7 Surprising Habits That Are Giving You Anxiety

April 11th, 2023

How often do you pay attention to your habits?  Habits are pretty easy to overlook because habits are typically performed without much thought. In this article, we will discuss the 7 habits that may be giving you anxiety. These are habits that you might engage with everyday, without even realizing it. These are habits that can increase your stress levels, contribute to your negative thought patterns and cause you to feel more anxious. 

Let’s dive into these habits, shall we?

Habit #1 : Bad Sleep Habits

Did you know that your sleeping patterns and your mental health go hand-in-hand? Yes, research has constantly shown that not getting enough sleep can significantly impact how you feel. Think about how you feel when you only get a couple of hours of sleep versus a good night’s sleep. You tend to get moody when you don’t get enough sleep. You might be thinking that it is not a big deal but not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your performance and it can also make your anxiety worse. Some common causes of insufficient sleep are not having a consistent sleep schedule, not making sleep a priority and spending time watching television or using your phone or laptop right before it’s time for you to go to bed. If you want to improve your sleep habits, try implementing an evening routine that helps you wind down and get a good night’s sleep. 

Habit #2 : Too Much Caffeine

If you enjoy caffeine, you are not alone. A lot of people drink a cup or two of coffee to get their day started. Some studies have found that caffeine in moderation has health benefits. However, researchers have also found that too much caffeine can increase anxiety symptoms. Caffeine is a stimulant so it can increase your heart rate and it can make you feel more alert. But, too much caffeine can impact your sleep. It can make you feel more restless and possibly exhibit stronger symptoms of anxiety. You might not be ready to kick your caffeine habit but you can definitely limit your caffeine intake and be mindful of how much caffeine you are consuming on a daily basis. 

Habit #3 : Overscheduling yourself

When you overschedule yourself, you basically take on more than you can handle. Sometimes, we overschedule ourselves out of excitement about an opportunity, and sometimes we overschedule ourselves because we don’t want to let a friend, a co-worker, or a family member down. The truth is that you can only do so much within a 24 hour period. There will be instances when you have to pass up something that you would have typically said yes to because if you commit to it, you will yourself in a state of overwhelm. Overscheduling yourself leads to excessive stress which is a set up for anxiety so even if you are feeling like you can squeeze one more thing in, sometimes it’s just not worth it to overpack your schedule. It is important to be honest with yourself and others about what you can realistically handle and how much time you will need to get everything on your ‘to-do’ list done. I recommend scheduling breaks into your day even if it’s just a 10 to 15 minute break that will allow you to get refreshed and prepared for your next activity. 

Habit #4 : Never turning off

It may not feel like a big deal to not schedule me time but never having any downtime can take a toll on your health. Never turning off makes it really difficult to enjoy life so be sure to schedule life into your life. Give yourself a timeout everyday. When you finish working or studying, put everything away and find an activity that you can engage in that is not work related. You can exercise, you can meet up with friends, you can take a nap. The key is to step away from work mode. Stepping away and coming back with a fresh set of eyes actually improves your productivity level and the quality of your work. 

Habit #5 : Identifying with negative self-talk

The habit of talking down to yourself throughout the day can also cause you to feel more anxious. You can think yourself into a state of anxiety or you can think yourself into a state of hope. Do you talk to yourself as well as you talk to others? Do you treat yourself as well as you treat others? Positive thinking is essential for mitigating stress. All of us deal with some level of  negative self-talk, however, some people believe and agree with the negative thoughts that pop into their minds while others choose to capture and release the thoughts that are not serving them. So, the key here is to not identify with your negative self-talk. 

Habit #6 : Spending too much time on social media

According to a report by the American psychological association, the habit of constantly checking for notifications is associated with reports of higher stress levels. Social media can be fun but spending too much time on social media networks can become a source of your anxiety. When you are constantly engaging with social media, you can experience a wide range of emotions, from wondering why people aren’t responding to your post to comparing yourself to others or wondering if you are doing enough. In most instances, you are viewing someone’s highlight reel so it is really unfair for you to compare your real life to someone’s social media post. I understand that it can be difficult to put your phone down but occasionally doing so will have a positive impact on your mental health.

Habit #7 : Spending too much time alone

This one is quite surprising, isn’t it? A little more ‘me’ time is a good thing but make sure you are getting in some time with your loved ones, too. If you are already feeling down, isolation can actually make things worse. However, social support has been proven to help with feelings of anxiety and maintaining close relationships can actually pick you up and steer your mind away from your anxious thoughts. 

Ok, now, let’s discuss some general solutions to anxiety that you can implement TODAY. Self-care activities are a great practice especially if you know you are going to have anxious times in the figure. Activities such as breathing exercises, meditation, or even just taking some time away from your phone and social media to go for a walk can help in a big way, to reduce the chance and severity of your anxiety being triggered. As good as self-care activities can be, they aren’t the end all solution to anxiety. When you are in the middle of an anxiety attack, or you can feel anxiety creeping up on you, coping mechanisms like distraction and mindfulness can offer a healthy and practical solution. Once you feel your anxiety trigger go off, it is also important to talk to trusted loved ones or healthcare professionals who can validate your emotions and help you get through the anxiety. 

One of the biggest factors of being able to handle anxiety is understanding what is causing it. Finding your triggers can help you understand your anxiety better. But if you feel like your anxiety is out of control, talking to a medical professional can help. There are an array of treatments from medication to behavioral treatments. It is important to know that you are not alone in seeking help. In fact, 13% of adults, aged 18 and over in the U.S., use this kind of medication. That’s a lot of people! By investing in our community healthcare, both mental and physical, we can strengthen our communities and also provide help to those who need it most. 

At last, if you find yourself practicing any of the habits that we have discussed in this article, awareness is the first step to creating change. I want to challenge you to replace your negative habits with habits that are healthier. Now, if you begin making positive changes, but you still find that you are feeling anxious, you might want to connect with a healthcare professional.

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7 Surprising Habits That Are Giving You Anxiety

Spoken By : Dr. Jessica Houston

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