Anyone who struggles with anxiety on a day to day basis knows how stressful even the most menial tasks can be. Almost every scenario is compromised by dozens of racing thoughts and concerns and it’s exhausting. Sometimes we wish we could just turn off the constantly grinding gears, even if only for an hour or two.
Surprisingly, there are several behaviors we exhibit mindlessly on a daily basis that we don’t even realize are making our anxiety worse. These are a few of those negative habits and how we can start to better mange them.
1. Constantly checking your phone
With the nearly limitless capabilities technology has to offer, it can be difficult to disconnect. Many of us have our phones within arm’s reach 24 hours a day and can’t help but constantly check for work emails or scroll through our social feeds. While this may seem like a harmless part of your routine, in the long-term it can have negative effects. You may not realize it, but the fear of missing out on the latest update can cause you severe stress and anxiety. If you can train yourself to unplug even for just an hour or so each day before you go to sleep, it can make a huge difference in your anxiety levels.
2. Spending too much time indoors
Obviously, staying indoors 24/7 can be harmful for many reasons. According to Time, these include a higher risk for depression and related mood disorders as well as increased levels of anxiety over time. The solution is getting outdoors. “Spending time outside and in nature seems to relax and heighten your focus while simultaneously clearing your mind’s workload.”
3. Skipping meals
We know how hectic life can get, but skipping a meal is never a good idea, particularly for people who suffer from anxiety. When you don’t eat, your body starts to run low on glucose causing your blood sugar levels to dip. Anxiety is, in fact, a common symptom of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and people who have it tend to experience similar traits such as heart palpitations, irritability, and shaking. To avoid this type of situation, try to carry small snacks with you throughout the day even if it’s just a breakfast bar or a banana. A little bit of fuel can go a long way.
4. Eating too much junk food
While you should be maintaining a healthy eating schedule, it’s important not to lean on too much junk food. Yes, it’s delicious and most of us would much rather have a bag of chips than a salad, but not eating well can also increase symptoms of anxiety. Processed foods are commonly made up of simple carbohydrates which don’t provide your body with the long-term energy it needs. The initial wonderful taste and spike in blood sugar will be followed by an inevitable crash. This sudden drop in blood sugar will give you the same symptoms as we pointed out above. It’s basically as if you hadn’t eaten in the first place.
5. Having an inconsistent sleep schedule
There are hundreds of studies that speak to our necessity for sleep and the negative effects a lack of sleep can have on our health. Sleep deprivation wears down your body and your mind quickly, causing you to not be able to process certain psychological stressors as well as your rested self would. Think about the last time you pulled an all-nighter, everything you attempt the next day seemed more difficult and stressful than it would normally. If you can do your best to get on a consistent sleep schedule, you’ll be shocked at how much easier it will be to maintain your symptoms of anxiety.
6. Drinking excess amounts of caffeine or alcohol
Clearly, over-inundating your body with either of these drugs is never a solid plan, even more so for anxiety sufferers. Excess consumption of a stimulant like coffee, though it works wonders for your energy, can send symptoms of anxiety—such as a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, even dizziness—into overdrive. The same rings true for having one too many cocktails. Sure, at first you’ll feel great because your serotonin is getting a nice spike, but when that wears off, the drop exasperates your previous anxious feelings. So, the moral of the story is if you’re feeling anxious, one or two drinks can be a good way to calm down, but overdoing it will simply make things worse.
7. Sitting down for too long
Sitting down for extended periods of time not only has negative effects on your body (which is why so many offices are implementing standing desks) but it’s also detrimental to your mental health. A BMC Public Health study, found that sedentary behavior and symptoms of anxiety share a significant relationship. The longer you spend sitting, the more likely you are to become anxious. So, try taking a break from sitting every 30 minutes or so throughout your daily routine and you’ll thank us later.
8. Not hydrating yourself enough
Dehydration seems to be the root of all evil. Headache? You’re probably dehydrated. Bad mood or muscle tension? Dehydrated. And so on. Dehydration can also cause lightheadedness, increased heart rate, and muscle fatigue which are all typical anxiety triggers. To avoid these symptoms, treat yourself to one of those fancy water tumblers and keep it near you all day so you’re constantly hydrated.
Though this may seem fairly obvious, procrastinating is a fool-proof way to induce anxiety. Leaving an important project or assignment until the last minute will guarantee a world of stress that your body and mind could do without (as most of us learned in college). The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to break up your project into small manageable pieces, starting the task is half of the battle.