If you have ever felt the impact of anxiety, you know just how debilitating the condition can be. Symptoms like a racing heart, trouble sleeping, and spiraling thoughts can seriously hamper your everyday quality of life. What’s more, anxiety and the stress it brings may have a negative effect on your long-term health, (1) increasing the risk of dangers like high blood pressure. Unfortunately, sometimes people engage in harmful activities that cause anxiety without even realizing it. Find out about some of these lesser-known causes and how to avoid them below.
Clutter in your home
Clutter has been shown to cause stress and anxiety. (2) There are multiple reasons for this. For one thing, having too much “stuff” around you results in over-stimulation of the senses. Your brain is constantly racing as it tries to process the sights, sounds, and scents. In this way clutter also acts as a constant distraction, making it harder for you to focus and relax.
Reduce stress by reducing the mess in your home. This guide (3) to decluttering from The Spruce provides a room-by-room approach that breaks an otherwise big job down into small, manageable steps. In the bathroom, for instance, it suggests starting with the medicine cabinet by first throwing out expired products and then putting those items you use most often at eye level for easy access.
What you eat impacts not only your physical health but also your mental well-being. For example, drinking alcohol (4) may have an initially calming impact but as the body metabolizes the substance, it tends to make people feel edgy. It also keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep, exacerbating anxiety symptoms.
Scientist Anika Knüppel of University College London is a contributor to the European MooDFOOD program, which examines how food can prevent depression. According to her, (5) “Changing your nutrition can be a great addition to traditional therapy, like CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] and medication.” Try a healthy diet that is low in sugar and processed foods and full of fresh vegetables and moderate amounts of protein. You can also take a daily multivitamin, which provides essential nutrients needed to enhance your mood, just make sure it’s a quality vitamin with bioavailable ingredients.
Work, school, friends, family, the gym—when you have lots of obligations in life, you are bound to always be on the go. People who are extremely busy may not even recognize the anxiety in their lives. There is actually a term for this: high-functioning anxiety. (6) Individuals with this condition are often very successful, leading a full and productive existence. Underneath it all, however, they are anxious.
Counteract this by carving out time in your schedule every day to do absolutely nothing. Take 15 minutes to simply lie still, take a bath, or listen to music. You can even try meditating, simply focusing on your breathing and repeating mantras. It’s been shown that only 15 minutes of meditating per day can actually reduce heart rate (7) and promote better sleep.
Social media use
If you are constantly checking your phone for Tweets, likes, and other social media updates, you may be causing yourself to stress. So-called social media anxiety disorder (8) can have you losing interest in other activities, withdrawing from friends and family, and interrupting conversations to check your accounts. You may feel jumpy and irritable when you can’t access your phone.
Place a limit on how much time you spend online each day. Check out this list (9) of apps designed to curtail social media usage. Options include Social Fever, which lets you limit app usage by setting timers, or SPACE, which disconnects you from your device during pre-scheduled “off” times.
Address the above sources of anxiety one by one. Trying to implement too many changes at once can be overwhelming. With some time, effort, and patience, however, you can eliminate these little-known sources of stress and start to feel more at ease every day. Over time, you’ll notice an improved sense of calm and overall quality of life.
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(1) https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress, American Psychological Association, Stress Effects on the Body
(2) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201203/why-mess-causes-stress-8-reasons-8-remedies, Psychology Today, “Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies”. Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D.
(3) https://www.thespruce.com/decluttering-your-entire-home-2648002, How to Declutter Your Home, Room by Room, Elizabeth Larkin, August 2019
(4) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/coping-with-anxiety/faq-20057987, Coping with anxiety: Can diet make a difference?, Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.
(5) https://www.healthline.com/health/best-diets-for-mental-health#3, These Women Treated Their Anxiety and Depression with Food. Here’s What They Ate., Rachael Schultz
(6) https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-high-functioning-anxiety-4140198, The Characteristics of High Functioning Anxiety, Sept 2019
(7) https://www.thehealthy.com/alternative-medicine/change-in-you-15-minutes-meditation/, 12 Little Things That Can Happen to Your Body After Just 15 Minutes of Meditation, Denise Mann, MS
(8) https://adaa.org/social-media-obsession, Anxiety & Depression Association of America, “Social Media Obsession and Anxiety”
(9) https://blogs.systweak.com/5-best-apps-that-track-social-media-usage-app-to-limit-social-media-use/, “10 Best Apps That Track And Limit Social Media Usage”, August 2019