Nerves, worry, fear, anxiety. For most people these emotions are all, unfortunately, part of life. Some people, however, deal with elevated levels of anxiety on a day-to-day basis. And although many people with anxiety have learned ways to manage situations or things that exacerbate the situation, there are also some pretty common things you do everyday that could be making your anxiety worse.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the average age of onset for anxiety disorders is 11 years old in the United States, and nearly 30 percent of American adults will develop an anxiety disorder over the course of their lives. Anxiety disorders hit American women especially hard, as women are 60 percent more likely to experience an anxiety disorder than men, according to figures NIMH gathered.
There are plenty of seemingly mundane, small, completely unrelated things that you do on a regular basis that just might be fueling any sort of anxiety or worry you're experiencing, including if you have a full-blown anxiety disorder. Although managing anxiety can take some work (and what works well for some people might not work or even make things worse for others), eliminating these nine practices from your routine (at least, as best as you can) can help keep your anxiety at bay.
1. You Need Reassurance
Pretty much everyone is guilty of this from time to time, but if you catch yourself constantly seeking reassurance or affirmation from those around you, usually doesn't make you feel better. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia (AnxietyBC), regular reassurance can actually make anxiety worse in the long-run.
2. You Don't Drink Enough Water
How many times have you heard that you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day? And how many days do you actually hit that number? As it turns out, not drinking enough water can make you feel more tense than making sure you get enough, as researchers at Tufts University found in 2009. Drink up.
3. You Don't Have A Plan
Spontaneity can be exciting, but for those who experience anxiety, not knowing what's coming next can trigger worry, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study.
4. You Take Asthma Medications
If you experience anxiety and also have asthma, taking your medication may cause you to feel more anxious. According to Healthline, prescription asthma inhalers may make anxiety disorder symptoms worse. Could this apply to you? Talk to your healthcare provider. No one wants you to be unnecessarily more anxious.
5. You Meet New People
Meeting new people is great, but it can also be a little bit stressful, especially if you want to make a good impression. If you already worry about how you're coming across, adding new people to the mix can exacerbate those feelings (or alleviate them, so you never know).
6. You Strive For Perfection
Perfectionism is one of those things that seems harmless or even aspirational, however, given that it's also unattainable, your perfectionist tendencies may be making you more anxious. Dr. Sally Winston, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland, told Health that perfectionism and anxiety often show up together.
7. You Do A Lot Of Group Projects
I, for one, love to collaborate with other people. I firmly believe that two heads are better than one. But working with other people usually means you have to give up some control, which can make some people more anxious than they would be otherwise.
8. You Avoid Things You Know Make You Anxious
This doesn't sound logical, I know, but avoiding what you know makes you anxious or nervous can make things worse. According to Calm Clinic, a website that focuses specifically on anxiety disorders, avoiding things that will trigger your anxiety can reinforce it and signal that that's something that should cause anxiety.
9. You Over-Think Things
I am a chronic over-thinker. I know this about myself. According to Psychology Today, constantly what if-ing everything can make your anxiety worse. Who knew thinking through every possible contingency could be a negative? (OK, I know, a lot of people. But not the over-thinkers.)