7 Anxiety-Causing Habits You May Not Know About
Having constant anxiety can feel like you are about to go onstage at any moment, even though you aren't. It's rough, to say the least. And while there might be a lot of underlying reasons for feeling that way, there are also daily habits that cause anxiety, or at least contribute to it. The good news is, once you recognize some of these stress boosters, you can work on counteracting them.
As certified stress management coach Susan Petang tells Bustle, a lot of anxiety comes from simply not being mindful of the present moment or recognizing that what you are doing and thinking at any given time really has an impact on your overall well-being.
While, admittedly, being present and not thinking about the future or the past is much, much easier said than done, beginning to recognize that we can shift or build awareness around our thinking patterns is important. Especially if we feel judgments against ourselves for those feelings.
"When we're constantly second-guessing our every thought and action we create [more] anxiety," says Petang. But trust, you are not alone if it feels like anxiety is just bubbling up inside all the time. Reaching out for some professional guidance is a really great first step, and below, some pro's share a few daily habits that might be doing more harm than good where your nerves are concerned.
1. Checking Social Media Regularly
Ever notice that when you've spent 30 minutes on Instagram you either totally check out, or find yourself comparing and despairing?
"Checking social media regularly easily sets anxiety into motion," therapist Kailee Place, tells Bustle. "We unconsciously begin comparing our lives to the lives we see unfolding on social media and the worry begins about feeling 'behind' or feeling like you’re not doing enough."
Social media can quickly put us into a negative mental position, she says, that includes anxiety, worry, racing thoughts, and negative self-talk. A good thing to remember, she says, is that social media is staged.
2. Always Reading The News
Well, maybe this one is not so surprising. But having all those push notifications and being super attuned to current events and news can be stress lighter fluid, so to speak.
Being on a constant news cycle can stimulate anxious thinking, worry, feelings of dread, or feelings of helplessness, says Place.
"Limiting your time watching news or reading the news, or even taking a full break for a little bit, can help curb these distressing feelings," says Place.
"The news, much like social media, is all about pointing out the most sensational stories which often are violent or upsetting, and easily leave people feeling helpless or hopeless."
Notice what it feels like for you to take a step back.
3. Being Around Other Anxious People
While being around friends who understand what you are going through is important, Place says that being around someone who struggles with anxiety or is generally a bit more high energy can also influence you into feeling that way.
"We feed off of the energy of the people around us and that may result in your own natural anxiety being more active," she says. "No need to fully avoid people if you don’t want to, but be cognizant of how people’s moods impact your own and perhaps plan accordingly such as limiting time spent with this person or having meet ups be in a more relaxing environment."
4. Not Getting Enough Sleep
It always comes back to sleep, doesn't it? Place says that not getting enough sleep can cause anxiety because of how significantly it impacts your mood, memory, and thinking.
"A lack of sleep can cause you to feel more stressed and anxious, and to expect negative consequences where there may be none," she says.
Consider if any of your sleep habits can be improved, and from there, try to implement a nightly routine.
5. Doing Lots Of Shopping
Sometimes it seems like that pair of shoes really will fix everything, or even that set of water colors paints to springboard a new hobby. But Place says that shopping, and other methods of avoidance or procrastination can definitely cause or worsen anxiety.
"Anxiety can often become bigger if you avoid facing your problems because the act of avoidance makes us make the problem even bigger in our heads, causing more anxiety," she says.
Doing things such as procrastinating or shopping gives us an instant dopamine boost of feel good chemicals to distract us from our anxiety momentarily, Place says, but it prevents us from analyzing and addressing the root cause, leaving the anxiety and overthinking still under the surface.
Ask yourself, are you shopping to avoid something or in response to an uncomfortable feeling?
6. Mentally Preparing For The Worst
Worrying about whether or not someone will ever text back, or pre-assuming you won't get that job all seriously contribute to making you anxious, especially if that is a common habit.
Dr. Danielle Wozniak, of Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, tells Bustle that one thing that makes anxiety much worse is developing a mental list of the negative “what ifs” about the day and running disaster scenarios.
"This churning leads to increased anxiety and stress that can undermine our ability to solve real problems by diverting attention and energy away from our ability to create rapid solutions in real time," she says.
One antidote? Rehearse success, she says. And remind yourself that whatever comes up you can handle.
7. Always Worrying About Appearances
We've all spent a frustrated hour or two picking out an outfit, or doing and re-doing our hair, right?
"Another thing we do to make anxiety worse is to second-guess our appearance," says Dr. Wozniak. "If you are anxious about the day, pick your outfit the night before. Try it on and get it just right. And then forget about it. In the morning, put it on, tell yourself you look great and head for the door. No second thoughts or second looks. Otherwise you can run into panic mode where you begin changing your clothes as the clock is ticking. This can escalate anxiety very quickly."
Positive self-talk is an important antidote to anxiety, she says. Practice saying, “You look great!” and “You are amazing."
That's doable, right?
It also might also be helpful to understand where the doubt or self-criticism is coming from, she says. Ask yourself, whose critical voice is that? Do you want to carry it around or are you ready to release it?
"A lot of time, we have a parent’s or a sibling’s or even a spouse’s voice in our head. It isn’t ours and it may not belong to us. You don’t have to keep it," she says.
Now, no one said habits are easy to break or change. But in the name of mental health, a little effort can go a long way. Stressing less is truly possible!
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.