5 Daily Habits That You Don’t Realise Are Making You Anxious
Plus, what you can do to calm down fast
When it comes at the right time—like before a deadline or a test—anxiety can be a positive and motivating emotion. But if uncontrollable worry and negative inner monologues plague you on a regular basis, that’s a different story: Unchecked anxiety can take over your mind, impacting your daily emotions and behaviours.
But you can take control. Of course, if you find that your anxiety is getting worse and nothing seems to help, see your doctor—it’s not something you just have to suffer through. But whether you suffer from an anxiety disorder, or you just feel like you’re in fight-or-flight mode more often than you’d like, nixing these five anxiety-provoking habits can calm you down fast.
YOU OVERANALYZE EVERY LITTLE THING.
“Rumination is a cognitive pattern of repeatedly thinking about a situation rather than taking action to resolve it,” explains Donna Pincus, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University. It’s a hallmark of anxiety—and overanalysing every fight with a friend or sticky situation at work isn’t healthy.
“There is considerable evidence that rumination can lead to negative mood states such as depression and anxiety,” Pincus says.
Instead of stewing, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do about your issue, Pincus suggests. If so, jot down a few solutions and start working on them. If not, it’s important to learn to tolerate uncertainty, says Thea Gallagher, Psy.D., clinic coordinator at the Centre for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
“Living with uncertainty is a great skill. It helps you to stop wasting time on things you can’t control in the moment,” she says.
YOU CONSTANTLY CHECK YOUR EMAIL.
The struggle to achieve a work-life balance is something almost everyone faces. And it’s even harder to do when your cell phone makes it possible for you to be chained to your desk 24/7. If you’re guilty of refreshing your inbox at all hours of the day, ask yourself why you’re looking at your email in the first place, Gallagher says. Are you waiting for an important document or are you trying to never miss a beat? If it’s the latter, try setting aside some phone-free time slots.
“Setting limits to your negative habits can help you make time for more positive habits,” notes Pincus.
“Social media becomes habitual,” says Gallagher. It can take away from being in the present—you don’t have time for meditative spaces or any time for yourself—and being mindful and present is what can help keep you calm.
Plus, constantly searching your feed can be a big time-suck, inevitably resulting in your kicking yourself for not having used your time more productively, furthering anxious thoughts.
YOU SKIP THE GYM MORE OFTEN THAN NOT.
“Getting good sleep, regular exercise, and eating healthy foods are not only good for our physical health, but also have positive effects on our mental health,” Pincus says.
Research shows that quality sleep can help boost mood and regulate emotions, she adds. Exercise also releases feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine that help stave off anxiety, Gallagher adds.
YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME ALONE.
A solid social support system is hugely important when it comes to mental health, as isolation is a common thread in those who suffer from anxiety, Gallagher says. If you’ve been overly immersed in work, spending extra time in the house, or not seeing with those you love, you might notice an uptick in symptoms.
Making an effort to re-connect can help. “People are often in their heads with anxiety,” Gallagher says. “The more you can get out of your head, the better.”
You don’t have to become an extrovert overnight to benefit, either. Pick up a few hours volunteering in your community or ask a co-worker to grab coffee or go for a walk. These small actions can make a big difference.
Article originally published in menshealth.com