigue, and yes, even anxiety.
It’s easy to see why we think making our calendars as jam-packed as possible might be beneficial, but in reality, scheduling too much takes away valuable downtime that not only allows us to rest but also gives us time to process emotions which can prevent feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed out. So why not take advantage of this fact and take a step back, reevaluate our schedules and make sure we’re allowing ourselves a healthy balance between work and play, because, believe it or not, less really can be more!
4. Running Late All The Time
Being late to anything can be very stressful, reducing your control of the situation and making you feel like a nuisance. Unfortunately, running late all the time can inevitably lead to long-term anxiety disorders.
The physical impacts of pulling off a last-minute dash to make it just in time are real: dehydration, increased heart rate and elevated cortisol levels. Not only is this detrimental to our overall health, but being “on edge” like this all the time puts us at risk for even bigger issues down the line if we don’t take steps to remedy our behaviour.
The key is to make a conscious effort as early as possible: prioritize your day-to-day tasks and plan whenever you can. That way you can give yourself extra time when needed without putting yourself, or other people, under too much pressure.
5. Checking The Time During The Night
If you ever find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night, then you probably know the struggle of not wanting to look at the clock. It almost seems like that moment can make or break your entire night’s sleep; one wrong glance can be enough to send us into a state of panic, worry, and overall anxiety as we desperately try to remember if it’s too late or too early.
The fact is, checking the time when we suddenly wake up during the night can bring on intense feelings of distress because our minds ruminate about the amount of sleep that was obtained thus far and our troubles over how much sleep is left until morning. Checking the clock does nothing but ratchet up these negative emotions, and can prove to be a slippery slope towards yet another restless night.
This negative spiral can leave us feeling anxious and unable to go back to sleep. To lessen this anxiousness, try doing activities that help you fall back asleep, such as deep breathing or meditation. Additionally, closing your eyes and wishing yourself positive thoughts such as “I will feel well-rested in the morning” may help ease any stress that comes from seeing the time late at night.
6. Watching The News All The Time
For those of us who are constantly tuned into the 24/7 news cycle, we may not be aware that what we’re seeing and hearing could hurt our mental health. It’s never been easier or more tempting to watch the news all day long, as modern technology gives us access to current affairs anywhere at any time.
However, it’s important to realize that being exposed to constant news can lead to anxiety. This is because the news often centres around negative stories about natural disasters, global tensions, crime reports and upsetting events that can be difficult for some of us to process. There is an overload of information which can cause feelings of helplessness and amplify feelings of stress and alarm. Although staying informed is important, it should be done in a balanced way so you don’t fall into an unhealthy habit of watching too much negative content that can take an emotional toll.
7. Being Too Easily Accessible
There’s no doubt that technology has vastly improved what it means to be accessible. It’s easier than ever to reach out and connect with people, but this 24/7 connectivity can wreak havoc on our mental health.
Being in a constant “on-call” state of response puts us in situations where we feel the pressure to be available at any moment, and that can take a toll. Studies have shown how this type of stress can lead to sleep issues, and burnout, and exacerbate anxiety for those who are prone to it or even those who were previously unaffected. As convenient as it is to be constantly connected, you must prioritize your energy and maximize off-the-grid moments to protect your well-being.
8. Having Negative Self-Talk
When we talk to ourselves, either internally or out loud, it’s easy to slip into negative self-talk. Thoughts like “I’m stupid”, “I can’t do this task” or “no one likes me” are frequently heard in our internal monologue, and as much as we may think these words don’t matter, they have a huge impact on our mental health. The constant repetition of these thoughts can cause us to feel anxious and overwhelmed, it’s no wonder when we convince ourselves that we’re not good enough!
It’s important to be aware of the language we use with ourselves and try to counter this cycle with positive affirmations such as “I am strong”, “I can do this with practice” or “people are drawn to my unique qualities”. These small changes will help boost your mental well-being significantly!
9. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can be a major struggle for many people, leading to decreased productivity, crankiness and fatigue during the day. Unfortunately, it can also lead to long-term mental health issues such as anxiety.
Not getting enough sleep means your body isn’t allowed to reset itself and recover from physical or intellectual stress inflicted upon it during the day, it needs that time to repair, which is why missing out on sleep contributes to feeling more anxious than usual. This is especially true when you are already prone to being anxious or struggling with mental health because lack of rest will only worsen those feelings and make them seem even more paralyzing than they did before.
If you think you’re not getting enough sleep, start by making simple modifications like setting dedicated shutdown times for devices (no late-night binges!), creating a consistent bedtime routine, eliminating caffeine in the afternoons and spending some time each day doing calming activities like reading or taking a walk.
10. Spending Too Much Time On Social Media
The smartphone has almost become an extra appendage, and with that naturally comes a roller coaster of emotions. Social media plays a large part in how we interact with each other, but when it becomes obsessive (checking our phones every five minutes) it can lead to higher levels of anxiety.
Obsessively scrolling through Instagram or other apps on our phones leads to comparison. We begin to compare ourselves to others, feel as if what they’re doing is better than our achievements and start feeling inadequate. Research has demonstrated this cycle is damaging and causes people to become increasingly anxious as they click through photo after photo being flooded with images they deem more attractive or exciting than their own lives, which can send the mind into a downward spiral.
It’s key for us to take breaks from our phones and make real-world connections too by socializing with friends or engaging in activities such as reading, exercising or writing, activities that let us appreciate who we are rather than forcing us into unhealthy comparisons with others via social media.
11. Poor Eating Habits
Poor eating habits can take a huge toll on our mental health, particularly when it comes to anxiety. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize how what we eat can affect our emotional well-being. From diets high in processed junk food and refined sugars to limited nutrition from fruits and vegetables, bad eating habits can lead to negative physical side effects that may also be connected to the onset of anxiety.
Deficiencies in vitamin B12, iron and magnesium, for example, have been linked to increased symptoms of anxiety and poor overall moods. Not only do we need good nutrition for our mental health but also for keeping up with everyday activities like working or studying. Fuelling our bodies with the right balance of macronutrients is just as important as getting adequate rest and exercise. Taking care of your body should be one of your top priorities not just for overall well-being but also if you find yourself struggling with symptoms of anxiety.
12. Sedentary Lifestyle
It’s no surprise that living a sedentary lifestyle can have a serious effect on our physical health, but it can also lead to certain mental health conditions such as anxiety. Studies show that those who lead inactive lives are more likely to suffer from depression, stress, and other forms of anxiety.
The key here is getting regular physical activity, even a brisk walk around the block to break up periods of inactivity can have a positive effect on our mental health. Physical activity raises levels of serotonin, which can naturally reduce psychological stressors. Thus, not only is exercise essential for physical health, it also plays an important role in your emotional well-being!
13. Consuming Too Much Alcohol
Have you ever noticed that after sipping one too many cocktails with the girls, you can’t seem to shake off the anxious feelings? That’s because consuming too much alcohol can lead to feelings of unease and dread.
High levels of alcohol cause your brain to release extra amounts of cortisol and epinephrine, the hormones associated with fear, worry and arousal. It also affects your circulating oxygen levels, resulting in increased heart rate, tension, trembling and even insomnia. This explains why alcoholics often grapple with crippling anxiety that can last hours after their drinking binges.
So if you’re looking to manage your anxiety symptoms instead of aggravating them, try keeping an eye on how much alcohol you’re consuming!
14. Comparing Yourself To Others
Comparing yourself to others can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can push you to go beyond what you thought was possible and give you a sense of motivation. But on the other, it can cause anxiety too. When we compare ourselves to those around us, we tend to focus on their strengths and successes rather than our own.
The more different the comparison, in terms of skills, traits or accomplishments, the higher the risk of feelings such as envy, inadequacy or frustration. This is especially true if you expect yourself to be in the same situation as your comparison, heightening feelings of stress and self-doubt that lead to anxiety.
When dealing with these comparisons and feelings, it’s important to take a step back and focus on your achievements. Better yet, get into the habit of being grateful for all that you have instead of what others may have that you don’t, this will help with reducing your levels of comparison-induced anxiety significantly!
15. Spending Too Much Time Alone
Experiencing a bit of solitary time can be good for everyone, allowing them to relax, reflect, and recharge. But there does come a point when too much alone time can start to have negative effects.
Research has shown that spending too much time in isolation can create anxiety, as it can cause one’s mind to become consumed with unhelpful thoughts and heightened levels of worry. Potentially serious if not taken seriously, it’s important to recognize the feeling of loneliness and address the root cause before it escalates into something more destructive.
It is perfectly normal to need some alone time once in a while but making sure it doesn’t overwhelm our lives is essential for mental health!
So, if you are looking for a way to manage your anxiety and improve your life, start by breaking some of these bad habits. You will likely see an improvement in your symptoms almost immediately! If you find that you are struggling with any of these or have other bad habits that contribute to your anxiety, please reach out for help. Many people want to support you on your journey to better mental health.