If you’ve noticed your anxiety is getting worse, you’re probably doing everything you can to find a way to make things better. Wondering how to reduce anxiety? The key may be taking a look at your habits.
There are habits that make anxiety worse. Avoiding those may help your condition tremendously. But recognizing these behaviors isn’t also easy. Some of them may seem like harmless things everyone does, but they can actually contribute to worsening anxiety.
If you aren’t quite sure if you’re struggling with this issue or you’re just experiencing ordinary levels of worry in your life, let’s ask a question: What does anxiety mean?
This condition is when you feel extremely worried or on edge about something, even if it is unlikely to happen. Your fears may be unreasonable and you may know that, but they are still real to you. You find yourself unable to relax.
What causes anxiety? Lots of things and they may be different for everyone. But some of the commons culprits are people, objects, thoughts, situations, health concerns, or locations.
Many of us know how to recognize signs we have an issue. What are the symptoms of anxiety? Things like nail-biting and pacing can reveal we’re panicked or stressed.
But there are also habits that can lead you down that path to anxiety. Here’s a list of things you might be doing to aggravate your condition.
- Negative self-talk.
- Staying indoors.
- Constantly checking your email or phone.
- Not sticking to a sleep schedule.
- Sitting too much.
- Avoiding exercise.
- Not hydrating enough.
- Eating too much junk food.
- Drinking alcohol.
- Drinking coffee.
You could be aggravating your issue by talking badly about yourself, whether it’s out loud or through random thoughts that pop in your head. You might tell yourself things like you’re crazy, not attractive or interesting enough to find a partner, that you’re a failure or any other thing that plays on your insecurities or fears.
The best way to banish the negative thoughts is by working on them and training yourself to think in a new way.
If your anxiety stems from being overweight and feeling people are always judging you, for instance, you can come up with a plan to lose a few pounds so you feel better about yourself. Or you can remind yourself that your body may not be perfect, but at least it is healthy. Sometimes reminding yourself of what you do have instead of what you don’t have can quiet that anxiety.
Are you the king or queen of procrastination? While you might think of it as a character flaw, it might point to a panic disorder.
Do you procrastinate everything in your life? Or do you just find yourself putting off certain things, like avoiding setting up doctor’s appointments that have you worried or refusing to look at your monthly budget?
You may be procrastinating because you don’t want to deal with what’s going on in your life -- it can be an avoidance technique. But your procrastination could be making matters worse and causing more stress rather than less.
If you find yourself staying indoors all the time, it might be because you feel secure there. You might think it is safer than being outside where anything could happen. Or perhaps you don’t have the energy to do anything but sit around inside.
But forcing yourself to spend more time outdoors can lessen your panic levels, especially if that time is spent in green spaces, like parks, beaches, or the woods.
Studies have shown that being outside lessens stress through lower cortisol levels. It can also battle against anxiety and depression. So putting on your shoes and heading into the great outdoors would be a great habit to form if you find yourself fighting types of anxiety.
Constantly Checking Your Email and Phone
Sometimes staying connected isn’t a great thing. It can lead to panic issues. While you may feel compelled to check your email and phone constantly because friends, family, and work may need you, you also need some time to be unplugged.
Getting emails or texts can sabotage your decompression time when you can relax and veg out. It’s especially a good idea to stop checking them a couple of hours before bedtime so you don’t get too worked up over the messages and lose sleep.
Not Sticking to a Sleep Schedule
Want to know what makes anxiety worse? Poor sleep is a big trigger.
If you find yourself keeping irregular hours, you might be setting the stage for anxiety issues. Getting a good night’s sleep can help take the edge off of panic disorders. Think about how terrible you feel when you sleep poorly and how everything seems to feel worse than it actually is because you’re so tired.
Going to sleep at the same time every night can help you with your issues.
If you’re not on a sleep schedule because you’re having trouble sleeping at night, there are things you can do to help. Consider:
- Using white noise, like a fan, in your room.
- Putting up shades or blackout curtains to cut out light filtering in.
- Not eating a big meal within a couple of hours of bedtime.
- Getting a weighted blanket to help deal with anxiety issues at bedtime. Anxiety blankets may help with your symptoms so you can get more rest.
Sitting Too Much
When you’re struggling with panic disorders, sitting excessively can make it worse. When you aren’t engaged with the activity, you can have time to stew about your worries. That gives them more attention than they deserve -- you’ll be better off if you find activities or work that requires you to walk around more.
One of the things to remember if you love a person with anxiety is exercise, it is one of the best things you can do to fight anxiety. In addition to anxiety-busting properties, exercise also will help with blood sugar, blood pressure, and stress levels. That makes it a win-win no matter how you look at it.
With so many reasons to get up and move around, you should be able to convince yourself to do it. You’ll feel better after the first session. Don’t worry if you can’t do anything intense the first few times you work out. Even a walk around the block will help, thanks to the feel-good endorphins that will be released from the physical activity.
If you can do your workout outside in a green space, that will be even better for your mind.
Not Hydrating Enough
If you’re prone to panic attacks, you know how scary they are. You start to wonder: Can anxiety kill you? The symptoms can get so bad that you begin to wonder if you are dying.
Dehydration can make matters worse. You’ll feel weak and your muscles will feel tense. When coupled with other symptoms like a racing heartbeat, sweating, and a sense of doom, dehydration can intensify the episode you’re experiencing.
To stay well hydrated, try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
Eating Too Much Junk Food
Junk food may seem like a good idea when you’re stressed and anxious. But it’s a bad idea, and here’s why:
- The sugar in the foods can cause highs and lows, which is something you’re already experiencing -- you don’t need that to be heightened.
- Those empty calories can cause weight gain -- that might make you feel even worse about your situation.
- You won’t be getting the nutrients you need to support your immune system. If you get sick from poor nutrition, you’ll have one more thing to worry about.
Instead, focus on making healthy food choices, like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
There’s no way around it -- alcohol makes anxiety worse. So if you enjoy your cocktails, you should cut down, or better yet, avoid them altogether.
You might be wondering why alcohol isn’t a good idea. After all, it’s a depressant. Wouldn’t that help calm you down?
The occasional drink isn’t a bad thing. The problem begins when you start drinking more and more because you build up a tolerance to the effects of alcohol. Your health can be negatively affected by issues like blackouts, liver damage, and dependency.
Plus, alcohol blocks your ability to reach deep stage sleep. That stops you from getting a good night’s sleep, which can worsen your anxiety.
Instead of reaching for a cocktail the next time you get the urge, grab a glass of water or herbal tea instead.
Smoking is a terrible idea for people with panic disorders. It can make you more jittery than ever, kill your appetite, and cause other health problems. If you’re the type who experiences anxiety over health problems, smoking is one of the worst things you can do.
You’ll be upping your risk for cardiovascular issues and cancers, and you’ll be worried about the effects smoking has on your body with every puff you take.
Like smoking, coffee can give you a jittery feeling. Too many cups can cause temporary heart palpitations that can add to the feeling that you’re not going to survive an episode caused by panic.
If you feel like you can’t start your day without a cup of coffee, try to limit it to only one. You should never drink coffee in the afternoon or evening because it can interfere with your sleep, which can lead you to feel tired, groggy, and vulnerable for an attack in the morning.
Make Your Habits Good Ones
It can be hard to break habits. But once you start to see how much better you feel about your anxiety once you ditch some of your bad habits, sticking with your new healthy habits will be easier.
You don’t have to change all your habits at once if you find that overwhelming. If it helps you to start slowly, implement one a week. You’ll be amazed at the difference.