Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18 (roughly 18% of the population). Anxiety costs more than $42 billion annually in mental health bills, which shows just how widespread and severe this disorder has become.
With so many people suffering from anxiety, it seems of utmost importance to find the triggers for this disorder, and how we can avoid them. What can we do to feel better? You’ll find the answers to this question in this article, as well as the actual habits that make anxiety worse, in general.
10 Habits That Make Anxiety Worse (And How to Avoid Having Them)
Overthinking literally creates problems that don’t exist. Sometimes, they might actually exist, but dwelling on the problems will not provide answers. You will only make the problems worse, and therefore make your anxiety worse.
How to avoid it: If possible, have time set aside each day for ‘worrying.’ This might sound counterproductive to anxiety, but having a certain window of time allocated to overthinking will allow you to get out all your thoughts and feelings and move on. This way, you’ll have more energy throughout the day to devote to other things. You might also try a mindfulness practice such as meditation or yoga to help you quiet your thoughts.
Just like overthinking, obsessing and fixating on issues does nothing to solve the actual problem. Though it is important to come to a solution, you won’t get there by overanalyzing. We spend so much time in today’s world solving problems and using critical thinking and obsessing over answers. What if we just escaped all of that obsessive behavior and just lived? In order to overcome anxiety, you need to find a quiet place in your mind and delve into it often.
How to avoid it: Basically, just let the thoughts flow through you, but don’t attach yourself to them. Only focus on the things you can change, and forget about the things you can’t. If something doesn’t feel right in your life, either release it or confront the problem directly in order to find peace of mind.
Many people with anxiety have a great fear of the unknown. They want to have expectations for everything, so it makes the future seem less scary. People with anxiety can sometimes have unreasonable expectations, and when they aren’t met, this makes the anxiety worse. Expectations usually lead to disappointments, so stop trying to predict the future. Usually, life happens much differently than we expect, and trying to foresee events in the future will only lead to greater anxiety when the event doesn’t actually happen. Not to mention, you’ll obsess over the perceived event until it actually happens, making it impossible to live in the present.
How to avoid it: Focus on living in the now. Make your life so exceptional that you have no time to worry about the future. Make your life your greatest joy, so that those pesky expectations don’t come back to haunt you later. You create your reality, so make it what you want rather than expecting things to just come your way.
Avoiding anxiety might seem like the answer, but in reality, this just makes anxiety worse. You’ll have to deal with the repressed emotions later, and in much greater magnitude. Getting help for your disorder and recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Avoidance can also be thought of in a different way – that of avoiding what scares us so that we don’t have to deal with the consequences. However, this will not encourage growth, and avoiding what brings you fear will only magnify it in your mind.
How to avoid it: First of all, you need to accept that you have anxiety. Then, you should work on getting help, in whatever way you see fit. Don’t just wait for someone to help you; sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands if you want to move forward in life. Also, don’t avoid situations, people, or places just because they seem scary. Confront your fears head on, and this will make them shrink once you see that your mind created this fear based on perceptions, not reality.
Similar to avoidance, denial will also wreak havoc on your anxiety. You can’t just go through life with your head in the sand and not confront your issues head on. If you choose to take this route, you’ll have to fight a much more powerful beast later on, so taming your demons now will serve you well.
How to avoid it: Stop denying your anxiety, and gently accept that you might need help. Don’t beat yourself up over it, however; we all have issues, and we’ve all needed help at certain times in our lives. Once you accept that anxiety does control your life to some extent, you can go about overcoming it.
6. RELYING TOO HEAVILY ON MEDICATIONS
Of course, medication should never be totally ruled out for treatment, but when you use medication as the only source of relief from anxiety, you’re cheating yourself out of true healing and recovery. You see, we all have the power within to heal, but we just have to access it. Medication can help to some extent, but other forms of healing have been shown to be just as, if not more, effective.
For example, take this ground-breaking study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA). The researchers found that mindfulness meditation can provide just as much relief for anxiety and depression as antidepressants do. So, why subject yourself to all the toxins and harmful side effects when you can heal naturally without the side effects?
How to avoid it: Only you can choose how you want to overcome, or at least manage, anxiety, but at least open your mind to alternative ways of healing. Meditation, yoga, working out, hiking, arts and crafts, connecting with others, nature, eating whole foods, getting enough sleep, living a low-stress lifestyle, and working on positive thinking are some of the many healing modalities you could choose from.
When anxiety grips you so tightly and you can’t seem to escape its wrath, giving up can seem like a viable option. You feel helpless to make any change, and don’t know where to turn. It’s quite easy to get lost inside the mind and let it totally take you over, but just remember that everyone must hit rock bottom to truly appreciate life and make a change. Anxiety can make you feel helpless, like you have no control over your body or mind, but just remember that you DO have a say in how you feel. You CAN make a change, with perseverance, support, and willingness.
How to avoid it: When you feel helpless, try to go into a meditation practice or just become mindful of your body. Remember that you have a beating heart, and you came here for a reason. Don’t ever let your mind convince you that you can’t make it here, because you certainly can, with a bit of faith and effort.
8. TRYING TO CONTROL EVERYTHING
Another bad habit that anxiety often causes is trying to control every aspect of life. People with anxiety usually fear the unknown, so they try to control whatever they can so they don’t feel so helpless and powerless. However, trying to control everything will make life very regimented, tense, and unenjoyable. Even though the unknown can seem scary, there’s something to be said about the anticipation and excitement of not knowing what will come next.
How to avoid it: Remember that you can’t possibly control everything in life. Try to focus on only the things you can control, so that it won’t appear that life actually controls YOU.
9. USING FOOD, DRUGS, OR ALCOHOL TO BURY FEELINGS
Using a substance outside of ourselves in order to get temporary relief will never lead to long-term healing. Food, drugs, and alcohol can provide temporary happiness, but it won’t compare to what you can feel by going within yourself. By releasing all those demons and learning to live in the moment, you can free yourself WITHOUT using harmful substances.
How to avoid it: When you feel the urge to self-medicate, or binge on food, use that moment as a valuable learning experience. Truly examine your feelings, and ask if your body, mind, or spirit will really feel better by absorbing the energies from these substances. If the answer is no, then ask yourself what other activities you enjoy that you can do to manage anxiety. Maybe you enjoy biking, hiking, drawing, or catching up with friends. You can ALWAYS make a choice to do better for yourself, but you just have to make yourself a priority.
So, just like trying to control everything, perfectionism will only lead to unhappiness and frustration down the road. After all, if life were perfect, we wouldn’t have so many problems to begin with. In other words, life will never reach perfection, so just accept the beauty you find in the imperfections.
How to avoid it: Create your own happiness, and don’t beat yourself up when you fail or when you try to control things outside yourself. You’ll have to gradually let go of perfectionism, but it will serve you well in the long run.