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5 Mental Habits That Make Your Anxiety Worse

Unchecked anxiety can take its toll and suck the joy out of your life. 

Those who live with anxiety know how difficult it can be to identify the cause of your anxiety attack let alone trying to bring it under control at the moment. 

Solutions like grounding exercises, breathing techniques, etc. do exist and can assist you in managing the symptoms of your anxiety. 

However, as you go about your day, many bad mental habits can unknowingly trigger anxiety and make you feel more anxious and stressed out. Healthy or unhealthy, habits do not, unfortunately, distinguish between what causes anxiety and what doesn’t. Stick to these habits for long enough and anxiety might constantly agitate your emotions and behaviors, ultimately taking over your mind and life.

It’s important for you to learn what these bad mental habits are that have the potential to intensify your anxiety, so you can prepare yourself with better choices to live the life you want.


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Procrastinating

Whenever you find yourself avoiding some task that you know is important but you just ‘don’t feel like doing it,’ you are procrastinating. Almost 20% of the population represent habitual procrastinators, who struggle to prioritize their important goals and responsibilities over how they feel about those same things when they have to act.

Everyone procrastinates at times but the real problem arises when it becomes a habit. The default attitude of procrastination becomes deliberately looking for distractions to avoid difficult tasks at hand. It usually tends to reflect a procrastinator’s struggle with self-control and discipline.

For people with anxiety disorders, short term procrastination becomes a long-term burden.

A 2014 study revealed that people with anxiety have a greater tendency to procrastinate than others but at the same time, procrastinating can make anxiety worse. This makes sense as people who procrastinate often end up worrying about the important task that they avoided.

Most of the time procrastination can leave you with self-frustration and considering how important a task you dodged, it might also make you vulnerable to sudden anxiety attacks.

Procrastination can happen for many different reasons, ranging from a fear of not doing well (perfectionism) to a lack of interest in the task at all. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to stop giving in to this bad habit. Chronic procrastination can become debilitating to self-esteem and can lead to poor quality of life.

Tips:

  • Find out all works and responsibilities that you truly care about and are passionate enough to not fear putting in the required amount of effort.
  • Identify why you care about them. Know your WHY behind everything you do.
  • Break down large pieces of work into smaller chunks and identify how much time would you require to complete any work. Stick to your commitments and do not overburden yourself.

Negative Self-Talk

Self-talk is the act of narrating your conscious thoughts and unconscious beliefs about how you perceive every situation. Psychologists often refer to self-talk as our ‘inner voice’ and it guides us into taking action through the decisions we make in our everyday lives.

Whether you perceive a situation as positive or negative, irrespective of its actual reality determines whether your self-talk is healthy or unhealthy in nature. Where positive self-talk can motivate you to take action, negative self-talk can leave you to procrastinate.

Research has suggested negative self-talk can damage confidence that can influence your decision making and behaviors, leaving with increased feelings of worry and anxiety.

What complicates things further is the fact that those who suffer from anxiety disorders often tend to adopt a negative world-view worsening symptoms of anxiety in them.

Treatment options like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are meant to treat this very foundation of anxiety disorders in people, which is their negative perception of the world or whatever makes them anxious. Rewiring your brain to look at situations positively is the first step to conquering anxiety. Stop the habit of negative self-talk now and start seeing the world for what it really is.

Tips:

  • Take up treatment options like CBT which can provide an ideal foundation to break the habit of negative self-talk.
  • Focus on the reality and positive aspects of any situation.
  • Try to think less and act more.

Overthinking

Thinking through things is a good habit that provides you with constructive clarity on how to act. It becomes overthinking when you keep thinking about it for too long and just cannot get it out of your head. We all have experienced events at least once in our life that might have made us overthink.

However, the real problem with overthinking is the unhealthy destructive thought process that we engage in often leading to irrational worry and anxiety. Overthinking usually stems from focusing on the negative aspects of any important event, which if done consistently might lead to the development of a negative and self-critical mindset.

A 2013 study on more than 30,000 people demonstrated that focusing on negative aspects of any event, mostly through rumination and self-blame can be the leading cause of common mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and affect overall well-being.

All the evidence link overthinking with the major symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a common form of anxiety that involves worrying too much, nervousness, and an overall feeling unease and restlessness. Therefore, it becomes sensible to stop the habit of overthinking to relieve anxiety in your life.

Tips:

  • Focus on the action part of any event more than the thinking part.
  • Question what makes you overthink about any event and evaluate if it is a rational fear or not.
  • Focus on looking at events and experiences from a positive lens.
  • Learn to live in the present moment by practicing mindfulness techniques.

Complaining

Complaining is simply an act of expressing dissatisfaction in regards to a negative situation.

While consumer complaints are meant to respect and strengthen the association between a business and their customer, the other types of complaining namely venting and chronic complaining usually arise from personal dissatisfaction towards things, generally outside of our control.

Researchers believe the act of complaining chronically can rewire the brain to instill habits of rumination and focusing on the negative aspects which have shown to aggravate symptoms of anxiety. 

While the act of venting out is associated with being emotionally dissatisfied with something and are often seeking approval from others, which not surprisingly leads to worsening the mood of both who complains and who listens to them, according to a study.

Tips:

  • Focus on things which are in your circle of control
  • Learn to accept the cause of anything that is not within your control.
  • If the cause of your dissatisfaction is within your control, learn to act, and solve the issue.
  • Adopt a positive frame of mind towards the world and appreciate what’s around you.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a personality trait in many people which causes them to set high expectations for themselves and others, which are more often than not unrealistic in nature. 

Positive or healthy perfectionism is considered a good habit as it spurs you to deliver your best at every work. Positive perfectionism includes focusing more on progress, setting realistic goals, and learning from your mistakes. The pursuit of excellence can only be supported by constant learning and enjoying the process as much as the outcome with establishing healthy boundaries around work and other areas of life.

However, when you set up standards beyond your reach, you might act from a negative perfectionistic attitude which can lead to being overly self-critical, acknowledging mistakes as failures, seeking approval from others, and ultimately labeling yourself as unworthy for anything less than perfect.

Acting in negative perfectionism leads to immense distress, disharmony, uncertainty, fear of making mistakes, and anxiety regarding judgment from others.

Research shows that negative perfectionism causes distress, fear of making mistakes, disharmony, uncertainty, and anxiety. Numerous studies have also claimed perfectionistic behaviors can reinforce negative thinking patterns and aggravate certain symptoms making people susceptible to depression and anxiety.

Considering how damaging it can be to encourage perfectionistic behaviors, it makes sense to start bringing it under control and eventually replacing the negative with positive perfectionism, to live a life of growth and contentment.

Tips:

  • Identify and set goals that are realistic in nature.
  • Focus on incremental progress over the outcome.
  • Set an achievable benchmark for progress and measure your effort against it.
  • Lastly, excellence is a process that can be achieved only with patience. So practice patience.

Take a moment to assess which of these mental habits seem relevant to you and might be contributing to your anxiety. Make the necessary changes immediately because it’s your life that is at stake here. Lastly, never hesitate to reach out for support or consult a mental health professional to understand your anxiety better. 

Online Therapy is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy and please exercise caution before investing in any online therapy platform.


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