Anxiety disorders affect nearly 20% of adults in North America. That’s about 40 million people! Many researchers estimate that this number is actually closer to 30% since there are many people who suffer undiagnosed anxiety symptoms or aren’t even aware they have anxiety at all.
Sometimes, it feels like anxiety has become a part of modern-day life, and it’s something many of us just have to deal with. In a way, it’s true. The stress of school and the workplace leaves 41% of employees and over half of all college/university students suffering from high levels of anxiety.
Sometimes it just feels good to go home, and indulge in some well-deserved vices. We’ve all had the all-so-satisfying feeling of planting our butts in our couches and binge-watching our favorite Netflix shows while eating pizza. But as tempting and amazing as that sounds, is it really the best thing for us? As it turns out, some of our guilty pleasures may be agitating our anxiety instead of reducing it.
Here are 8 everyday habits that may be stressing you out more than you know.
Being a Couch Potato
Yes, your daily activeness has a direct effect on your mood. Regular exercise is important in maintaining your mental health because it reduces stress! According to the ADAA, even just 10 minutes of exercise a day – though 30 minutes of daily exercise is recommended – can improve alertness and concentration.
Exercise produces endorphins, which reduce stress. When you spend all day huddled up in bed or on your sofa, you give up the chance to decrease your tension, improve your sleep, and stabilize your mood.
Intimidated by the gym? Don’t worry… being active doesn’t have to be hard. Go out for walks or jogs, or try a morning yoga routine!
Are your eating habits irregular? Do you skip meals because you’re too busy being out and about? You’re only causing your body stress. Skipping meals or eating late can deplete you of the important nutrients that you need to feel energized. When you don’t have enough to eat, your blood-sugar levels take a dive, making you feel anxious, sluggish and irritated.
Want to feel calm and happy? Eat foods like berries, spinach, and fish, which are high in antioxidants, vitamin B, and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively. All of these foods and their nutrients work toward the elevation of mood and the warding off of depression.
Frequenting the Drive-Through
It’s not just about eating food, it’s about eating healthy. If you have a habit of heading to the drive-through a little too often, you might want to re-think your eating habits. A recent study found that high-fat diets increase nervousness and render antidepressant medications virtually ineffective.
For many of us, it is a morning ritual to have a cup of coffee to wake us up. But caffeine is no friend to anyone who is prone to anxiety. Caffeine stimulates our flight-or-flight response centers, mimicking our physiological reactions to dangerous or scary situations. This makes us feel alert and energized. But this stimulation also means we have to deal with fight-or-flight symptoms: increased heart rate, sweaty palms, an upset stomach, and shaky hands.
Are you easily prone to anxiety? If so, it might not be in your best interest to have 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day. A good alternative that can wake us up in the morning is a cold glass of water with lemon or cucumber (or both).
Scrolling Through Social Media
It is a common habit to scroll through Instagram or Facebook in our free time. But being on social media for prolonged periods of time can be harmful to our mental health in more than one way.
Being on social media can take time away from other more important things, like being present at work or getting tasks done. The realization that you’ve spent 20 minutes looking at your Instagram feed can lead to regret and anxiety for not using your time more productively.
Social media sites also have a competitive aspect to them. Social media accounts are often curated representations of those that we follow. Being able to look at the best parts of other peoples lives can often make us feel jealous and upset about our own lives. Unplug for a while! Focus on the people in front of you and spend time with friends and loved ones. Those are the kinds of interactions that help you feel happy.
You Don’t Get Sleep
You need at least 7 hours of sleep in order to feel healthy and energized in the day. Anything less, and you will feel the effects of sleep deprivation. These effects include heightened stress, mood destabilization, poor cognitive functioning, and a lowered immune system. Sleep deprivation can also cause anticipatory anxiety, which is the anxiety you feel right before events like heading into work, having to speak publicly, or taking a test.
Get those hours in! Figure out a bedtime schedule that works for you and try to regulate your sleep hours. Going to sleep at midnight? Get ready for bed at 11. Are you a habitual pre-sleep computer or phone user? These over-stimulating gadgets are actually preventing your brain from winding down. Try reading a book before bed instead – or better yet, a pre-sleep breathing meditation.
Spending Too Much Time Alone
This might seem productive for someone who suffers from anxiety. But spending time with other people can actually help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Spending time with supportive friends and developing healthy positive attachments can help to improve social functioning and increase happiness. Alone time is important every once in a while, especially for all of you introverts out there. But it’s just as important to get out there and see your friends!
Listening to Moody Music
Yes, sad songs can affect your mood. The emotion and effect of the songs you listen to have direct effects on your current emotions. If you’re already feeling anxious or sad, it’s probably not in your best interest to play your breakup playlist on repeat. That sad tune will exacerbate the sadness and anxiety you may already be feeling. The next time you’re feeling sad or anxious, listen to something happy! Make a playlist full of calming or positive music that will help you find your happy place.
Now, remember; these habits are not sure-fire anxiety triggers for everyone. Doing any of these things will not guarantee a bout of anxiety. But they will increase your chances of it.
What do you think? Any anxiety-inducing habits you’ve been guilty of? I’m a coffee addict, myself. Are there any habits you know of that should have made it on this list? Let us at psych2go know, in the comments section down below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin