22 Mindless Habits That Cause Anxiety | Important Things To Avoid

There are plenty of mindless habits that cause anxiety that we do every day. By excluding these habits, we can live a much happier life.

We often try to do things that make anxiety less intense, but sometimes, it’s more about what we shouldn’t do than what we should. Everyday habits like eating sugar and drinking caffeine can have a negative effect on our bodies and exacerbate anxiety.

There are times when anxiety is useful, especially when in response to stress and challenges. It’s when this natural response becomes unnatural that we need to take a close look at our habits and behaviors.

In this post, I’ll explore common mindless habits that can inadvertently make anxiety worse. Understanding these habits is the first step towards mastering your mental and emotional well-being.

Common Habits that Make Anxiety Worse

Sometimes the smallest choices can affect us in big ways. Something as simple as a cup of coffee or a missed meal can increase our levels of anxiety, pushing us out of our window of tolerance and filling up our stress bucket.

Explore some of the mindless habits that cause anxiety.

1.   Skipping Meals

skipping meals anxiety

Skipping meals might seem harmless, but it can trigger anxiety. Irregular eating patterns can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), causing mood swings and irritability. Additionally, it can result in dizziness, light-headedness, shakiness and weakness.

Eating is something that we often take for granted. But it’s essential to nourish your body regularly with balanced meals to maintain stable energy levels and support emotional stability.

2.   Eating Sugar

mindless habits that cause anxiety eating too much sugar

Consuming excessive sugar can lead to energy crashes and mood swings. While sugar may provide a temporary boost, even suppressing anxiety and tension, it’s often followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and irritability. Studies have even shown that it can increase the risk of anxiety and depression as well as other health problems and diseases.

If you can, prioritize reducing sugar intake and opting for healthier alternatives. Just this small choice can have a huge impact on your mental health.

3.   Drinking Caffeine

drinking caffeine and anxiety

One of the worst mindless habits that cause anxiety is drinking too much Caffeine. Caffeine is an anxiety amplifier. Found in coffee, tea, energy drinks and soft drinks, this stimulant is everywhere. It’s pretty common for us to have caffeine nearly every day. Some people can’t survive without it.

But even a bit of caffeine can often affect anxiety hours later, so we don’t make a connection between the two.

Moderate amounts of caffeine are considered safe. But if you consume it excessively, it results in restlessness, dehydration, increased heart rate and jitteriness.

But by limiting your caffeine intake or choosing decaf options, you can help reduce your symptoms of anxiety.

4.   Eating Processed Food

processed food and anxiety

I’m sure you’ve heard about how bad processed foods are for you. This is because highly processed foods are rich in artificial additives and preservatives. Research has shown that these ingredients can cause anxiety while reducing mood.

Rather opt for a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

5.   Poor Eating Habits

poor eating habits

Inconsistent eating schedules, mindless eating and rushed meals can disrupt digestion, affect nutrient intake and contribute to anxiety. Taking time to eat mindfully, chew your food thoroughly, and savor each bite can improve digestion and reduce anxiety associated with poor eating habits.

6.   Not Exercising

not exercising and anxiety

Physical activity is a natural stress reliever. Your body is designed to move. A sedentary lifestyle where you sit down all day can lead to increased tension and anxiety.

Engaging in regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Incorporating movement into your daily routine can help manage anxiety more effectively.

7.   Consuming Alcohol (and self-medicating)

alcohol anxiety

While some may turn to alcohol or other substances as a form of self-medication to numb anxiety, these habits can exacerbate the condition in the long run. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, increases stress, and can lead to dependency. Seeking healthier coping mechanisms is essential for managing anxiety.

8.   Not Getting Enough Fluids

drink more water

A glass of water can change everything. And a lack of water causes stress in your body. Dehydration can mimic symptoms of anxiety, such as fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration.

Keeping hydrated by drinking water throughout the day is vital for keeping your body healthy.

9.   Lack of Sleep

I can’t stress the importance of sleep enough. You might not notice when you’re sleeping well, but as soon as you have a bad night, everything gets harder. A lack of sleep can increase anxiety symptoms, reduce resilience, and impair cognitive function. If you get less than 8 hours of sleep a night, you’ll find an increase in repetitive negative thoughts and struggle more to let go of things.

Prioritizing your sleep schedule and ensuring you get enough rest is crucial for managing anxiety.

10. Comparing Yourself to Others

comparing yourself to others

Constantly comparing yourself to others can fuel feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. It makes you unhappy, causes low mood and increases negative thoughts.

Everyone’s journey is unique. And comparing yourself to others is often an unfair and unhelpful standard. Social media hardly ever reflects the truth, yet we use it as a benchmark. Remember, social media is just the highlight reel.

Embrace self-compassion, focus on your individual growth and be discerning about what you see online.

11. Watching, Listening to or Reading the News

reading the news

I hate the news. Whenever it comes on the radio, I turn it off. While being informed is valuable, the news is often negative and increases anxiety. As a kid, I would literally plug my ears to avoid hearing things. I recognized it was a massive trigger for me but I couldn’t properly communicate that.

Unfortunately, the things that end up in the news aren’t usually the good things. I’ve never heard a news report highlighting the 7 billion people who still continue to live.

Find a way to stay informed about essential things but rather choose reliable sources that only focus on what you need to know.

12. Ignoring Your Anxiety

ignoring your anxiety

Sticking your head in the sand does nothing for anyone. Ignoring or denying your anxiety won’t make it disappear. In fact, it often makes things worse. Anxiety and other emotions serve as messengers, telling you that something is wrong and things need to change.

Spend some time trying to understand your emotions. Acknowledging and feeling your feelings is extremely valuable. Ignoring your anxiety always makes it worse.

13. Suppressing Emotions

Suppressing emotions, whether out of fear or habit, can lead to emotional buildup and increased anxiety. Unexpressed emotions can even surface physically.

Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions in healthy ways to prevent them from intensifying or overflowing.

14. Avoidance Behaviour

avoiding anxiety

Avoiding never solved anything. While avoiding situations or places that cause us fear or trigger hyperarousal or increase anxiety may provide temporary relief, it can reinforce anxiety in the long run.

Rather focus on gradual exposure to things and developing coping strategies to help you build up resilience.

15. Lack of Self Care

self care anxiety habits

Neglecting self-care practices, such as relaxation, hobbies, and leisure time, can deplete emotional resilience. If you don’t make time for the various types of self-care, you’ll find it far more challenging to manage anxiety.

Prioritizing self-care and enough rest is essential for emotional well-being.

16. Isolation

isolation and anxiety

If you’re an introvert, you may find solace in spending time alone. However, too much isolation can exacerbate anxiety. If we choose to be alone constantly, we limit opportunities for social support and engagement.

Maintaining connections with friends and loved ones is crucial for mastering anxiety and managing your mental health.

17. Overcommitting

overcommitting anxiety

Overloading yourself with responsibilities can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. Setting boundaries and practicing self-compassion are essential for preventing burnout. Learning how to say no is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself.

18. Negative Self Talk

negative self talk

When it comes to mindless habits that cause anxiety, the way you talk to yourself is incredibly important. If you struggle with high-functioning anxiety, you’re likely especially critical and the voice in your head is harsher than it should be.

Negative self-talk, or cognitive distortions, can intensify anxiety by reinforcing harmful thought patterns. They can even lead to imposter syndrome.

Becoming aware of these distortions and challenging them with positive affirmations can promote better mental health. Practice speaking to yourself in a way that is kind and gentle.

19. Perfectionism

perfectionism bad anxiety habits

As someone with high-functioning anxiety, I’m no stranger to trying to be perfect. But it isn’t realistic; in fact, it can be downright detrimental!

We set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and kill ourselves to try and reach them. And then, when we make mistakes, we respond critically.

Striving for perfection can lead to heightened anxiety.

It’s our responsibility to embrace imperfection, allow and learn from mistakes and focus on accepting ourselves for who we really are.

20. Ignoring Physical Health

anxiety ignoring physical health

It’s not all about taking care of your mind. You have to take care of your body too. You are your body, and what happens to your body affects your mind.

Neglecting physical health habits, such as exercise, nutrition, and relaxation, can contribute to anxiety.

21. Rumination

rumination anxiety habits

Constantly dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future without taking constructive action can intensify anxiety. This often happens to me before the start of the week when I get hit with the Sunday Scaries. I start feeling anxious and overwhelmed and my thoughts start spiralling.

Practicing formal or informal mindfulness activities can be extremely valuable. Try to redirect thoughts to help break the toxic cycle of rumination.

Question your thoughts, focus on what you can learn from your mistakes and don’t let yourself get stuck in negativity.

22. Doom Scrolling

doom scrolling

With the popularity and ease of access to social media, doom scrolling is becoming more and more of a problem. We automatically access apps and end up falling into a scroll hole where we waste plenty of time.

Endlessly scrolling through negative or distressing online content, often on social media, can amplify anxiety. Limiting screen time and focusing on positive online interactions is a healthier choice.

I noticed this habit getting a lot worse, (especially with alarmist Facebook groups only focussing on the negative), so I hid my social media apps in folders, now I hardly ever go on Facebook. Instagram is another story because I use it to promote my yoga classes. But I try to limit my time on that too. 

Bad Habits for Anxiety

Recognizing and addressing these mindless habits that cause anxiety is a significant step toward managing your mental health.

By making small, mindful changes in your daily life, you can cultivate a sense of well-being and resilience in the face of anxiety.

If you’re really battling with any of these habits (or multiple) and you don’t feel like you can handle it, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are plenty of professional support services like therapists or counselors that can provide guidance and strategies. They can aid us in breaking these patterns and improving overall mental health.

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