7 Signs A Toxic Relationship With Housemates Is Making Your Anxiety SO Much Worse
Most millennials know what it's like to have a housemate. Often, they're not actually our friends, but a friend's cousin's colleague, or a total stranger we found on the Internet. Sure, sometimes it works out fine, but other times, it doesn't. And even if your housemate is a friend, that's not necessarily much easier. When things start going badly with housemates, your home life can quickly become toxic and even take a toll on your mental health. If you already struggle with anxiety this can be bad news. In fact, there are signs your housemates could be contributing to your anxiety.
If you can relate to this article more than you'd probably like, let me reassure you that while anxiety is a painfully difficult condition to live with, it's surprisingly common. According to mental health charity Anxiety UK, one in six people will experience anxiety conditions, with 3 million people living with a anxiety disorder at any given time. "Anxiety is completely normal," the organisation stresses on its website. "It is something that we all experience to some level. Anxiety is useful to us as it tells us that something is dangerous and that we need to be careful. However, if anxiety gets out of control or stops you from doing everyday things, then this can lead to us feeling unhappy, upset, and frustrated."
Symptoms of anxiety can include grinding you teeth, panic attacks, nausea, headaches, backaches, a racing heartbeat, and more. It's not easy but you can stay top on things. As we all know, prevention is better than cure. So how do you prevent anxiety? You identify your triggers. Could one of your triggers be your housemates? Have a look at the list below and decide for yourself.
1. You Feel Stressed When You Walk Through The Front Door
Home is meant to be a haven. When you walk through the front door and close it behind you, you shouldn't feel anxious. You should feel relaxed. If that's not the case and you feel worse when you get in, or worried about who you might bump into in the hallway, that's not a good sign. You should feel comfortable to be yourself at home. Not feeling you have that option can take its toll. "It is important to notice if you feel like you are having to walk on eggshells or sensor yourself for fear of a lecture or ridicule from your roommate," Nicole Richardson, a counsellor and therapist, previously told Bustle. You deserve to feel comfortable at home.
2. Your Housemate Behaves Negatively Towards You
We really do feed off other people's energy. As Calm Clinic says, "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." You can't control how someone else is feeling, and if your housemate is someone you care about, chances are you may want to support them to feel better themselves. But you are entitled to remove yourself from situations that are having a negative impact on your own mental health. Don't be afraid to take a step back.
3. Your Housemate Owes You Money
Someone is always in charge of the bills, and if it's you, you're often chasing people for money. This is sickeningly stressful, especially if it means you're paying out and waiting for them to pay you back. It can affect other areas of your life, too, leaving you with less cash to spend on fun. Try to talk to your housemate about setting up direct debits, or having a house fund, so this doesn't happen.
It can also cut the other way if you have a housemate who buys "communal" stuff without checking in first and then sends you the bill. In this instance, a written agreement about who pays for what might be called for.
4. Your Housemate Always Has Friends Over
You may be able to put a brave social face on in the day, but when you come home, if you're mentally or physically exhausted, you might not want to face people. If you suffer from social anxiety, it can be challenging if you housemate constantly has friends coming and going, or worse, staying over. The obligation to chit chat can be tough, and you may feel awkward just being around them. Hiding away in your room makes you feel even worse. Try and set some ground rules about what level of space and privacy you need.
5. You're Losing Out On Sleep
In order for me to function, I need eight hours of sleep, which requires a dark, cool, room, an eye mask, and no noise. If I lived with someone who watched TV on full volume late at night, I'd struggle. Knowing you're losing out on sleep can make you feel more anxious, and anxiety makes it harder to fall asleep, so this is a really vicious cycle. "The hormone cortisol can build up through stress, anxiety and continuous late nights. Ideally, aim to be fast asleep by midnight, so that cortisol levels can dip to their lowest between midnight and 4am," Sarah Flower, a nutritionist at Power Health tells me.
6. The Mess Is Getting To You
Someone else constantly making mess that you feel obliged to clean up can be really anxiety-inducing and to be honest, just plain annoying. It's not something you should have to deal with. A study by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families, reported by HouseLogic, found that the stress hormone peaked for women in cluttered spaces. Having a bathroom that is not only messy but actually dirty would really stress me out, but it's not fair to do all the cleaning yourself. Your housemate should respect your need for a clean and tidy space, and adapt their behaviour in communal spaces accordingly.
7. You Feel Left Out
Feeling left out is horrible, but when it's in your own home, it's even worse. Social exclusion anxiety is a very real issue and can be pretty serious. "It happens every day, and a lot of people experience great distress because of it," counsellor and trauma therapist William Bratt explains on his website. "It is the fear of being labeled deficient or possessing characteristics that are deemed undesirable by the larger social units we affiliate with."
The best thing to do to stop the anxiety getting worse is set out a clear strategy with your housemate, and try to stay calm. To help, Flower suggests practising deep breathing. "It's a powerful anxiety-reducing technique because its activates the body’s relaxation response," she says. But if your symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life, take action and speak to your GP. You've got this.