“Happiness is a habit --- cultivate it.” - Elbert Hubbard
What is anxiety?
Worried? Nervous? Concerned? Just plain stressed? If you are any of these than you are no stranger to anxiety, or at least feelings of anxiousness. For those people who deal with more than just everyday stress, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
There are five major types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia (Social Anxiety DIsorder)
Many people suffer from anxiety, in fact, according to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year”.
Why is anxiety so common?
Whether you suffer from an anxiety disorder, or just experience bouts of anxiousness, it still has an affect on a person and can be interruptive to their daily lives. Anxiety can manifest from a series of complicated risk factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Given that at some point in our lives we all experience some kind of loss, drama surrounding family and friends, work life balance challenges, pressures of society, among many other elements of being a human on this planet, we all deal with stress in one way or another.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
When the human brain is under a certain level of stress, the human body can and will respond. Everyday Health notes that some of the obvious physical symptoms the body undergoes when experiencing stress include, but are not limited to:
- Increased heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent urination of diarrhea
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular body temperature
Physical Habits of Anxiety
When ongoing stress is present in our lives, there is only so much of it that the human body can swallow before it begins to reveal itself to the outside world. Every human copes with worry and concern in their own ways. Some of these coping manners turn into habits, particularly bad habits. The reason bad habits can develop during periods of anxiety is because we are so overwhelmed in our minds that we start to act out as a form of distraction. Some of the most common bad habits used to cope with anxiety include:
- Biting and picking at your nails, often times to the point of bleeding and infection
Skin picking/hair pulling
- Picking at scabs and facial blemishes
- Pulling at your hair (arm, head)
- Constant eating and snacking on unhealthy food
- No sense of portion control
- Noticeable weight gain
Lack of eating
- Loss of appetite or no interest in eating
- Noticeable weight loss
- Development of eating disorder
Dealing with distortion of body image and desire to lose weight by controlling food intake
Serious medical concerns are associated with an eating disorder due to the lack of nutrients to the body.
Can have serious implications to the musculoskeletal and neurological systems, as well as organ functioning within the body
Development of habits that become disruptive to daily life
- Cleaning/lack of cleaning
- Hand washing
Development of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Repetitive and unwanted ritualized behaviors
- Habits can become time consuming and take over life
Smoking, drinking, drug use
- Initial use may be recreational and may take the edge off
- Concern for the development of substance addiction
- Coping mechanism for pain and suffering
- Self-punishment and harm
- Looking for physical relief
- Cutting can be a call for help
Why are bad habits so hard to break?
These habits, can be hard to break as they form a sense of personal security around ourselves and our anxieties. Habits, especially bad habits provide a person with a sense of control. They feel that without the ability to cope with anxiety using their habit, they have no control and no outlet.
Often times people can be unaware that they are acting out with using a habit as it becomes part of who they are. To the outside world, especially those we are closest to, may become bothered or annoyed by your habits. This can cause friction and anger, promoting more anxiety between friendships and relationships.
Break the Cycle
It is imperative to break the cycle of bad habits for yourself and those around you. Although it takes consistent hard work, with dedication and support you can make significant progress in your life with your anxieties. Surround yourself with family and friends to help support your process and your journey to recovery. Although the health severities on some of the above listed habits can range, the importance of breaking your habit is the same. Reach out to a professional immediately if you do not have local or advisable support for help.
Healthy Habits to Help Deal with Anxiety
Sometimes breaking the cycle of bad habits needs to come from the awareness and exposure to good habits. Good habits are used in the same fashion: for distraction, control, and security. Try some of these fun and healthy habits as a means to deal with your anxieties. Side note: if it’s too overwhelming to try something new right away, try some of these habits once you are over the bad habit.
- Exercising (Yoga)
- Spending time outside (walks, hiking, biking)
- Rest (permission to nap, getting sufficient nighttime sleep)