Habits are hard. The good ones are hard to get into—and the bad ones are hard to break—and as we grow up and mature and start to feel the stresses of life, we can become reliant on certain kinds of behaviors and habits to make life easier for ourselves.
Unfortunately, these behaviors could be the stepping stone to developing an anxiety disorder or make existing anxiety worse if not recognized and dealt with in a more efficient and healthy way.
Here are 7 common habits that could be making your anxiety worse:
1. The need to be perfect
Perfectionism is a very common personality trait of several kinds of mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and eating disorders. Perfectionists feel the need to get everything done on time, get it done right the first time and are extremely hard on themselves when they don’t succeed. Perfectionism can make a person believe they are not good enough unless they are perfect in everything from their physical appearance, to their careers, to their abilities as a parent or partner.
Perfectionism Tip – Start practicing positive self talk. When you feel yourself saying “I am stupid” rather force yourself to say “I made a mistake, but that’s okay.”
I myself struggle with making decisions, and even when I do, I always find that I want to change my mind a few days down the line. Anxiety sufferers do struggle to make up their minds, and because we are so anxious all the time, we are constantly having a battle within our minds wondering which the best way to go is, and because we fear everything going wrong, it can be hard to make up our minds at all, leaving the decision up to someone else.
3. Taking on too much
This is not only related to your career. You could be involved in charity work, being a parent, organizing an event or traveling to different places. Taking on too much not only causes physical exhaustion—it can also cause brain fogginess and panic when it starts to feel as though there are not enough hours in the day.
Time management Tip – Invest in a diary and allow yourself some ‘me time’ in between your appointments. Also learn to say no when you have too much to do in one day.
4. Sleep habits
Without sleep, we as humans would not survive, and an average adult human should be getting 8 hours of sleep per night. Things like stress, anger, anxiety and depression can cause insomnia, leaving you feeling awful the next morning, contributing to poor performance and even more anxiety and depression. Here are some awesome hacks and tricks for insomnia.
5. Skipping breakfast
If you are one for getting headaches, feeling bloated, tired and irritable in the morning—this could be related to you not eating breakfast. If you cannot eat in the morning, you can start off small. Try squeezing 2 oranges and drinking the juice and munching on some nuts. This is a light snack and a great combo for anxiety. I actually find this is the best to eat when I don’t feel like eating in the morning—then at about 11am, I’ll have an apple or banana which will last me until lunch time.
6. Caffeine and Sugar
Among other things, caffeine speeds up the heart rate, contributes to insomnia and increases cortisol, a stress hormone. Sugar, on the other hand, upsets the blood glucose levels and depletes the body of vitamin B, our anti-stress vitamins.
Caffeine reducing Tips – Don’t go cold turkey if trying to give up coffee. Concentrate on cutting back on your daily cup allowance. For chocolate, try eating something like a medjool date or another piece of sweet fruit before eating chocolate—most of the time, you won’t feel like the chocolate afterwards. For soda, try substituting for sparkling water with some freshly squeezed fruit juice.
7. Imbalance between your work, family and relaxation life
I think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle with this one. Achieving a healthy balance within these things is a tough one, but there are ways to improve it. So many people take on too much in their jobs, and often family and time for themselves take a backseat, which could leave you feeling guilty, angry and tired.
Balance Tip – Invest in a diary, and schedule time for family and relaxation. It sounds funny scheduling time for family and relaxation, but it really is a smart life hack!
By Mel Bonthuys, a Mental Health advocate, blogger and author with a passion for helping fellow anxiety sufferer’s. Follow her on Twitter.