Anxiety can feel frustrating and debilitating, and when you're feeling anxious, it's hard not to feel like you would do anything to make it go away. However, there are a few things you should never do when you feel anxiety, not only because they could be destructive or unhealthy, but because they could end up making your anxiety worse. It's difficult to experience anxiety and feel like you can't control what's happening to your mind and body, but knowing what to avoid in those moments can help take the proper steps to feeling better both short-term and long-term.
"Whenever something is going on with you, from physical to mental and everything in between, there is a great possibility that thoughts, decisions and actions can be influenced by that issue," says psychotherapist Judi Cinéas over email. "You may find that you are acting in ways that are guided by the anxiety, and doing things that you would not do if you were in your best state. Regardless of how you are feeling at the time of a decision, you are still bound by its aftermath when you are back to your everyday self. For this reason, you need to ensure that as much as possible you are acting n a consistent manner even when things are going on."
Here are nine things you should never do while you feel anxiety — you'll thank yourself later.
When you're feeling anxious, life can feel overwhelming, and you may have the urge to be alone, but this can actually do more harm than good. "Research shows that being with others and 'getting outside of yourself' can decrease anxiety," says Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C over email. "With isolation, you tend to think about how anxious you feel." That's not to say you should hit up the biggest party you can find, but spend time around some close friends who can provide you with social support and make you feel good.
2Drink Coffee Or An Energy Drink
"Taking a Red Bull, coffee or a 'No Doze' tablet may make your anxiety worse, and it could cause a full blown panic attack," says psychotherapist Steven Rosenberg, PhD over email. Caffeine can both trigger anxiety and exacerbate existing anxiety symptoms, according to research published in the journal BJPsych Advances.
3Start Looking At Social Media
We spend so much time on our phones browsing Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that we may not realize all this focus on what others are doing can harm our mental health. "Watching other people do things can make you feel more anxious," says Rosenberg. "Put your phone away."
4Make An Important Decision
When you're feeling anxious, you might make a rash decision and act of out stress, emotion, or desperation. "When someone is experiencing anxiety, their actions may be more impulsive to help elevate the anxiety quickly rather than the result of a more solid, thought out decision," says psychotherapist Kelley Kitley over email. "Wait for the anxiety to pass, and you’ll have a clearer mind to make the decision that lies in front of you."
5Try To Stop Your Thoughts
It's okay to try to combat your negative thoughts, but sometimes, overdoing it can make things worse. "This is a common cognitive behavioral therapy technique which can prove beneficial, but when in the throws of anxiety, it will only increase the thoughts you are trying to stop and increase your anxious feelings," says Dehorty. "Instead of beating yourself up about having the same negative thoughts, write them down or distract yourself with another activity.
6Drink Excess Alcohol
One glass of wine tends to take the edge off, but you want to tread carefully when it comes to alcohol, as too much booze can end up making your anxiety worse. "Somebody who is experiencing high anxiety has a tendency to over consume to alleviate anxious symptoms and then feel increasingly anxious or panicky the next day after the alcohol has worn off," says Kitley. Alcohol can also mess with your serotonin levels in the brain, according to the Healthline.
7Turn To "Retail Therapy"
Shopping might soothe your soul temporarily, but you could end up feeling some financial regret after your anxiety has worn off and you've racked up a large bill. "Sometimes in highly anxious moments, people describe 'out of body experiences' and engaging in behaviors they recognize might be destructive but they do it anyway in hope that it will cause some relief," says Kitley. "All feelings pass."
8Demand To Yourself To "Snap Out Of It"
"Don’t demand of yourself to calm down or snap out of it," says Cinéas. "If it was that easy, you wouldn’t be in that position. It can be both infuriating and demoralizing to hear it from yourself or others. Instead, apply your calming techniques and engage in soothing activities."
9Practice "Escapism," Like Binge-Watching TV
Some days, you need to cuddle under the sheets and watch Netflix when you're having an off day, but it's important not to make "escaping" your go-to habit when you're feeling off. "Alcohol, substances, binge-watching TV, and all other forms of escaping may 'feel' better, but you are teaching your brain that it doesn’t have to address the anxiety on it’s own, that something outside will take care of it," says Dehorty. "This will lower your ability to deal with anxiety and could cause other addiction issues."