Anxiety feels terrible. Whether it's an acute panic attack, or just day-to-day stressors, it can seriously affect our quality of life. And what's even worse, there are things we could be doing that make our anxiety worse without us even realizing it.
According to Healthline.com, anxiety induces a "fight or flight" response in our systems. "In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate so your brain can get more oxygen. You are now prepared to respond appropriately to an intense situation. Your immune system may even get a brief boost. Your body will return to normal functioning when the stress passes," they write. However, they noted that if you are regularly anxious, your body may not return to "normal," even when the stressor has technically passed, and this can deplete your immune system, cause digestive issues, insomnia, and even depression.
Basically, anxiety just isn't great for our health, and with life already pretty stressful, we definitely don't want to be actively contributing to our own anxiety if we can help it. So in an attempt to limit unnecessary stressors in our lives, here are seven things you may be doing that could be making you anxious.
According to a study featured in Psychology Today, putting something off that we know must get done has definite negative effects on our mental health. The article's author, Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D, noted that, "The goal of procrastination is to escape the immediate necessity of demand, obligation, or work. The trap of procrastination is adding pressure to ordinary demands and making them take much longer with delay." He also noted that the increased stress we place on ourselves by putting things off until the last possible minute can lead to "discomfort, burnout, or even breakdown."
Basically, if you need to get something done — whether it be cleaning your bathroom or doing your taxes, just do it! Because getting it done will feel so much better than dreading it for days.
2. Living In Clutter
I've written about the negative effects of clutter several times, and it's because it's an incredibly fixable phenomenon. Studies have actually shown that — much like procrastination — clutter can seriously stress us out. Women who live in homes described as disorganized or unfinished are significantly less happy than those who describe their homes as restful and restorative. So if your house is a mess and you've been putting off getting yourself and your files organized, consider devoting a weekend to getting everything in order. I promise it will feel like a 1,000 pound weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
3. Not Writing Things Down
According to psychologist Dana Gionta, Ph.D. in a piece for Psychology Today, control and stress are inversely related — meaning that the more control we perceive we have, the less stress we feel. This means that things like a personal calendars and running to-do list actually can make us feel way better about the things we need to accomplish each week and can prevent us from feeling too overwhelmed. Plus, I always have found that the simple act of writing things down helps me prioritize what needs to get done, and already helps me feel like I'm "doing something."
4. Spending Time With Negative People
A piece for the Calm Clinic — a site devoted to helping with anxiety treatment and relief — listed negative people as one of the top things that could be causing your anxiety. "If you spend a lot of your free time with negative people or people that want to create stress around them, that stress is often going to rub off on you. Ideally, spending time with happier people that bring positivity into your life is the best way to make an impact of your mental health," they noted. So take stock of how you feel after you spend time with certain friends or social groups and really make sure they bring you up — never down.
Moping — or opting to stay in by yourself when you're feeling anxious — is another thing the Calm Clinic noted could seriously affect how you feel. "One of the secrets to curing anxiety is staying busy and active. The more you can keep your mind off your anxious thoughts, the easier it will be for you to cope," they said. "But when you're alone, these distractions aren't there. You're not engaging in fun activities that take your mind off your problems, or talking with friends that make you feel good. Instead, you're alone with your thoughts."
6. You Don't Prioritize Quiet
If you're someone who insists you need "noise to focus," you may actually be hurting your ability to feel calm. A study published in the British Medical Bulletin found that noise pollution — or "unwanted sound" — can have non-auditory effects on our health (i.e.: effects unrelated to just hearing). Researchers noted it caused higher rates of tenseness, nervousness, and "edginess."
7. Drinking Caffeine
In a piece for Everyday Health, Chris Lliades, MD, noted that caffeine is a stimulant, which triggers our fight or flight response. This means that if you already struggle with anxiety and nervousness, caffeine will only enhance the problem. Try to pair down your caffeine intake by switching to decaf or herbal teas, or limiting yourself to a single cup a day. There's a chance it will majorly curb your anxiousness.
Anxiety can seriously affect our lives — and not in a good way. Which is why it's always good to be conscious of the ways in which you may be contributing to your own anxiety, and making sure to limit those things in daily life.