Just as your lifestyle choices can help you manage your anxiety, some choices and bad habits can also contribute to and worsen your anxiety. Cheat Sheet discusses 13 habits that are intensifying your anxiety.
- Skipping meals
Blood sugar levels are very much linked to anxiety. When our glucose decreases, our body responds with symptoms that are very similar to anxiety such as spiked or fluttering heart rate, irritable mood, and shakiness. It’s important to keep your blood sugar level in order to keep these symptoms at bay.
Interesting fact: anxiety is actually a symptom of hypoglycemia, more commonly referred to as low blood sugar.
- Staying inside
Nature, sunlight, and being outside are all natural mood boosters. Staying inside too often, especially for extended periods of time, can cause mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Staying inside also causes us to move less and use more technology, which are also contributors to anxiety.
- Checking your email too much
Technology allows us to remain connected with more people than ever, often in real time. There are a variety of benefits to this, but too much connectivity can be harmful. In fact, any adults cite their main social media platform as a source of stress, according to an American Psychological Association report. By checking email or social media too frequently, we develop a fear of missing something, which increases our stress and anxiety.
Combat this by setting aside time to unplug and not check technology – for work or for fun.
- Not having a sleep schedule
Sleep is crucial to our mental health and research suggests that maintaining a set schedule is beneficial for our overall health.
Improper sleep can cause a variety of issues, including anxiety. Research shows that quality, consistently scheduled sleep is important for hormone regulation, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
- Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages
Caffeine energizes us because it activates our nervous system and causes our body to enter the flight or flight response zone. This response leads to an increased heart rate, but too much caffeine can lead to anxiety symptoms like a racing heart, sweaty palms, dizziness, and shallow breathing.
Try to cut down your caffeine intake, or at least space it out over the day.
- Engaging in negative self-talk
We’re often our own worst critics, but it’s important to understand the difference between a little tough love from time to time and actual negative self-talk. Negative self-talk involves constantly putting yourself down and blaming yourself for things you can’t control, or not seeing the positive things you do. Engaging in negative self-talk can ruin your self-esteem, increase anxiety and stress, and affect your decision-making by making you second-guess yourself.
- Eating junk food
As stated above, blood sugar is very much linked to anxiety levels. No food can cause anxiety through low blood sugar, and fatty foods can cause anxiety through high blood sugar. Eating too much junk food will make you crave more junk food, leading to a vicious cycle of unhealthy choices and mental health struggles. Instead of eating simple carbs, try snacks composed of more complex ones.
- Drinking alcohol
Many of us drink to unwind after a stressful day, but in reality alcohol might make the stress and anxiety worse. This is because alcohol eventually leads to a crash after an initial spike in serotonin. The increase in serotonin will boost your mood at first, but once it wears off the anxiety might come back even worse.
Smoking, like drinking, is another habit that we often think helps our anxiety but actually makes it worse. At first, a cigarette will bring some relief, but once you become addicted to nicotine, you eventually experience withdrawal symptoms when you can’t smoke. Since withdrawal symptoms are similar to anxiety symptoms, smoking worsens your anxiety in the long run.
- Sitting too much
Research suggests that sitting has negative effects on your mental health. More studies need to be done on the link between a sedentary lifestyle and anxiety, but there is enough evidence to be aware of how much we are sitting throughout the day. This includes when we sit at work, at home, while we’re commuting, etc.
Try getting up every 30 minutes to decrease anxiety – maybe even go on a walk!
- Not drinking enough water
Hydration is important for mental health because it keeps our body more alert and functioning properly. Dehydration symptoms mimic anxiety symptoms, such as lightheadedness, a racing heart, inability to concentrate, decreased blood pressure, and muscle fatigue.
- Avoiding exercise
Exercise is one of the most common ways that people holistically manage their anxiety. This is because exercise produces hormones that help combat most anxiety symptoms, such as stress and trouble concentrating, while also elevating mood.
Studies show that people with anxiety are more likely to procrastinate tasks, but procrastinating actually causes anxiety to worsen. To combat procrastination, try breaking a large project into small tasks.