Everyone who struggles with anxiety is looking for a cure. Yet, in many regards, the cure is already within us. Much of the time, we perpetuate anxiety without even realizing. And we do so through our habits.
Anxious habits aren’t personality traits exclusive to those with anxiety. These behaviors are something that can effect any individual of any mental state. However, more often than not, people who struggle with anxiety are bound to develop at least a few of these.
The purpose of this blog is to identify our anxious habits. If we’re able to identify what might be fueling our anxiety, we’ll have more success in overcoming it. We invite you along to read about 10 common habits people with anxiety struggle with.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural reaction all living creatures experience when they’re matched with a life-threatening situation. In many regards, this “mental illness” is a piece of evolution that saved our ancestors. And, generally speaking, we react to anxiety in two ways: flight or fight. ¹
This kind of behavior was perfect for natural selection. Consider it this way, imagine one of your ancestors was face-to-face with a mammoth. It’s natural they’re going to receive anxiety from that situation. They have two options:
- Flight – run to a safer place and continue living.
- Fight – risk death but with the reward of a meal for the next week.
Our modern world doesn’t present these circumstances and though we are still vulnerable to death, we’re much less likely to experience life-threatening situations. So, why do we still experience anxiety?
There’s a lot of debate when it comes to the answer. Some say it’s because we live in a society that doesn’t meet our other natural tendencies. ² For example, the hustle and bustle lifestyle of a major city presents more stress than most of us can handle.
Others believe that anxiety is purely caused by genetics and environment. For example, if someone in your family has anxiety, you’re more likely to have it yourself. Or, if you are living in a mentally unhealthy environment, you might develop the condition. ³
In many regards, both claims are true in their own right. And regardless of which you believe, whenever we feel anxiety, we are still presented with these fight or flight options.
Our reaction to anxiety greatly determines the habits we develop through it. And this is the overall purpose of the following list: to identify how we react to anxiety and how this reaction is controlling us.
1.) You Expect the Worst and Induce Panic
Before a particular situation, do you find yourself over-analyzing what can happen? Furthermore, do you find yourself considering the worst that can happen?
Whether it be at a social gathering or right before an important event (i.e. a job interview), you most likely have a hard time grounding themselves in reality. You find yourself brooding over everything from potential errors you may make or embarrassing situations which may appear.
This kind of thinking is often what leads to panic. When you’re not grounded, possibilities seem infinite and it becomes extremely difficult to identify what’s happening around you. In turn, you also consider the near future to present a worst-case scenario.
As mentioned, our anxiety is a natural reaction to a life-threatening situation. Well, if we’re always considering the worst-case scenario, our brains naturally thing we’re placing ourselves under life-threatening circumstances.
When negative overthinking appears, the best thing you can do is try to stay as grounded as possible. Many mental health professionals suggest the best way to do so is by keeping in tune with your five senses. Notice what’s around you and what you can identify. Take deep breaths and remember that the worst is only a psychological trick.
2.) You’re Constantly Trying to Hide Your Anxiety
Let’s be honest, anxiety is embarrassing. We don’t want others to know we have it and, even when people do know, we don’t want to appear as vulnerable.
Due to this, people with anxiety have a tendency to hide their condition. To make sure it’s always out of sight, even when one is experiencing an episode.
However, hiding it comes with the risk of furthering anxiety. Because now you’re anxious about whether or not you’re putting in enough effort to hide it. Or, you’re anxious about your anxiety being exposed.
In turn, you try to take control of every little thing – from your body movement to your tone of voice. Yet, by considering all these little details, you’re really damaging your self-confidence. For no matter how hard you try, you’re always uncertain as to whether or not you’re actually succeeding.
Being open about your anxiety can be tough, but we guarantee you’ll feel a lot better if you’re willing to talk about it. Just remember, anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States. ⁴ You aren’t alone in this battle.
3.) You Over Analyze Everything
Do you find yourself analyzing everything down to the tiniest detail? Whether it be a situation you’re in or a project you’re trying to complete. One of the biggest factors of anxiety is overthinking and making issues more complicated than they really are.
Most people who struggle with this habit are well aware of how futile it really is. Particularly because overthinking consumes so much energy, it leaves many of us feeling fatigued once the avalanche of thoughts have passed.
However, the biggest concern when it comes to over analyzing a situation is how much it can fuel your stress. Consider it this way – you’re overthinking your circumstances (most likely expecting the worst) and figuring out every little thing that can go wrong. Even if these things don’t appear, you do this as a means of preparation.
Yet, by preparing for things that most likely won’t happen, you’re not only overusing your energy but also continuing to stress yourself out over the situation.
The next time you find yourself over analyzing, it’s important to take deep breaths and remember it’s all a product of your mind.
4.) The Future Scares You
The future scares a lot of people with all its uncertainties. But in someone experiencing anxiety, the future seems like something to be feared more than anticipated.
If you expect the worse to come in a situation just days away, you most likely are thinking the same for months or years down the line. We all fear the future for different reasons, whether it be failure, losing something we currently have, or – worst of all – death. And this fear often puts us directly in the situations we hope not to be in.
Because we aren’t planning to better prepare ourselves for the future. Instead, we’re succumbing to fear and letting time pass hoping to just get through one more day.
In many regards, fear of the future is one of the most debilitating aspects of anxiety. For it leaves people not making the best of opportunities or actions they can take at a young age.
Remember the flight or fight reaction we mentioned earlier? It’s vital you find the willpower to fight for your future. You may continue to fear it, but if you don’t let anxiety have it’s way, you’re bound to find yourself in a better situation than you expected.
5.) You Often Consider Past Actions and Conversations
Overthinking in the middle of a situation can be mind-numbing. But the afterthoughts that appear later in the day or night can be paralyzing. If you struggle with anxiety, you’ve most likely have played conversations or actions you made over and over again in your head.
In some sense, this may appear as a way to better understand yourself. By analyzing a situation and coming to grips with where you went wrong, you have the ability to improve on the future. However, too much analyzing can be dangerous to the point of inducing panic.
For some people, these recollections may not appear until they’re having an episode. They’re having an anxiety attack and suddenly they begin to recall a situation that embarrassed them or made them feel like less of a person. For others, it’s the very recollection that induces anxiety.
If you find yourself becoming anxious over past actions or events, you must let them go. As unfortunate as it is, the past is just something we can alter. It remains a permanent stamp forever impeding on our conscious.
But that doesn’t mean you should let it break you. As mentioned, recalling the past is a great way to improve on your future. It simply takes clarity to understand that you can’t change what’s been done or said, but you can make better of what’s to come.
6.) You Blame Yourself
People with anxiety are vulnerable and tend to understand the vulnerability of others better than the average person. With that, people with anxiety also fear breaking someone else’s vulnerability more so than the average person.
When you recall past conversations and actions, do you find yourself feeling guilty? Even when outcomes aren’t necessarily your responsibility, do you find it difficult not to blame yourself?
You’re not alone. One of the most common habits of people with anxiety is self-blame. By blaming yourself, you hope to make others feel less vulnerable and more confident in their actions. In many regards, you are simply trying to improve the lives of those around you.
However, don’t take too much self-gratification in that. By blaming yourself, you are only fueling yourself with more anxiety. For self-blame often can lead to another episode.
Don’t get too lost in guilt. As much as people seem to know what they’re doing, the truth is everyone is trying to figure life out like you. Again, take some deep breathes and remember the healing process takes time.
7.) You Compare Yourself to Others
Do you ever tell yourself you’re not good enough? No matter how much you achieve, it seems as though someone out there is one step further. By comparing yourself to that person – and, more importantly, comparing your lack of success – you’re only doing yourself harm.
We live in a highly competitive world. It’s impossible to be the best at everything. Yet, we’re often told to the best is the only way to be. This kind of thinking is dangerous as it can make us extremely uncomfortable with ourselves.
In many regards, it sets up a false premonition of how people react to our failures. Not to mention, it gives us false ideas of what successes and failures are.
In much of the Western world, people associate success with job position and income. However, just because someone has a lot of money doesn’t necessarily make them successful. This very person could be struggling with a number of things in their family life, friendships, and own mental health.
“Do not compare yourself with other people; compare yourself with who you were yesterday.”Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
In order to improve ourselves, it’s not necessarily best to look at other people’s success. Though we may certainly obtain inspiration from these people, they won’t have the answers we’re looking for. Those answers can only be found within ourselves.
The next time you find yourself comparing your failures to someone else’s success, keep in mind that your position is unique. You have different obstacles to overcome and are going to need to take alternative routes to overcome them.
8.) You Look into the Smallest Details
People who compare themselves to others often also tend to be perfectionists. Every move they make needs to be properly calculated and they must make sure every stone gets turned before continuing to the next move.
This kind of thinking has been proven to lead to anxiety. Particularly, in people who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
As mentioned above, the Western world very much strives on healthy competition. The reason you choose to buy from Company A rather than Company B is because Company A has something more to offer. We all want to be Company A and we believe that being perfect in what we do will get us there.
However, the mental stress of perfectionism is highly detrimental to our potential for success. It fuels us with anxieties that we aren’t doing enough and, when we do more, we get overworked.
It’s okay if something doesn’t come out perfect. It’s okay to step away from a project and determine it’s completed even if it feels like it isn’t. Such thinking will have such a positive effect on your mental health, it will push you to be a better person.
9.) You’re Easily Irritated
It’s impossible for us to make a plan for every situation life presents to us. Sure, we can plan all we want, but at the end of the day, there’s too many factors of life’s nature that just have to go unplanned.
People with anxiety have a tendency to want control over as many aspects of their life as possible. Whether it be a relationship, our work experiences, or how the world operates around us. However, it’s simply impossible to gain this kind of control.
Therefore, striving for such control is simply absurd. This is why we start to panic when things don’t go according to plan. We not only fear the uncertainty, but also the lack of being able to do anything about it.
It’s important to remember what you’re in control of. But, at the same time, always keep in mind that you can’t be in control of everything. And when you don’t have control of a situation, don’t let rage over take you.
This is a common reaction many people with anxiety experience – particularly, men. Rage is a natural way for our brains to think we’re fighting a situation rather than fleeing. However, fighting what’s beyond our control is futile.
When irritation begins to creep in due to the fact that you lack control of a situation, take a few deep breaths. Remember that this rage is sucking the peace out of you and leaving you with more anxiety than you had prior.
10.) You Isolate Yourself
One of the most common traits among people with anxiety is self-isolation. Even people who appear to have extroverted personality traits are bound to shut themselves in every so often. And the reason for this varies from person to person.
Some fear of being judged by others. Others are afraid of curating an embarrassing moment. Some simply have social anxiety and have a difficult time grasping social situations. Whatever your case may be, you’re not alone in self-isolation.
Though solitude can no doubt appear to be comfortable – a refuge from the judgement of society – it can also be dangerous. As you’ve probably heard before, we as humans are social creatures. Even the biggest introverts have a natural tendency to want to talk to others.
With that said, by refraining from this nature, we risk inflicting other mental health conditions upon ourselves – most notably, depression.
It’s important to get outside and talk to people. Even if the idea of such scares the hell out of you, it’s vital to build up a social life for the sake of your mental health. By doing simple activities, like going to your college class or parties, your building an immunity to the social pressures you may currently fear.
Now that you have identified some habits of your anxiety, you are better equipped to start working out of these habits. It’s not going to be easy – our lives work very much in patterns. Even when we have developed a negative life pattern, it’s difficult for our brains to move past such.
The best way to overcome anxious habits is to start practicing positive habits. These will vary from person to person and can include anything from exercise to meditation to reaching out to friends you haven’t talked to in a while.
Take a moment to stop and consider what you’d like to see differently in your life. From there, consider what habits you should develop in order to reach these life goals.
It’s not going to happen over night. Developing healthy habits takes a lot of time, energy, and patience. But once you’ve passed through the threshold, we promise you’ll see an immense improvement on your mental health and anxiety.
Still have questions about the habits of anxiety?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further advice to give – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Cellular and molecular neurobiology: Adrenal Responses to Stress
² Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century
³ Department of Psychology and Institute of Human Genetics: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Behavioral Differences
⁴ National Institute of Mental Health: Statistics