When you're dealing with the likes of anxiety and/or depression, life becomes all about finding ways to feel better. You might, for example, take a yoga class, clean up your diet, or start seeing a therapist. Whichever route you choose, getting some relief and dealing with symptoms can take a lot of work. That's why it's good to know which habits can make anxiety and depression worse.
Because really, when you're feeling bad, the last thing you want is some silly little thing — like drinking too much coffee or watching stressful TV — to make life even more difficult. Habits like these may not seem like a big deal, but they are known to increase stress levels, mess with your head, and make the road to recovery all the more difficult.
"By recognizing subtle things that you do to inadvertently increase your anxiety/depression and altering them, you can more effectively prevent these feelings from escalating," relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW tells Bustle. You can also make lifestyle changes if you notice certain habits increase symptoms, or if any might be why you can't seem to have a good day. Read on for some habits that are known to do just that, as well as how to avoid them so you can start feeling better ASAP.
1. Letting Your Phone Go To Voicemail
It's common to flake on plans and ignore phone calls, but especially so if you're feeling depressed or anxious. And yet, the more often you deny yourself social interaction, the worse these feelings can be. "Humans are social beings," says relationship expert and psychologist Vijayeta Sinh, PhD, in an email to Bustle. "Interactions and connections with others help us regulate our mood." So try to answer that phone more often, OK?
2. Not Keeping A Regular Schedule
It's hard to stay on schedule when you're anxious. And when you're depressed? Forget it. But sticking to a routine is vital for mental health. "The body and mind like routine and equates this with safety," board-certified Ayurvedic Practitioner Katie Meyer tells Bustle. "Regular routines ... keep blood sugar regulated, ensure you're getting enough rest, and keep cortisol levels at bay." All good things.
3. Working Too Hard
It's never a good idea to work so hard that you completely forget to take time for yourself. "If we don't accept pleasure and self-care as necessities, we are self-sabotaging our efforts to get out of anxiety and depression," Meyers says. All you gotta do is take a walk, or give yourself time to rest. Simple as that.
4. Drinking Too Many Energy Drinks
Whether it's coffee, tea, soda, or an actual energy drink, consuming too much caffeine can increase your anxiety. "You have to pace your intake during the day so you don't end up feeling the uncomfortable physical and emotional effects of the stimulant," Milrad says. If you do, despite slowing down, it may be time to cut caffeine entirely.
5. Ruminating On Stressful Events
When life gets stressful, it can be tempting to think on it over and over (and over) again. And yet, ruminating will only make things worse. "This behavior pumps up your anxiety," Milrad says. "Your obsessive thinking won't stop on its own unless you recognize it for what it is, challenge it, and halt it in its tracks."
6. Isolating Yourself At Work
Nobody wants to chat with coworkers when they're feeling down. And yet, avoiding saying "hey" isn't a great idea. "Relationships, even if they are limited to the workplace, help nourish and balance you and ward off negative cognitions of feeling not good enough and unlikable," Milrad says. So go ahead and wander into that break room.
7. Focusing On The Negatives In Your Life
While this is easier said than done when dealing with depression, focusing on the negatives isn't a good idea. "We have a biological tendency to seek out problems in order to survive — however, when we spend too much time on that topic, it can become overwhelming," says licensed marriage and family therapist Meredith Silversmith, MA, LMFT. Doing what you can to stay positive will definitely help.
8. Checking Social Media Too Often
There's nothing wrong with checking social media. But when you're feeling low, other people's lives can really take a toll. "We know that social media posts are the 'highlight reel' of others' lives, but it doesn't feel that way in the moment," Silversmith says. "Spending excessive time reviewing social media can trigger symptoms of depression, fear of missing out, and not feeling good enough with where you are in your life."
Depression can make procrastination difficult to avoid. But if you can, make a point of getting things done on time. As licensed mental health counselor Monte Drenner tells me, putting things off can lead to a feeling of overwhelm, which can in turn increase anxiety. Procrastination can also get to your head, so to speak, and make you feel even worse for not having accomplished your tasks.
10. Drinking Too Much
It's fine to have the occasional drink, but for people with anxiety and depression, alcohol can definitely make those issues worse. "Alcohol is a depressant to the central nervous system and affects moods," says Drenner. "This change in mood can also exacerbate anxiety." If you reach for a drink to feel better, it may be wise to try a different coping technique.
11. Watching The News In The Morning
So many of us are in the habit of flicking on the TV first thing in the morning, usually to catch whatever's going on in the news. But, as clinical psychologist Dr. Thomas G. Quinlan tells me, that much negativity first thing in the morning can impact your mental health. While it's obviously a good idea to stay informed, it's better to wait 'til later in the day to get your updates.
When dealing with anxiety and/or depression, little things can certainly throw you through a loop and make symptoms worse. Knowing what can increase anxiety (like caffeine) or exacerbate depression (like a lack of a schedule) and then making changes can help.
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