It is true that some habits make anxiety worse. While there are many causes of anxiety, having bad habits increases anxiety incidence and severity. So if you want to beat anxiety the first thing to examine is your habits. Do you have any habits that may be increasing your anxiety or making it worse?
In some cases, many people develop these bad habits as a way to cope with mental health problems like anxiety but that always backfires and makes anxiety worse instead.
So in this post, we are going to examine 16 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.
And 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.
So one may wonder, what causes these mental health problems?
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 type of anxiety, or GAD, 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.
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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 contribute to anxiety.
So what are the habits that make anxiety worse?
Let’s take a look at the habits we should avoid to beat anxiety.
Eating the wrong 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 foods feed anxiety. Also, these foods lack the nutrients your brain needs to function well.
Remember our bodies are meant to run on certain key nutrients.
The brain needs glucose from good sources. It needs glucose that is sustainable, not simple sugars like those in fries and other processed foods.
The brain needs vitamins such as B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium, protein, and antioxidants.
These nutrients are then used for energy. Some are synthesized into neurotransmitters so that nerve transmission is smooth and efficient.
But when you eat foods such as simple sugars and empty calories, then you don’t provide your brain with the necessary nutrients to function well.
Besides, you add toxins that make the situation worse, for it is true, processed foods are actually poisoning us. You just have to look around at the level of obesity in the developed world.
So if you have a habit of eating these foods, it is likely you are making your anxiety symptoms worse.
And in talking about foods that are bad for anxiety, let’s examine some foods you shouldn’t eat if you have anxiety. But if you choose to eat these foods do so occasionally only.
Sugar is bad for anxiety
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.
This excess sugar also forces the body to work harder to produce more insulin and throws metabolic functions into disarray.
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.
Your coffee habits, depending on how much and how late you drink coffee can make your anxiety worse.
It is understandable for you to crave that cup of coffee first thing in the morning.
Maybe even a second cup. But overindulging in coffee makes anxiety and panic attacks worse.
Caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel jittery, exacerbating 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 definitely contributes to 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.
However, research shows that moderate caffeine consumption does help with focus and has other health benefits.
So caffeine is not all bad. But all in moderation and in good time.
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 temporary.
If you overindulge, you are likely to feel depressed.
Additionally, alcohol interferes with deep sleep cycles -prevents you from going into a deep sleep and so you wake tired.
And with this exhaustion, the result is irritability, depression, and 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.
You hear it often, smokers saying 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 to those already predisposed to anxiety.
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.
There are also withdrawal symptoms if you go too long without smoking which also causes anxiety.
It is better to get on a program to help you stop smoking, and find support and counseling for mental health as well as life triggers that cause you to want to smoke so you can quit.
The lung capacity is reduced in smokers and therefore they breathe shallowly.
Without enough oxygen in the lungs means less oxygen to the brain and therefore when triggered it is easy to have an anxiety attack.
Smoking really does you no favors. It even makes skin look old, dry, and dull due to reducing oxygen supply.
So just cut it out. Get help if you need it.
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.
These just leave you drier and thirsty.
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.
But 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 and 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.
Even slight dehydration can cause mood changes leading to emotional changes such as anger, cognitive changes, and inability to focus. Remember that the brain is composed o 75 % water and shrinks when one is dehydrated.
To make matters worse, when dehydrated, the heart tries to compensate and beat faster. This can cause palpitations and that feeling when your heart is beating out of your chest can induce anxiety or feel very much like an anxiety attack.
Some symptoms of dehydration may include lightheadedness, muscle weakness, fatigue, and headaches and they can easily trigger a panic attack in a person prone to anxiety.
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.
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 are 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 too 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 anxiety so you don’t like being out among real people. Perhaps you have social anxiety. It is important to have some meaningful relationships though.
You don’t need many but one or two really good friends and make a point to talk to them and visit with them.
Spending too much time alone can also trigger anxiety. We are supposed to live as social beings, and not just through social media. Virtual relationships can be shallow and fake.
We need real face-to-face contact with people who complement our personalities, and people we like.
Technology and social media
Do you have a social media addiction? I know I do and I am working on it.
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. Totally anxiety-provoking.
But that’s not all…
While you scroll you sit down endlessly. You miss 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. Toxins accumulate.
What’s more, you miss out on endorphins. You will get tripped up by little things and get anxious.
Lack of sleep or inadequate sleep
Another habit that makes anxiety worse is inadequate sleep And here in the western world, where
You know by now that sleep is very important for your mental health.
But still, the habit of staying up way past your bedtime tantalizes you with one more scroll through whatever platform your social media craving is being indulged on, or you are sucked in deep on a Netflix, marathon and you must just see what happens next.
Or you just have too much to do. You may have school work, projects, and such that you need to work on and stay constantly way past your bedtime.
Perhaps you are a mama and the kids finally lay down and THIS IS YOUR TIME. Oh, but you will be exhausted in the morning and a brain not well-rested is likely to easily become overwhelmed.
Little things may set you off into an anxious.
Unfortunately, sleep disorders and anxiety co-exists and can be like the case of the egg and the chicken.
Sleep begets anxiety, and anxiety will keep you up.
In this case, having a plan and rituals that you do before bed can lessen anxiety.
This is why a bedtime routine is so important. It will help you unwind so your mind relaxes and eases into sleep.
Try incorporating activities such as 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.
Then put away your phone.
Write some anxiety affirmations, pray, read a book, pray, and deep breaths while you listen to sleeping sounds. Writing all this makes me want to go to sleep.
Make your own relaxing routine and you will have less insomnia and anxiety.
Negative mindset/ self talk
Our brains are hard-wired to see the negative things in our lives.
But unfortunately, the more you think negatively, the more negative things and situations present to you and the more negative reactions you have.
That’s just how the brain works but the brain is made to look out for us.
And so is keen on looking for negative things so as to warn you to protect your self.
The trouble is this sort of sets you up only to see negative things.
That leads you then to get upset, irritated, and anxious.
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.
Don’t say yes from a place of fear to upset someone if the yes is going to cost you peace of mind.
Brain plasticity, fortunately, is here to the rescue.
All you have to do is avoid negativity. I know it is not that simple.
But you can do anything you put your mind to just by being intentional and daily practice.
Get a journal and practice gratitude journaling. train your mind to look for positive things in your life and around you. Eventually, you will health your emotional health and have less anxiety.
Mismatch of work and personality
Doing work that doesn’t match your personality is anxiety-provoking. Everyone has something that comes naturally. The best work you can do is the one that comes naturally and you enjoy it.
I know you may be like well, not all of us can live our passions. True, they don’t always pay the bill.
Think about it. The most famous artists didn’t become famous till they were dead- Michelangelo, for instance, which is really sad.
But if you know you have this desire to do something but the money situation is not allowing for it, I say keep perfecting your exit from a 9-5 if your 9-5 makes you want to pull your hair out.
There has never been a better time to live your passion than in the 21 century in the era of technology explosion and internet marketing.
Any talent you have can be monetized. Just research and follow like-minded people doing what you love. You will get there.
The one thing that leads to happiness and, less anxiety is doing something you love, something you are good at and fills you up.
There are many reasons that 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.
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. And sometimes you may have just low-grade anxiety just below the surface of what may look alike totally normal behavior. But if other events pile up and destabilize emotions further it is easy to go into a full-blown anxiety attack.
Also, when the deadline is finally at hand and you must do the THING, a person prone to anxiety it is easy for emotions to tip over and spill ina a full-blown anxiety attack.
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 too 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 can easily lead to an emotional upheaval including an anxiety attack.
If you tend to procrastinate, start learning simple steps to overcoming this debilitating habit. There are many resources that can help you overcome procrastination.
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 wellbeing.
Some things that cause anxiety include obsessiveness and overthinking.
These two are related to perfectionism but they are not the same thing.
Overthinking maybe in 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’re will be, the braver and soo 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, something no longer serving you, simply learn to let things go. Practice small things.
Don’t obsess on 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 and learn and move on.
Avoid it. The word is not going to come crushing cos something for action is not perfect. 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, ask for help. Let some new eys see the work. That may help you see how great the work is.
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 produce stress and too much cortisol. Eventually, you are unable to cope and you have an anxiety attack especially if you pre dispositioned.
The key is just to do one thing at a time.
See if you can find some help. Delegate, and learn to prioritize. Here is a post all about how to be more productive without learning yourself to the ground.
You plan and prioritize and some things just don’t do.
Hit that delete on tasks that may not be all that important.
And as mentioned earlier, say no to some things. Look hard at your commitments and just say no to some. Cut way back.
Lack of exercise
Unfortunately, we are the sit down the population, from office sitting all day to home on the couch.
Our bodies were made to move.
When you exercise even in just a brisk walk, your brain produces dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that relax you and make you feel happy and at ease.
Sitting studies are finding is just s bad as smoking.
You see your blood pools, your toxins sit still because the lymphatic system requires you to move, and 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, to avoid overwhelm and prevent anxiety attacks.
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?
You can do this!
Thank you for these! I have a teenager who suffers from anxiety, and these will be very helpful!
Hi Cherry! I am so glad this post is helpful. I know how hard it is to watch a child suffer from mental illness and you want to just take away the suffering. Encourage her to start new healthy habits to minimize attacks.
Wow… now I KNOW why I deal with everyday anxiety so much! I think I can check mark about five or six items you listed easily! Thanks for the great information!
Hi Beth! So glad this was helpful, and hope you will find a way to change those habits that make anxiety worse.
This is a very thorough and helpful post for anyone suffering with anxiety. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Stefanie! Thank you so much. I hope it helps anyone who suffers from anxiety. Our habits can keep us stuck sometimes.