A Common Mistake that Makes Your Anxiety Worse
originally posted on the CalmClinic
Many people make mistakes with their anxiety. In fact, one of the problems with anxiety is that anxiety itself can make mistakes more likely – because anxiety changes thought processes and feelings in a way that can lead to you to making decisions that are counterproductive for curing anxiety.
Alcohol abuse is a great example. People turn to alcohol to reduce anxiety because it can dull anxiety away, but in reality it actually makes anxiety worse because it replaces your mind's ability to cope with stress. But that is an extreme example. There is actually a single, common mistake that nearly everyone makes that causes anxiety to be worse.
The Most Common Anxiety Mistakes
There are so many mistakes that people make with their anxiety. Many people with panic disorder drink lots of coffee, for example, and coffee can make panic attacks worse. Others try to breathe in more when they're hyperventilating (because hyperventilation makes you feel as though you're not getting a full breath) but that actually makes hyperventilation worse.
But by far the most common mistake that people make with anxiety is moping. In this case, moping is the idea that you need to "be alone." The idea that you need to go home after a tough day at work and just sit and think so that your stress and anxiety get better.
The Problems With Moping
Moping – or some form of moping – is incredibly common. Feeling like you need to sit and do nothing to feel better is a function of anxiety. Anxiety completely drains the body. It makes it hard to want to do much of anything. You feel like you want to be alone, and that you want to go home and "veg out" until you feel better.
Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that has the potential to make your anxiety much worse. Ideally, you need to stay active. You need to be surrounded with friends and try your best to get out there, exercise, and have new experiences. Avoiding those experiences because you want to cope with your anxiety alone causes several issues that make anxiety worse:
- Inactivity – Easily the biggest problem is inactivity. Exercise and staying physically active and moving are extremely important for not only physical health, but mental health as well. Movement and exercise improve hormone function and neurotransmitter production, and drain the body of excess energy that would otherwise cause the mind and body to become more stressed. Moving and staying active in general is crucial to anxiety management, and inactivity from moping makes that much more difficult.
- Uncontrolled Thoughts – Anxiety changes the way you think, and unfortunately that often means that your own thoughts are your worst enemy. Many people don't realize that anxiety and anxiety attacks are often caused by letting yourself sit and think, because the mind eventually starts thinking about negative things. Staying active gives your mind distractions, and distractions provide you with a mental break that can reduce future anxiety symptoms.
- "Giving In" – There is a behavioral reason to avoid moping too. Namely, it essentially lets your anxiety win and controls the way that you react in the future. If you often keep to yourself when you have anxiety, then every time you have significant anxiety your body's reaction is to want to you give in again. It becomes your coping mechanism, and makes it harder to stop moping in the future.
- Social Need – Being around people that you like and make you happy is an important tool for combatting anxiety. Obviously those with social anxiety disorder are at a bit of a disadvantage here, but in general if you can spend time with people and talk to others, you're more likely to find life more enjoyable, and the more you enjoy life the easier it will be to treat your anxiety.
- Happy Memories – Finally, anxiety itself makes you focus too much on the present. One of the strategies to help reduce anxiety is goal setting, specifically because it gives you something to look forward to in the future. Staying active with enjoyable activities provides hope, and hope is important for committing to anxiety treatments.
How you react to anxiety does matter. It can be hard to control, but it matters. Those that push themselves through and try to stay active and distract their mind from these negative thoughts aren't going to cure their anxiety, because anxiety isn't that simple to solve. But they may find that when they finally commit to an anxiety treatment, they're more likely to see the results, because they've put themselves in a position where their anxiety isn't able to control them.
Moping behaviors are not the only mistake people make with anxiety, and it may not even be the worst. But it is an extremely common reaction to anxiety and stress and one that needs to be stopped in order to continue to control anxiety.
Other Anxiety Mistakes
Anxiety mistakes occur nearly every day. It can be hard enough to control anxiety even with the most effective treatment, so when mistakes occur it can really make it challenging to reduce your anxiety – especially without any help. Examples of other common anxiety mistakes include:
- Listening to negative/moping music, rather than upbeat and happy music.
- Purposely subjecting yourself to anxious and stressful situations, like horror movies.
- Spending time with those that are generally negative.
- Taking medications without combining them with a long term treatment.
- Quitting an anxiety reduction strategy when it doesn’t work right away.
The list of anxiety mistakes is incredibly long, because anxiety causes people to focus on far too many negative feelings and emotions that get in the way of better decision making.