Ever wondered why, despite your best efforts, anxiety keeps creeping back into your life? It’s like a stubborn shadow you just can’t shake off.
The root cause of the anxiety and panic attacks may actually be the habits you keep.
When you struggle with anxiety it helps to be aware of and avoid habits that make anxiety worse.
So in this post, we are going to examine 19 habits that make anxiety worse, and what we can do to eliminate them.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are becoming more and more common worldwide. In the US, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults.
According to an article in the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, those who suffer from anxiety are also likely to suffer from depression experiencing a double whammy of mental illness.
The causes of anxiety may be rooted in a lifestyle that is very hectic and stressful, or from childhood trauma or other predisposing reasons. In many cases, there may be more than one cause.
And there are different types of anxieties as well.
One can suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, a panic disorder, social anxiety, phobias, OCD, and PTSD.
Unfortunately, in some cases, anxiety is accompanied by other physical or mental illnesses too.
For this reason, managing anxiety can be difficult.
While anxiety can be managed with medications, it is also true that some medications can have terrible side effects including addiction.
And since anxiety can be made worse or exacerbated by lifestyle, it is important to try and adjust lifestyle factors that can make anxiety worse such as changing habits that may trigger anxiety.
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Habits that make anxiety worse
1. Eating junk food
Are you feeding your anxiety by eating the wrong food for your mental health?
You see, real food is supposed to be natural, not made by some company. Real food is not manufactured and healthy food is never fried in trans fats.
Fast food feeds anxiety. Also, these foods lack the nutrients your brain needs to function well.
Our brains need certain key nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D, protein, and antioxidants to function well.
These nutrients are used for energy. Some are synthesized into neurotransmitters so that nerve transmission is smooth and efficient.
The brain requires sustainable glucose from complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, not simple sugars found in processed foods like fries.
But when you eat foods such as simple sugars and empty calories, you don’t provide your brain with the necessary nutrients to function well.
Processed foods are poisoning us, adding toxins to our bodies, and contributing to the high levels of obesity in the world today.
So if you have a habit of eating these foods, it is likely you are making your anxiety symptoms worse.
2. Consuming too much sugar
Unfortunately, sugar is just empty calories and causes many physical and mental health problems.
When you eat excess simple sugar foods you get a sugar rush followed by a crash.
The intense sugar rash and subsequent crash lead to feelings of nervousness, irritability, mental fog, and anxious feelings.
The increased blood sugar levels also force the body to work harder to produce more insulin and throw metabolic functions into disarray. This causes the body to go into a stress response can easily trigger anxiety.
In addition, sugar in excess makes it difficult for the body to respond appropriately to stress, and therefore when events happen that are stressful, instead of smoothly handling them, anxiety kicks in.
So as an anxiety sufferer, watch your sugar intake and keep your mind calm.
3. Skipping meals
It’s important to eat regularly without overeating of course.Skipping meals can trigger anxiety and mess with your mood. Your body is like a super intricate machine, and it needs fuel (that’s food!) to function properly.
When you skip a meal, your blood sugar levels drop, and that can make you feel all jittery and anxious.
When your brain doesn’t get the glucose it needs, it can lead to feelings of restlessness and worry.
But that’s not all! Your body also releases stress hormones like cortisol when you’re hungry, which can make you feel even more on edge. Plus, being hungry can mess with your concentration and decision-making skills, making small issues feel much bigger and scarier than they actually are.
So, the next time you’re tempted to skip a meal, remember: your body and mind need that nourishment to stay balanced and happy. You need regular, nutritious meals, to keep the brain happy.
If you suffer from anxiety you have to watch your caffeine consumption. It is well known that caffeine can be an anxiety trigger.
Yes, that morning cup of coffee may be nice to wake you up.
However, overindulging in coffee and too much caffeine makes anxiety and panic attacks worse.
Keep in mind energy drinks contain enormous amounts of caffeine. Excess consumption of soda will also give you caffeine overload.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase symptoms of anxiety such as a fast heart rate, feeling jittery, and even panic attacks.
Furthermore, because coffee is a stimulant, if you have coffee too close to bedtime or too much throughout the day, then you are likely to suffer insomnia. And sleeplessness contributes to anxiety.
You know how it feels when you dont get enough sleep.
You feel irritable and your stress levels increase. You are also more likely to be triggered into anxiety.
This, of course, will course stress you as well as you toss and turn wide awake wondering how you will cope with the day’s obligations.
That heightens your anxiety.
If you think a night cup is a great way to relax before bed, think again.
While the initial response is a feeling of joy and relaxation, that is only temporary.
If you overindulge, you are likely to feel depressed on top of increasing anxiety.
Additionally, alcohol interferes with deep sleep cycles -and prevents you from going into a deep rem sleep.
And that means you dont get quality sleep.
So you wake tired and feel sleep-deprived.
And with this and sleep deprivation and exhaustion, the result is irritability, depression, and feelings of anxiety.
Then there are also the withdrawal symptoms that follow and can cause intense anxiety as well.
If you must have a night cup do it two hours before going to sleep. Have just one.
You want to have that good restoring deep sleep, but too much alcohol and too close to bedtime will rob you of good sleep.
That then means a day of exhaustion and likely anxiety especially when you are predisposed.
However, avoiding alcohol altogether is advisable when you suffer from anxiety.
Overindulging in alcohol also not only a destructive habit but has far more negative effects beyond making anxiety worse, which is bad enough.
Excessive alcohol or alcoholism also affects your physical health.
It wastes vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and thiamin so you have terrible withdrawal symptoms including anxiety and psychosis when you go without alcohol.
It destroys the liver causing cirrhosis and ascites- both deadly conditions.
If it is a problem, please seek professional help.
Join AA and find a support group if excess alcohol has become a problem.
You hear it often, smokers say smoking calms them.
Nicotine may relieve anxious feelings but that is only temporary research has found.
So while you may get that immediate feeling of calm after smoking, smoking eventually will cause anxiety attacks, especially for those already predisposed to anxiety.
Smoking has long-term effects on physical health too.
Everyone knows smoking damages the lungs and constricts blood vessels.
When your blood vessels are narrow then you don’t get enough oxygen to tissues and the brain.
The lung capacity is reduced in smokers and therefore they breathe shallowly.
Without enough oxygen in the lungs, there is less oxygen to the brain, and therefore when triggered it is easy to have an anxiety attack.
There are also withdrawal symptoms if you go too long without smoking which also causes anxiety.
Find support and counseling for mental health as well as life triggers that cause you to want to smoke so you can quit.
Learn mindful practices to deal with life stressors such as yoga and meditation, and affirmations to help you cope.
Related: Best affirmations for anxiety
Are you drinking enough water?
Or are you drinking sugary drinks instead?
If the answer is Mountain Dew, Coke, Pepsi, or some other manufactured drink, then you are doing it wrong and setting yourself up for anxiety.
Many people in our modern world are walking dehydrated.
This is especially true for those who love soda and other sweet drinks including energy drinks.
because these types of drinks dont quite hydrate because they contain too much sugar.
Water is necessary for the metabolic processes so nutrients can get to the cells including the brain.
Water is also necessary to move toxins out of the body.
Besides sodas are addictive and so you crave them.
How is it possible that Coca-Cola is used to clean toilets and pipes?
How can that be healthy for you?
Besides these drinks are full of sugar and sugar aggravates anxiety.
And that sweetness causes problems such as dehydration and mental fog as well as contributing to anxiety and other mental health problems.
Also, when cells don’t get sufficient nutrition because the blood is sludge, loaded with toxins that the body is not ridding itself well of, then reactions including irritability and anxiety are likely.
Water is needed for the transport of nutrients, hormones, and other metabolites needed for good health.
So when dehydrated your body’s functioning changes-muscles tense up for example and causing a whole other host of symptoms that can lead to anxiety.
Research also shows that sugar down the road leads to cognitive problems including Alzheimer’s disease.
So the best thing is to start cutting out sugary drinks drink water, and eat fruits and veggies that have good water content.
Some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration are very much like symptoms of anxiety and even depression.
When slightly dehydrated, one tends to be more irritable and even nervous.
For a person who suffers from anxiety, this can easily spiral into a full-blown anxiety attack.
Other signs and symptoms of dehydration include confusion when very dehydrated.
It’s important to keep yourself hydrated because even a slight dehydration can lead to mood changes like anger, cognitive changes, and difficulty focusing.
This is because our brain is made up of 75% water and when we’re dehydrated, it shrinks, making it harder for us to think clearly and solve problems.
To make matters worse, when dehydrated, the heart rate goes up making you feel even more anxious.
This can cause palpitations and that feeling when your heart is pounding and beating out of your chest can induce anxiety.
Dehydration can cause lightheadedness, muscle weakness, fatigue, and headaches which may trigger anxiety or panic attacks in some individuals.
So avoid dehydration. Drink enough water.
Add fruit to it if you don’t like plain water. Get a beautiful water carrier for a little encouragement or get a water infuser such as this one.
Let’s stay hydrated for our physical and mental health.
8. Toxic Relationships
Some people are just not good for your mental health.
I know it is hard but if you are in a love relationship that is toxic and abusive either mentally or physically, you need to find help to get out.
While it is hard to think of a way out, staying stuck there will cause so much more harm.
Anxiety triggers when in such relationships are a constant as you may never know how your spouse will react to something and so you are always on edge.
That is not the only relationship that can cause anxiety to flare up.
Other relationships can too. It could be family members who cause you these reactions.
In that case, is it possible to stay away as much as possible?
But your friends if they encourage things like drinking drugs staying out too long, spending too much, and other negative reactions such as gossip, can also cause you to have anxiety attacks.
So re-evaluate your relationships and see which ones are good for your mental health.
What company do you keep?
Bad company can lead to an anxious moment in so many ways.
Therefore choose your friend carefully. You will feel so much better when in the right company. Your mental health.
I get it. You have social anxiety so you don’t like being out among real people.
Spending too much time alone can also trigger anxiety. We are supposed to live as social beings, and not just through social media.
A solid social support system is essential for mental wellness.
We need real face-to-face human contact with people. It’s a human need to have close relationships and friendships. Otherwise, loneliness can increase negative thoughts, and make anxiety worse.
Spending time with good friends and loved ones can be as good or even better than therapy for mental health. think of the laughter and fun associated with good social interactions.
The key is to balance socialization with alone time. If you are an introvert, you may only want to socialize in small doses but that is still okay.
If your social anxiety makes it hard to foster close relationships, or have generalized anxiety disorder, seek mental health counseling.
Participating in cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy can help you manage chronic anxiety, as well as provide you with coping skills in social interactions.
10. Technology And Social Media
Do you have a social media addiction? Many people are addicted to their cell phones and digital devices.
This is a habit that makes anxiety worse on so many levels.
First of all, scrolling mindlessly has been shown to make your mental health worse including anxiety and depression.
This may be because one tends to compare themselves with others and feels they are lacking.
It is enough to see former classmates and colleagues seemingly doing so much better than you.
They’re going on vacations, and they have perfect families beautiful properties, and awesome jobs and businesses.
If you are struggling in any of these areas then you feel anxious.
You feel left behind and these scenarios play with your mind and not in a nice way. You look around frantically wondering how you got so behind. Anxiety-provoking.
But that’s not all…
While you scroll you sit down endlessly.
You miss out on exercise and maybe even going outside to get fresh air and be among real people.
Lack of exercise means you are not likely to get enough oxygen.
Your blood flow is not that great and your lymphatic system is stagnant. So toxins accumulate.
What’s more, you miss out on endorphins. You will get tripped up by little things triggering anxious thoughts.
So cut your screen time and spend time enjoying hobbies like reading, and other activities.
11. Lack Of Sleep Or Inadequate Sleep
Another habit that makes anxiety worse is inadequate sleep.
Studies also show that not sleeping enough can lead to exacerbation of negative thoughts and anxiety. Sleep is very important for mood and mental health.
Prioritize your sleep to keep your mind healthy and calm. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Start a healthy calming nighttime self-care routine for your mental health. Have a calming bath before bed.
Light a candle, scent your bath with essential oils such as lavender, put a cup of Epsom salts into the bath, and luxuriate.
Put away your phone.
Incorporate a mindfulness practice of affirmations, praying, reading a book, pray, and deep breaths while you listen to sleeping sounds.
Make your relaxing routine and you will have less insomnia and anxiety. Ensure that you get at least 7- 8 hours of sleep every night.
12. Negative Self Talk
A negative mindset and negative self-talk are habits that make anxiety worse.
Our brains are hard-wired to see the negative things in our lives.
It is a primitive protective mechanism.
Unfortunately, the more you think negatively, the more negative things and situations present show up, and the more negative reactions you have.
Negative self-talk makes you believe you are inadequate, or not smart enough, chipping at your confidence.
And lack of confidence usually triggers anxiety.
Train your mind to look for positive things in your life and around you.
13. Not Saying No
Boy! The things that can keep your mind spinning.
One of these is overstretching yourself by overcommitting simply because you can’t say no.
Learn to say no to avoid having so much to do that you have no moments to breathe.
Or simply say no to things that just make you uncomfortable and don’t really serve you.
If something makes you feel you’re taking too much. then you are.
Setting boundaries and saying no will make a big difference in your anxiety levels.
Don’t say yes from a place of fear to upset someone if the yes is going to cost you peace of mind.
Many reasons make a person procrastinate.
And understanding that is also very important in helping you stop procrastinating if you have that habit.
Some reasons may include task difficulty or dislike, perfectionism, even dislike of the task, and more. Sometimes this task avoidance is a stress response.
The key is delving inwards to find out why you don’t want to tackle a task.
When you have a BIG task looming in your mind, it is like having a beast lurking in the shadows.
It provokes anxiety. Sometimes you may have low-grade anxiety just below the surface when you think of this task.
Also, when the deadline is finally at hand
Just think of how you feel when you are late for work or an appointment, and then you get stuck in traffic.
It is an awful feeling as you have no power in this situation.
You could likely have avoided it by simply getting prepared in good time.
So putting things off is bad for anxiety.
Think about how costly it can be to put off things such s may be paying bills.
And then the power gets turned off, your phone or water gets turned off.
This situation causes increased stress and anxiety.
If you tend to procrastinate, start learning simple steps to overcoming this debilitating habit.
Write a to-do list and include only the most important tasks. It’s a good idea to do your most daunting task first and make this a habit.
A book I love and really recommend for anyone who struggles with procrastination is Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.
The concept in the book is learning to tackle your most important tasks first thing every morning.
You can check the book on Amazon. By defeating procrastination, you will improve productivity as well as emotional and mental well-being.
15. Overthinking and obsessiveness
These two are related to perfectionism but they are not the same thing.
Overthinking may be an inability to be decisive about a situation that requires a decision.
That can lead to anxiety. Learn to have a system even if just a notebook to record the pros and cons of something.
Or just straight out being brave to face the consequences of a choice. the more you do it the more resilient you will be, the braver and so you won’t overthink anymore.
Now obsessiveness is the opposite of letting go. If a thought is not doing you good, a relationship not working, or something is no longer serving you, simply learn to let things go. Practice small things.
Don’t obsess over actions you can take. Just take them and let that go.
Something happened in the past that you keep thinking about? Write your thoughts down, in a journal, reflect analyze, and then let it go.
Journaling is a great way to reflect learn and move on.
The world is not going to come crashing down because you haven’t done something just perfectly. Do you have a project to do? Give it your all and then accept the results.
You can learn from a mistake and next time you will be better.
Remember, done is better than perfect. And if you are creative, remember just write it, just do the thing. You can revise and polish it but don’t go crazy. Know when enough is enough.
When you get so debilitated into inactivity and ensuing anxiety because you are worried about doing something wrong, take small steps. Just begin.
They look for a friend or colleague and ask for help. Let some new eyes see the work.
That may help you see how great the work is.
Remember that perfectionism causes stress, and long-term stress increases the production the stress hormones. This not only makes you anxious but is bad for your general health.
I know. You have a lot to do especially if you are also taking care of a family. You’re busy. You want to make sure everything is done.
So you multitask. You are cooking cleaning, checking homework, and talking on the phone and you are running likely on empty.
That all produces stress and increases cortisol levels. Eventually, you are unable to cope and you have an anxiety attack especially.
The key is just to do one thing at a time.
Ask for help. Delegate, and learn to prioritize. Here is a post all about how to be more productive without learning yourself to the ground. Let some things go. Look hard at your commitments and just say no to some.
18. Lack Of Exercise
Unfortunately, we are the sit-down population, living a sedentary lifestyle- from office sitting all day to home on the couch.
But our bodies were made to move and need regular exercise to be healthy.
And physical activity also benefits the brain.
When you exercise even in just a brisk walk, your brain produces dopamine, and endorphins and increases serotonin levels.
These are all our feel-good neurotransmitters that help you feel calm happy and relaxed.
Studies show that sitting too much is just as bad as smoking.
You see your blood pools, your toxins sit still because the lymphatic system requires you to move, and of course, the heart pumps more and better when you move.
So just put aside some time during your day to take a walk or simply take breaks and briefly exercise.
Stand up and stretch even if you work in a cubical.
You can even do a few squats between tasks. Be innovative.
So you see, it is possible that some habits make anxiety way worse, and avoiding them will calm your mind.
With that in mind, vow to start new better habits to keep you mentally healthy, avoid being overwhelmed, and prevent anxiety attacks.
19. Vitamin D deficiency
While a deficiency is not a habit, spending too much indoors is a habit that causes vitamin D deficiency.
A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression studies show.
You need at least 15 minutes of sun exposure every day.
So spend some time outside.
You may still need a supplement because the long winters can still make it difficult to get enough vitamin D.
And there are also other reasons why you can become vitamin D deficient.
Final words about habits that make anxiety worse
If you experience anxiety, first speak to your healthcare provider for appropriate anxiety treatment. Secondly, you have to be mindful of the lifestyle choices you make.
So take the first step and avoid these common habits that make anxiety worse.
Start making small changes to improve your mental health and beat or reduce anxiety.
Practices such as mindfulness meditation, exercise, eating healthy, and appropriate social interaction, watching your sleep hygiene are some healthy habits to introduce into your daily life, and see your mood and mental health improve.
Tell me in the comments, what activities you do, and habits that you do that help keep anxiety away.
What changes do you need to make?