Anxiety affects more than 40 million people aged 18 and up. The most common mental illness, anxiety costs over $42 billion in mental health bills. But instead of racking up the bills, it’s important to uncover which habits make anxiety worse. How can we help ourselves on a daily basis, apart from medication or therapy? (1)
These 8 habits make anxiety worse, and tips for how to stop them:
When we overthink something, we tend to unnecessarily analyze a situation over and over again until we can’t think straight. Usually, we’ll come up with only the negatives, which stress us out. Instead, we should be thinking of solutions. (2)
One way to avoid overthinking is to set aside a time each day solely for worrying. This might sound counterproductive, but if you know there’s a set end to the time you’re allowed to overthink, it won’t take over your life, and it won’t make your anxiety unbearable.
Similar to overthinking, obsessing does nothing to solve the problem. We obsess so much that we often find ourselves not present and enjoying and moment. We can appear detached and aloof.
Stop obsessing by detaching yourself emotionally to whatever it is you’re thinking about. Focus only on the things you can change and discard anything that you can’t.
People with anxiety like to plan out everything because it gives them a sense of comfort. We attach high expectations to situations or people and then, when our expectations aren’t met, we freak out. (3)
Stop trying to predict the future. If you lower your expectations and resign yourself to accepting things as they are, the chances of you being disappointed are slim to none.
Avoiding the things that give you anxiety may seem like you’re helping yourself in the short term, but in the long-term, your habits make anxiety worse. In fact, you need to confront the things that set you off — even the things that make your stomach churn. Why do you react to these things in such a way? How can you confront it head-on and get some closure? If you don’t, you’re going to be plagued until you do.
Put yourself out there. Face your fears. Chances are, you might be stressing out over nothing. The thing you’ve been fearing for months or years might have only been in your head.
5. Relying Too Heavily on Medications
Medication can be a great thing. For some people, it makes life livable. But the problem with medications is that they mask the symptoms, rather than tackling the true issue causing the anxiety. (4)
Ideally, there are other ways to cope with anxiety, such as a meditation, yoga, getting enough sleep, and lowering your overall stress level. But it’s also a good idea to reach inside yourself to identify the issue causing the anxiety and tackle it. If you can’t do it this on your own, or if it’s too painful, there is no shame in seeking the help of a professional.
6. Trying to Control Everything
People with anxiety seek to control things because it gives them a sense of comfort, something they wouldn’t otherwise feel because, in truth, their internal world is crumbling. We do whatever we can to fend of feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. But this can make life feel tense and unenjoyable. (5)
You can’t control everything in life. Focus on the things you actually can control, like your thought patterns or the way you treat others. Otherwise, life will control you.
7. Turning to Food, Drugs, or Alcohol
Again, these only give short-term relief. The minute we wake up hung over or finish that overly filling meal, our problems are going to come right back. Why? Because we are not facing them. Instead of looking outward to combat your demons, look inward!
Instead of turning to outside substances to mask anxiety, feed your soul with things you enjoy. Things that bring you happiness and a sense of fulfillment. You’ll be surprised how quickly you start to feel a sense of peace and belonging.
Denying that we have anxiety is only going to make the problem worse. Without actively treating it, our negative feelings will fester and make us unhappy and stressed out. (6)
It’s okay to admit you have anxiety! Most people do. One of the first steps to healing and working on a problem is to simply accept it and move on accordingly.