The 12 Common Habits that Make Anxiety Worse

The 12 Common Habits that Make Anxiety Worse

12 minute read

What habits make your anxiety worse?

Chronic anxiety can be caused by many external factors - such as trauma, chronic illness, death of a loved one, losing a job, and anxiety running in the family - often situations we cannot control. However, we can also have bad habits that make anxiety worse. This is something we can control. You can reduce and manage your anxiety once you become aware of your bad habits and make a commitment to change them.

Learn the 12 most common habits that make anxiety worse so you can start reevaluating how you can start taking control. Even though it won't be easy, we also know that it's possible to change these into something positive and less anxious and that it's worth the effort.

1. Consuming caffeine

The consumption of caffeine is a major trigger for anxiety, and while studies show that reducing caffeine can help with anxiety, you must eliminate it completely.

Caffeine acts as an anxiety amplifier. The anxiety level of someone who consumes caffeine at level 5 will likely reach 8 within hours after consuming it, which will increase to 10 or more in the evening. If you do not sleep well that night, your anxiety will be even worse in the morning, and then comes your morning caffeine fix, starting the same cycle over.

There is no obvious connection between caffeine and anxiety since we temporarily feel good after consuming it, but we don't feel the anxious effects until hours later. Caffeine is not only found in coffee. To eliminate caffeine from your diet, you must also eliminate black tea, green tea, soda, energy drinks, and even decaf coffee to some extent.

When you are not ready to give up caffeine permanently, try avoiding it for at least 30 days and keep a record of any changes you notice in anxiety levels.

Caffeine is listed as the number one habit that causes anxiety because of the following:

  • It is one of the most common habits

  • One of the worst anxiety triggers,

  • You will notice a significant improvement in anxiety levels and sleep when it is eliminated.

We recommend drinking a variety of loose-leaf herbal teas. Anxiety-relieving teas include chamomile, valerian root, and oat straw.

2. Skipping Meals

Skipping meals is all too common in our anxiety-filled lives. We are either preoccupied with excessive worry or fear, or we lack the desire or appetite to eat. In addition, skipping meals causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that may create common anxiety symptoms like irritability, nervousness, dizziness, light-headedness, and weakness.

Poor eating habits have also been linked to anxiety and depression in other studies. Dieting can also cause anxiety-like symptoms, especially if you eliminate one of the major essential nutrients (carbs, fats, or proteins).

The following recommendations may help:

  • Eating every two hours five times a day (1. Breakfast, 2. Healthy snack, 3. Lunch, 4. Healthy snack, 5. Dinner) is a good rule of thumb.

  • Consume whole foods rich in complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Natural foods include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds, herbs, fresh meat, and fish

3. Choosing processed foods

Processed foods can negatively affect your mental and physical health. These foods include microwave meals, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, cold meats, sauces, dressings, and foods with a long ingredient list.

Chemicals and additives are often added to processed foods, and research shows that these ingredients reduce moods and social behavior, while promoting anxiety.

Some of the worst additives are:

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Food colorings and dyes

  • Flavor enhancers such as Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Dye and artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins that cause the nervous system to malfunction, leading to an increase in anxiety levels.

We recommend the following:

  • Replace packaged, processed, and refined foods with natural whole foods.

  • Make vegetables and whole grains the bulk of your daily calories. Complex carbohydrates in these foods will provide a slow release of energy, stabilize your blood sugar level, and help you manage food cravings.

4. Eating too much sugar

The consumption of sugar can contribute to anxiety, so it should be avoided. Even if we know we should cut back on sugar, we still crave it when we feel anxious.

Apparently, sugar slows the release of stress hormones (cortisol) by temporarily suppressing an area of the brain normally active when anxious. In this way, when we eat something sugary, we can feel a snippet of anxiety relief, which leads us to crave it and become reliant on it.

However, sugar increases anxiety and reactivity to stress, making us feel more anxious. Consuming sugar causes sudden spikes and dips in blood sugar, resulting in irritability, nervousness, and low mood, which negatively impact your state of anxiety. Sugar has also been linked to inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, diabetes, obesity, heart, kidney, and liver disease, and multiple studies have shown that these conditions can result in anxiety and other mental health disorders.

You should start by avoiding obvious culprits such as cakes, cookies, chocolate, puddings, pastries, ice cream, milkshakes, waffles, and similar foods. Get in the habit of reading food labels as 75% of packaged foods contain added sugar. Remember, even healthy foods such as muesli, muesli bars, yogurts, and smoothies contain added sugar.

What can you eat instead?

Fruit contains many nutrients and can satisfy your desire for sweet foods. However, you should limit yourself to eating 2-3 pieces of fruit a day. Consuming large quantities of fruit can affect your blood sugar and anxiety levels because it is high in simple sugars. A balanced diet can help you consume more natural whole foods, leaving less room for processed foods and added sugars! You can also curb your sugar cravings by eating healthfully.

Recommendations:

  • Aim to consume less sweet fruit per day, such as apples, pears, green bananas, mangoes, and papayas.

  • Natural sweeteners like Stevia are the best.

  • Eat sweet vegetables, such as squash and sweet potatoes, to manage your sugar cravings.

5. Not Drinking Enough Fluids

A dehydrated body experiences stress, and when your body is stressed, you can experience common anxiety symptoms.

Researchers studied water's effects on mood and found that restricting water consumption decreased contentment, calmness, positive emotions, and vigor/activity while increasing water consumption reduced fatigue, confusion, and thirst. Low mood can be caused by dehydration. Mild dehydration can cause feelings of anger, confusion, tension, and fatigue.

It's important to stay hydrated when you're prone to anxiety, but it's also vital for your overall health. Water also has natural calming properties. Drinking enough water can help you relax and reduce anxiety, so make sure you stay hydrated every day to avoid unnecessary dehydration-related anxiety.

Here's what we suggest:

  • Drink 11 cups of fluid daily if you are female, and 15 cups if you are male.

  • Fruits and vegetables contain liquid, so they count towards your fluid intake.

  • You can drink water and loose-leaf herbal teas. Avoid herbal tea bags because they may contain caffeine.

  • Sip water or tea throughout the day rather than drinking too much at once.

  • Drink chamomile tea daily

6. Bad eating habits

Unhealthy eating habits like the following can significantly affect anxiety levels:

Eating too little or too much,

A lack of vegetables, whole grains, and other natural whole foods

Overconsumption of processed foods and beverages, which are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar, or low in fiber, and

Chewing your food improperly.

Poor eating habits decrease your intake of essential nutrients - carbohydrates, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals - that are crucial for mental health and the proper functioning of the nervous system.

People who suffer from anxiety disorders and other mental health issues tend to be deficient in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. A deficiency in B vitamins, vitamin C and E, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids can affect mood and anxiety levels.

Below are recommendations:

  • Consume a healthy diet rich in vegetables and whole grains, and avoid processed foods

  • Maintain a healthy diet by eating moderately

  • Make sure you chew your food properly to get the most nutrients out of it.

  • Engage in mindfulness eating

7. Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is commonly used to cope with anxiety.

A few hours after consuming alcohol you may feel less anxious and happier since you have been stimulated by the brain's "happy chemicals (such as serotonin, and dopamine). However, you may also feel more anxious after drinking alcohol. As the alcohol wears off, you're likely to feel more anxious, tired, and down than before you had a drink.

In addition to causing anxiety problems, excessive drinking of alcohol can cause hangovers - with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, dehydration, and low blood sugar. Overconsumption of alcohol raises the risk of chronic disease, as well as other mental disorders.

Eliminate alcohol from your diet while you attempt to control your anxiety. When you start to manage your anxiety symptoms, you can drink once in a while.

8. Lack of exercise

Another habit that can cause anxiety is not being physically active. You are likely to suffer from physical and mental problems if you sit for most of the day without exercising. Physiological movement is necessary for many bodily functions because your body is designed to move.

The lymphatic system, for instance, requires breathing and muscle movement to move fluids and eliminate waste from the body. When you don't move your body, these processes begin to work inefficiently. Excess toxins in your body can cause anxiety.

As a result of inactivity, you are more likely to develop diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, and high blood pressure.

How can you ensure constant movement if you suffer from weakness, low energy, or lack motivation?

Start with brisk walks around your building, home, or neighborhood. For example, walking 10,000 steps throughout the day is a good way to ensure continuous movement. Don't worry if you can't walk this much at first. Just do what you can, and work your way up.

Tips on how to be more active:

  • Walking, yoga, and hiking are the best exercises for anxiety, but any physical activity can help you reduce your symptoms.

  • Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and practice it at least 3 times a week.

  • Go on short and long walks the rest of the week.

  • Take long walks on weekends, or do something physically active.

9. Lack of Sleep

Sleep disorders are a common symptom of anxiety disorders, but they can also cause more anxiety if you don't get enough sleep.

Recent studies show that less than eight hours of sleep can increase recurring negative thoughts and make it difficult to let go of the negatives that are characteristic of anxiety.

What we recommend:

  • Try to sleep for 8 hours every night.

  • Aim to go to bed by midnight at 22:00.

  • Darken the room at night. Close curtains, screens, and blinds and turn off your electronics.

  • Do not eat 3 hours before bedtime.

10. Watch the news

Anxiety is characterized by excessive anxiety and fear, and the news can exacerbate the problem and later make you feel moody and anxious.

It's important to keep up with what's happening in the world, but when you see or read the first news in the morning, you set an uneasy tone for the day and react late at night with negative images and words. There is a possibility that it will probably affect your sleep quality.

Knowing that news has this kind of effect on anxiety, make sure you avoid news-related material in the morning and evening.

You should make it a habit to do something positive when you wake up and right before you go to sleep, such as meditation, stretching, journaling, affirmations, and yoga.

11. Comparing Yourself with Others

We have instant access to images from people's lives on the internet and social media today, making it easy and common to compare ourselves to others. You will feel unhappiness, low mood, and negative thoughts, leading to anxiety if you do this every day.

Moreover, comparing yourself with others is unrealistic and unfair, because you're most likely to look at someone's best aspects rather than their weakest. Focusing on your own abilities and achievements will help you to love yourself more, and when you learn to love yourself, comparisons and anxiety will melt away.

Whenever you start comparing yourself to someone else, pause, and say, "I choose to focus on my own talents and strengths so I can share my gifts with the world." Then take your journal and write down your strengths. Keep adding to the list over time.

12. Trying to Ignore your Anxiety

The anxiety that you experience is your body's way of trying to tell you that something needs to be fixed. If you ignore this signal, it will become louder and louder, until you listen to it.

Start keeping a daily personal record of the following:

  • Anxiety levels

  • Daily Activities - meals, exercise, journaling, affirmations, etc.

  • Worries and fears

  • 15-minute brain dump

In this way, you can determine what makes you more or less anxious, and make adjustments accordingly. This will enable you to become aware of any other habits that need your attention.

Write down your bad habits and set small actionable goals to change them. When you take action to manage your anxiety, you can expect to notice your symptoms lessening. You can do this! The power lies within you.

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