This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on these links takes you to products I trust, and I may receive a commission on any purchases you make.
April is Anxiety Awareness Month. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disparities, affecting as many as 25% of the population during the pandemic.1 Anxiety can be a temporary state of feeling nervous, or a chronic condition such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Anxiety Disorder frequently begins at or around the age of 30. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by chronic, unfocused, excessive worry and stress associated with clinically significant distress and functional impairment, often accompanied by insomnia, restlessness, muscle tension, and fatigue.2 Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic increased the number of individuals experiencing anxiety.
Severe anxiety can lead to anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks are an episode of feeling a sense of doom, palpitations, sweating, hyperventilation, and digestive symptoms.
If you are living with anxiety, it’s important to know that small actions throughout your day can make you anxiety better or worse. Let’s explore three things you may be doing right now that could be making your anxiety worse.
Rapid Breathing Makes Your Anxiety Worse
How is your breathing right now? Is it fast? Sleep? Deep? Shallow? Do you notice you’re holding your breath at times?
I noticed that my patients tend to breath rapidly, shallow, and even hold their breathe. When I’m with a patient who is upset, agitated, scared, or angry, the quality of the breath often indicates what’s going on internally.
Patients coming in to discuss anxiety breath rapidly. When they discuss their anxiety symptoms, they will increase the rate of breath. Hyperventilation, which is rapid breathing associated with decreased carbon dioxide in the bloodstream often accompanies panic attacks. You can create anxiety in your mind and body with intentional rapid breathing.
How you sit controls your mood…have a listen to this podcast to practice
Try This Instead
Learning to breath with slow, deep breaths helps reverse the habit of rapid, shallow breaths that can create a state of anxiety.
Noticing the breath is a practice commonly done during Mindfulness Practice. Observation of breath can help slow down the mind and create a sense calmness.
Hay fever and allergies can disrupt your breathing as well as anxiety. Check out my recommendation to support respiratory health at FullScripts.
Being in touch with your breath is a healthy habit you can develop easily. Practicing breath work through mindfulness is an easy practice.
Giving Your Thoughts too much Power Makes your Anxiety Worse
One of the main symptoms of generalized anxiety is excessive worry. Worry can’t be avoided. It’s part of being human. How do we not worry about the things we care about such as our family? Our children? Our parents? Finances? Health?
I ask my patients when they discuss their worries, did focusing on these worries actually solve the problem? No it does not. Worrying about many different things will most likely create more worries.
Try This Instead
Try questioning if your worry thoughts are really true. As each worry thought enters your mind, simply respond with a question of it’s true.
In the podcast, Cleaning Up Your Thoughts, we walk through how do redirect anxiety thoughts while journaling. You can to this anytime of day. If you find you have made worrying a habit, spend a few minutes every day redirecting your thoughts.
Junk Food Is Making Your Anxiety Worse
Many of us rely on food to calm our anxious mood. Snack foods such chips, cookies, or candy seem like a quick fix for feeling anxious an overwhelmed.
Eating the wrong kinds of food can make your anxiety worse. Ingesting excessive amounts of sugar increases insulin production. High insulin causes increased production of cortisol and adrenaline from the adrenal glands. Ingesting sugar to alleviate anxiety will make anxiety worse. As the insulin levels rises, you will get hungry very soon after eating. You may also notice episodes of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, that feel like anxiety.
Try This Instead
In this podcast, Health Coach Lisa Airhart shares her wisdom on how you can approach eating to attune to the needs of your mind or body. In her book, she shares how you can approach your food in a loving way and help choose foods that are better for your mood.
Anxiety is hard on your mind, body and spirit. Doing everything you can to support your mind and body with breathwork, mindfulness and mindful eating helps you to avoid experiencing anxiety.
- Santabárbara, J., Lasheras, I., Lipnicki, D. M., Bueno-Notivol, J., Pérez-Moreno, M., López-Antón, R., De la Cámara, C., Lobo, A., & Gracia-García, P. (2021). Prevalence of anxiety in the COVID-19 pandemic: An updated meta-analysis of community-based studies. Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry, 109, 110207. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.110207
- DynaMedex. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. EBSCO Information Services. Accessed April 11, 2023. https://www.dynamedex.com/condition/generalized-anxiety-disorder