Chances are that, if they had the choice, someone who experiences anxiety would make that uncomfortable feeling go away with any opportunity they could get. Although some triggers are out of our control, there are a number of habits that can bring out anxiety, and some of these are actually pretty easy to change. The first step is knowing what can cause or exacerbate anxiousness, and after that, it's all about making adjustments to your daily activities to help you feel better.
"Many people suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder which means that they are often on edge, tense, and generally hopped up a good part of their day," =psychoanalyst Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. tells me over email. "This style of living becomes habitual and a norm without you even realizing it. These habits can be changed by recognizing all people are not like this, and there are alternatives."
About 3.3 million American adults have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They are the most common mental illness in the U.S., but the good news is, they're highly treatable. The best — and easiest — place to start is looking at your daily habits
If you have anxiety and think your habits may be to blame, consider these 11 anxiety-inducing habits that are easy to change.
1. Skipping Meals
Are you having breakfast and lunch? If not, it could be making your anxiety worse. "Often times people report being too busy to eat and they just down coffee all morning," says Kelley Kitley, LCSW, author of "My Self" over email. "Take time to mindfully eat. Even just for five minutes will give you energy and help you feel less anxious." Plus, certain nutrients are needed to help boost your mood and prevent anxiety and depression.
A study from the University of Sussex found that multitasking shrinks grey matter in the brain, and it is associated with a shortened attention span, depression, and anxiety. "Make a to-do list with specific times allowed for each task," says Kitley. "When we look at a list that isn’t prioritized, it can feel really overwhelming."
3. Negative Self-Talk
Anxiety can make you feel poorly about yourself, which can start an endless stream of negative self-talk, which only contributes to more stress and anxiety. "Change your language," says Kitley. "Stop using words like 'always' and 'never.' They are absolutes that create feelings of being stuck." Focus on approaching any unpleasant emotions in a more positive and productive way.
4. Rushing In The Morning
If your day starts off stressful and chaotic, you're not going to feel relaxed for the remainder of the day. "Are you giving yourself enough time to get ready or do you press snooze over and over?" says Kitley. "This will create more anxiety to start your day. Even an extra 10 minutes can make all the difference."
5. Letting Your Mind Wander
Research from Harvard found that letting your mind wander while you're doing something else, even commuting, can actually make you unhappy. "Don’t let your head mindlessly wander during your commute to and or from work," says Kitley. "Find an activity such as listening to music or reading to be in the here and now rather than worrying about what needs to get done at work or home."
6. Drinking Too Much Coffee
Yes, coffee is delicious and can provide you with that much-needed energy boost, but it can also cause or exacerbate existing anxiety. According to WebMD, caffeine can lead to sweaty palms, a pounding heart, ringing in the ears, and even a full-blown panic attack. Cut down the amount of coffee you're consuming or try switching to tea if you still need caffeine.
7. Sitting Inside
A study from BMC Public Health found a link between sitting in front of a computer or television all day and feeling anxiety. Although the study doesn't show cause and effect, regular vigorous exercise can reduce your likeliness of developing anxiety and depression by 25 percent, according to ADAA. And other research shows that spending time in nature can reduce your risk of anxiety as well, according to multiple studies.
8. Not Socializing
It's a Catch-22: If you're feeling anxious, you likely don't want to spend time around people, but social activity can make you feel better, especially in the long run. Multiple studies show that the more social support someone has, the lower their risk of stress and anxiety. Even if you don't want to hang out at huge parties, connect with someone in other ways. "Call that friend who is a calm inducer, and either chat about random stuff or share your worries," says Hollman. "The connection and feeling understood can do wonders."
9. Spending Too Much Time On Social Media
Checking Facebook and Instagram here and there is harmless, but spend too much time on social media can negatively impact your mental health. A study from the Pew Research Center found that the use of social media, particularly Facebook, increases anxiety and stress in people. Limit your social media use, and avoid comparing your lives to others.
10. Not Sleeping Well
Most people don't prioritize their sleep, but feeling well-rested is essential to both our physical and mental wellbeing. When people are sleep-deprived, they experience a surge of anticipatory anxiety, and lack of sleep can lead to a full-blown anxiety disorder in someone who is already prone to anxiety, according to research from Journal of Neuroscience. Stick to a regular bedtime, and work on stress-reducing techniques that can help you fall asleep easier.
11. Leaving Your House Messy
When we are busy with more important things in life, we often let our homes get messy, and the importance of cleaning up falls by the wayside. But clutter can stress us out and leave us anxious, according to Psychology Today, so take the time to tidy up so you live in a soothing and relaxing environment.
Everyone has their own source of anxiety, but try changing these habits to see if they can help relieve your anxiousness. If they don't help, it's always good to see a doctor who can help get to the root of your discomfort.
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