I used to struggle with crippling anxiety and panic attacks. It slowly started to take over my life and I started to watch my world shrink. It started out by not being able to go in elevators but the list of places that were off limits quickly grew. It included certain cars, hallways, crowded events, airplanes and on and on.
Anytime I had a panic attack or felt like I was close to having a panic attack I avoided that area at all costs. Eventually, my anxiety became so severe that I had to seek out the help of a professional. I found a therapist that specialized in helping people overcome panic attacks and with a lot of work I started to get my life back.
I still have anxiety today but it’s very manageable. If I notice that I’m starting to feel more anxious than usual I know it’s time to adjust my lifestyle and cut out habits that make anxiety worse. These are the main things I have noticed have a big impact on my anxiety and if you’re struggling with anxiety I highly suggest making some lifestyle changes in addition to therapy.
I hate to admit this but I love going out for drinks and socializing. Alcohol has always been a huge part of my social life and at one point it was completely normal for me to go to happy hour on the way home and then brunch and dinners with friends on the weekends. All of these activities centered around drinking alcohol.
I’ve had to dramatically cut back on drinking alcohol which has meant rearranging my social life and finding new friends and activities to do sober. Even if I just have one or two drinks I notice a big difference in my mental health the next day.
My anxiety is always way worse and I find myself unable to cope with things that usually wouldn’t even bother me. I have a whole podcast episode about cutting back on alcohol you can listen to below if you’re interested.
I spent a long time resisting the idea that caffeine had an impact on my anxiety. I love drinking coffee. Like I freaking love it and I used to consume multiple cups a day. I knew that caffeine could be making my anxiety worse but I chose to ignore it and not do anything about it for a very long time. Eventually, when I was really ready to take control of my mental health I cut out caffeine completely. I didn’t drink any coffee or tea for a really long time and it made a huge difference when I was still suffering from panic attacks. After my anxiety was less severe I slowly started adding in caffeine to my normal routine. Now I can enjoy a little bit if I feel like it but if my anxiety starts to run high or I am feeling more stressed than usual it is one of the first things I cut out.
“What If” Thinking
If you have anxiety you’re probably pretty familiar with what if thinking. It’s when you start imagining all of the bad things and everything that could go wrong.
“what if this bad thing happens……” or “what if this other really awful thing happens….”
I used to go down an entire rabbit hole wondering what if’s and worrying that something bad was going to happen. It took a lot of my energy and consumed most of my thoughts throughout the day. It made my mind a terrible place to be and I was constantly playing out the worst case scenarios over and over again while letting my anxiety run wild.
Taking control of what I’m thinking has been really helpful in managing my anxiety. I became aware when I was doing it and started to redirect my thoughts when I noticed I was starting to think about what if’s. I try to ground myself back into the present moment by bringing myself back into the present moment. Learning how to meditate has really helped me stay in the present moment and not let myself get caught up worrying about the past or the future.
Not Saying No
Putting too much on your plate is a great way to ramp up anxiety. I used to be terrible at saying now and it led me to take on all kinds of projects and commitments that I didn’t really have time for. I constantly felt anxious and like I had too much to do and not enough time to do everything. This would inevitably lead to me getting really burnt out and my anxiety getting completely out of control. I was constantly stressed, had trouble getting enough sleep and was pretty miserable overall.
It took me a long time and some pretty painful lessons to finally get good at saying no. The truth is if you’re feeling overwhelmed you need to start setting some hard boundaries around how you spend your time. Get clear on what your priorities are and fiercely protect your time from anything that doesn’t align with them.
When I get really anxious I will also evaluate everything on my to-do list to figure out what I actually have to do and what I can ignore, do later or ask for help with. I am always amazed at how much space I can clear when I focus on only the things that actually HAVE to be done. Once you have some space cleared be really diligent at saying no so you don’t get overwhelmed again.
I am naturally really disorganized and messy. I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not and it causes me a lot of stress. Being disorganized has caused me tons of stress and made my anxiety way worse in the past and it is something I’m always working on getting better at. I started using a planner and regularly decluttering my life to help me stay on track.
I used to hang onto all kinds of stuff I didn’t need and let my house slowly become consumed with junk. It would get overwhelming and before I knew it all the clutter would make my anxiety really bad. Cleaning it all up became a massive project and felt too big to try and tackle. Now I try to declutter my house once a month and do a really deep clean to keep my house organized.
I do this on the cycle of the full moon but you could also do it on the first of the month as a way to start your month off really strong. I try to give things I tend to lose like my keys and phone a home so that I always know where they are and don’t have to search for them. These are small things but they’ve really made a big difference in my anxiety and having an organized home has been great for my mental health overall.
Nothing will guarantee you feel anxious like leaving something until the last minute. I really make an effort to plan all of my projects ahead of time and write daily to-do lists to stay on top of all of my tasks. I know that pushing things off until the last minute is terrible for my mental health and it’s been the cause of lots of drama and anxiety in my life in the past.
On Sunday night I try to write a list of everything that I need to do that week. Then each night I write out my to-do list for the next day. I find that if I don’t have a plan or if I don’t schedule when I’m going to do things it’s really easy just to put them off and before I know it I don’t feel like there’s enough time to get everything done which results in a panic and massive amounts of anxiety.
If you struggle with procrastinating start figuring out a system that works for you to get your work done in a timely manner. I like to block two hours in the morning to get my writing done because that is the task I have to do that is the most tedious and that I am most likely to push off. I know if I get a little bit done every day I will make progress towards my goal.
I hate getting up early but I know that the morning is my most productive time and I always feel great when I can get my writing done really early so I don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. Figure out what time of day works best for you and schedule a time to do the tasks that you find yourself procrastinating the most.
Want to remember these habits that make anxiety worse? Save this article to your favorite Pinterest board!
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
Radical Transformation Project is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.