Behavioral Symptoms

5 Destructive Anxiety Habits

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

5 Destructive Anxiety Habits

If you're living with anxiety, there's a good chance that you're making mistakes – mistakes that are making your anxiety worse. No one wants to live with anxiety, but many of those suffering from anxiety conditions find that they're constantly behaving in ways that are destructive to their ability to cope with their anxiety symptoms.

You may be strengthening your anxiety disorder without even knowing it. Part of curing your anxiety forever is about ensuring that you're able to avoid common anxiety mistakes and maximize your ability to cope. Only if you avoid these destructive anxiety habits will you be able to start getting relief from your anxiety symptoms.

Bad Habit 1: Sleep Deprivation

Easily the most common bad habit that contributes to anxiety is sleep deprivation. Far too many people suffering from anxiety avoid sleep, allowing their stresses to keep them awake. Sleep is one of the most important tools for coping with stress, so when you allow yourself to be kept awake, you make it much more likely for stress to affect you later.

In some cases anxiety and stress may be keeping you awake against your will. Going to bed earlier can help, as can the following sleep strategies:

  • Create a Boring Routine Your mind finds boring routines comfortable. A long, boring routine free of technology before you go to sleep can help calm your stresses and make it easier to sleep soundly.
  • Keep a Journal By You When you have thoughts that keep you awake, writing out those thoughts can also help. Once they're on paper, your mind will realize that it's okay not to obsess over them, and sleep will be easier.
  • Exercise During the Day When your body is truly tired, and your energy levels have been depleted, even stress has a hard time keeping you awake. Exercising during the day can make sleeping much easier.

Most of all, never avoid sleep on purpose. You absolutely need sleep in order to cope with the anxieties and stresses of the day.

Bad Habit 2: Use of Stimulant Drugs (Legal and Otherwise)

Another bad habit is the use of stimulants – drugs that excite the mind and body. This includes things like caffeine, tobacco, and illegal hard drugs. Indeed, all drugs have the potential to increase anxiety (alcohol, a depressant, can make anxiety much worse), because drugs put a considerable amount of stress on your body.

Stimulants can be especially troubling. It's unclear if they truly cause anxiety on their own, but they do have the potential to make anxiety symptoms worse, and in some cases they can cause anxiety when taken in excess or when you suffer from withdrawal. Remember, there is caffeine in chocolate and tea as well, and a great deal of caffeine in many sodas. If you're taking in these stimulants often, your anxiety is bound to get worse.

Bad Habit 3: Succumbing to Inactivity

Exercise is an incredibly important component of treating anxiety, and a lack of exercise is possibly one of the main reasons that anxiety numbers have increased over the past several decades. More and more people are living a sedentary lifestyle, and with all of that excess and misplaced energy comes an increase in overall stress and tension.

What makes this harder is that anxiety can cause you to feel like you want to be inactive. But you have to find a way to overcome this, because without exercise you are going to suffer from more anxiety and your coping ability will drastically suffer.

Bad Habit 4: Letting Yourself Be the Victim

Another destructive habit is more of a mindset than a habit, but it does display itself in a variety of ways. It occurs when you allow yourself to be the victim of anxiety, rather than someone that is ready to overcome it, and willing to do whatever it takes to live anxiety free.

The most common behavior that results from this victimization is moping. It occurs when you let anxiety win and spend most of your time feeling sorry for yourself instead of trying to fight it. You need to get outside and not let anxiety overcome you:

  • Spend time with friends.
  • Schedule fun activities.
  • Find ways to laugh.

You need to commit to anxiety treatments and lifestyle changes, and never let anxiety control the way that you live your life. Letting yourself be the victim is a mistake, because anxiety can be cured provided you show a willingness to take action.

Bad Habit 5: Negative Mindset

Finally, those that live with anxiety also have a tendency to develop an increasingly negative mindset – one that colors their view of the world. This is a problem. Recovery from anxiety is related to your ability to seek out happiness and see hope around you. It's not a "new age" principle – you do need to be able to recover some of the positive outlook that anxiety took from you, and when you let your negative mindset overcome you, this becomes much more difficult.

Regaining that positivity is often easier said than done, of course. Much of it starts as a commitment from you. You need to be willing to overlook the negatives and focus on the positives, and do so in a way that genuinely helps you feel positive about the world around you.

An interesting trick is to spend an entire month or longer faking positivity. In a way, you pretend to be a positive person almost like you're mocking positive people, except you do it in every component of your life, every day, for a significant period of time. What this does is it confuses your thought processes. Your mind gets stressed wondering why you're acting against your nature, and rather than force you to act negative again, it simply makes you a more positive person in order to compensate.

Still, you will need to also commit to make sure that you're ready to take on a positive lifestyle. It's something that you cannot simply do overnight, and something that anxiety specifically tries to prevent.

Don't Feed Your Anxiety

Avoiding anxiety mistakes isn't going to magically cure your anxiety. But the reality is that curing your anxiety becomes much more difficult if you continue these destructive habits. The best therapies in the world will not be as effective if you avoid sleep, refrain from exercise, and show little commitment to curing your anxiety. Only by avoiding these habits can you expect to make a big change in your life.

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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