Habits that feed anxiety
Learn more about 5 habits that feed anxiety which you can stop today!
There is no doubt that behaviours can feed anxiety, just as anxiety can feed behaviour. If you often feel anxious, it means that the parts of your brain that are responsible for feelings of anxiety and stress are (too) active. Our behaviour can either re-active these parts of the brain, or calm them down.
One of the great things about our behaviour, is that we have a choice in how to behave. We may not always have a choice in wether we feel anxious or not (in fact, we may never have that choice) but we can decide how we behave, and if we are consistent in our behaviour, those parts of our brain that make us feel anxious will calm down.
When we know what type of behaviours feed our anxiety, we can also learn to stop those behaviours. This is not always as easy as it sounds, but becoming aware of our behaviours is a critical step.
5 behaviours that feed anxiety:
#1 Checking your phone
Every time your phone vibrates, pings, or shows you a red message alert your brain lights up saying: urgent. Must pay attention. Need to act.
This creates a certain restlessness in your body and mind. So much so that you may notice that you pick up your phone even when it has made no sound or has not vibrated. This is because each time we get a message or alert, it tells our brain someone is thinking of us. We like this, we want more of this, so in a way, we become addicted to the pings and vibrations of our phone.
Unfortunately all of this feeds anxiety. It makes us restless, agitated and in need of a ‘phone hit’. You can try to change this by doing a couple of things:
- Limit the number of pings, alerts etc. etc. you get. Switch off all news notifications for example. Put some of your whatsapp groups on silent.
- Set an intention about how often you check your phone per hour. Maybe 2 times. Notice how often you just reach for your phone without thinking. Put it back if you notice you are already using your phone outside of your intended number of times.
- When waiting for something, do not check your phone! Just wait and be present with waiting.
If you are someone who does many things at the same time, you might be feeding your anxiety with that. While we sometimes tend to think that it is efficient to do two or more things at the same time it is not.
Sorry to say that multi-tasking is an illusion. It is just our brain switching from one task to the other very quickly. Switch, swtich, switch… what does that feel like? Just imagine going from one tab on your computer, to the next, to the next, and back again in one minute. Over and over again. It is exhausting.
Exhausting and it creates feelings of restlessness and it also sends the message to your brain: busy, busy, busy, rush rush, go go, urgent, urgent… you can imagine that this feeds anxiety.
So stop multi-tasking. Do one thing at the time. When you make coffee, make coffee, do not also check your phone. When you walk, walk. When you work on a report, just do that, switch off your email. There are so many little things you can do that will help your mind and brain calm down.
#3 Consuming (too much) sugar, caffeine, alcohol
Anxiety is a process in the body. Our body is influenced by what we eat and drink. Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol have a profound effect on how we feel.
These foods can make us feel better in the short term. They give us a rush, a buzz or a bit of numbing. This feels nice. However, it is not helpful in the long run. They cause havoc with our internal system, our wellbeing, our weight, our energy and so much more. Eating well is critical if we want to transform our anxiety.
Once again awareness is key. What you can do is to start a simple diary. Just write down what you eat and drink during a day and how your anxiety is during that day. Do this for a week or two and start to notice patterns. Is coffee making you jittery? Is sugar making you high, and then low? Are you trying to numb certain feelings with alcohol. Be kind to yourself, but start to see what is happening.
#4 Not moving your body!
We all know exercise is good for us, but did you also know it reduces anxiety? It does not have to be an hour long work out in the gym, exercise can be gentle and aligned with where you are right now. But it is important to move. Sometimes the couch can feel so much more attractive than moving.
So take it slowly if this is the case. Just go for a short walk outside. Do a couple of stretches. Dance to your favourite song. Just get your body moving and be fully present for it when you do. Feel your body sensations, be aware of your breath, notice any sounds. Just be present for the fact that you are moving your body.
If you can, move your body outside. Outside air is a great way to reset the body and mind and connecting to nature (even if all the nature you have is the air) is known to calm down your nervous system.
#5 Being right the whole time
This may not sound like a behaviour, but it is. Do you notice that in your discussions, in your social media posts or anywhere else, it is important to you that you are right? Or you feel that you are right and that others need to see that too?
If this is the case, and it has to be said, it is for most of us (guilty as charged, but i try to practice this…!). When we feel we are right we are actually attaching our self worth to our opinions. This then makes it very difficult for us when someone does not see things the same way we do, and then this can cause quite a bit of stress.
Stress which can lead to overthinking the issue, getting into an argument to make your point again, anger and disappointment. This all feeds anxiety.
What you can try instead is
- To not make your point. To listen to others.
- To not attach so much importance to your own ‘being right’ and letting things just be.
- Not going into the discussion, not trying to win the argument.
It may feel strange at first, but you can also become aware of how you can feel more at ease and less anxiety when you let the fact that you feel that you are right not determine your actions.
Have another read and decide which one of the 5 behaviours feel familiar to you. Then set an intention for a week to change that behaviour. Let me know how you get on!