This Is How You're Making Your Anxiety Worse
Set yourself up for success and kick these bad habits that are amplifying your anxiety.
While some may experience it more severely and more frequently than others, we all know what it's like to feel anxious, overwhelmed, or panicked. That's why it's not surprising that anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association. And as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's been a noticeable increase in the number of people dealing with anxiety and other mental health conditions. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31 percent of Americans reported experiencing anxiety in June. Worse yet, anxiety wreaks all kinds of havoc on more than just your mind, as well. In fact, This Is How Your Anxiety Is Hurting Your Health.
"It's quite understandable the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause significant stress and psychological distress for a large proportion of the population," Maurizio Fava, MD, psychiatrist-in-chief at the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in an article on the facility's website. "And we know the rates are progressively increasing."
However, it doesn't take a global health crisis to trigger your anxiety. There are countless little things you do everyday, likely without even knowing it, that amplify your stress—especially if you already have an anxiety disorder. So, to help you stave off any of those feelings, be sure to avoid these things that are making your anxiety worse.
Not having a daily routine
Having a daily routine—especially in these uncertain times—is key to keeping you on track, motivated, and productive. But when you lack that kind of structure or schedule, you are more likely to let your thoughts turn inward and slip in to a period of anxiety and depression.
"If people don't have structure and are sitting around with less to focus on, then they also probably will find themselves thinking about the stressful situation more, which can also lead to additional stress and anxiety," Rachel Goldman, PhD, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, told Verywell Mind in April 2020. And for more pitfalls to avoid when it comes to your well-being, check out This Is the No. 1 Mental Health Mistake You're Making Right Now.
Avoiding things that make you anxious
If you know that certain situations or interactions always trigger your anxiety, your inclination is likely to avoid those things at all costs. While that seems like a logical thing to do and may save you from uncomfortable feelings of panic in the moment, the avoidance approach is not really the best move in the long run.
"The problem with avoidance is that it is reinforced in the moment," Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist and life coach, wrote in a Sept. 2020 article for Psychology Today. "When you make the decision not to try, you start to feel relief and your body calms down. But avoidance makes anxiety worse in the long run because you never learn that the feared result won't happen."
Does the manner in which you carry yourself in the physical sense really have anything to do with how you feel mentally? In fact, it actually does. According to multiple studies, including one published in Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry in 2017, something as simple as sitting up straight can reduce symptoms of depression, reduce fatigue, improve your mood, and mitigate your anxiety.
Being on your phone all the time
If you don't think that your constant scrolling of social media and news headlines is having an effect on your mental health, try cutting down on how much you look at your phone and see how you feel after a few days. We're willing to bet you'll be pleasantly surprised. According to recent research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, too much time on your smartphone can worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and low self-esteem. Up to the challenge? Here are 7 Easy Ways to Cut Back on Your Screen Time Right Now.
Not getting enough sleep
When it comes to your health—both mental and physical—few things are more important than getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than half of all insomnia cases are associated with depression, anxiety, or psychological stress. What's more, in a Harvard Mental Health Letter published by Harvard Medical School, researchers found that poor sleep can lead to mental health issues and that rectifying your sleeping problems can help mitigate symptoms of poor mental health.
Living a sedentary lifestyle
Just like adequate sleep, regular exercise is essential to achieving optimal mental and physical health. The Mayo Clinic says that because of the natural brain chemicals, or endorphins, that are released when you're engaged in physical activity and have an uplifting effect on your mood, "working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you're feeling better." And for more up-to-date information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.