If you’re one of the millions of people who deal with anxiety on a daily basis, you might think it’s just how your brain works. It’s common for people to assume they have anxiety and there’s nothing they can do about it.
But that isn’t necessarily true.
Anxiety is, in fact, a learned habit. Over time, the habit of anxiety can make you feel powerless—like you can’t change things or fight back against your fears. But this is a false perception.
Any habit can be changed with time and effort—including anxiety. Alternatively, there are certain habits that can hinder your mental health and fuel your anxiety. Learning how to avoid those habits and foster more positive ones will make your symptoms easier to manage daily.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the mental habits that make anxiety worse, so you work towards controlling them.
Letting Your Mind Run on “Autopilot”
Many people with anxiety tend to let their minds wander, without awareness of the thoughts that pop up throughout the day. That often fuels the fire of anxious thoughts until they eventually take over.
While it’s easy to say “control your thoughts,” it’s not always easy in practice.
But, you do have the ability to keep your mind from running on autopilot and letting your thoughts control you. One of the best ways is to practice being consciously mindful throughout the day.
Mindfulness is more than a buzzword. It’s a practice that will keep you focused on the present, rather than worrying about the past or wondering about the future.
You can practice mindfulness for several minutes each morning to start your day, or as needed when you start to feel overwhelmed by worrying thoughts. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and place all your focus on the moment you’re experiencing. This will help your brain to not run away with anxious thoughts.
Letting Go of Stress Addiction
Did you know that you can be addicted to stress? It might sound silly but consider some of your typical habits.
Do you procrastinate on deadlines for work or school? Do you wait until the last minute before having to get somewhere, so you’re almost always running late? Maybe you put off important conversations until they become a big deal.
If any of those issues sound familiar, you could be adding more stress into your life than necessary. When you put off a project, conversation or even getting ready, your brain goes into the fight-or-flight response. This stress response is a huge contributor to anxiety, and the more stress you have to deal with, the more anxious you’ll be.
By letting go of your stress addiction habit and finding ways to eliminate as much stress as possible, you’ll quickly find many of your anxiety symptoms will start to fade.
Getting Drawn into Negative Thinking
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety for a while, you might have developed the habit of getting drawn into negative thinking.
Do you always think of the worst-case scenario, especially in unfamiliar situations? Perhaps you’re always worried that people are saying negative things about you, or that others are judging you.
That kind of negative thinking is more food for your anxiety and can cause your symptoms to become worse.
Practicing positive thinking practices like journaling, meditation and gratitude can be helpful in pushing your brain towards a more positive path.
What Can You Do?
The best way to break these mental habits is to gently push back on them with kindness and self-compassion. Habits are formed over time—not overnight. So, it will take just as much time and effort to break them. However, if you’re willing to recognize the old habits you’ve formed and challenge them, you can learn to live with less fear.
Once you’ve recognized some of your “bad” habits, the easiest way to change them is by replacing them with positivity. Work toward developing new habits to fill in for the negative ones, and it will be easier to overcome your worries. To learn more about anxiety and how we can help you to treat it, contact us.