Addressing the Habits That Increase Your Anxiety

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


We all have little tricks we employ to try and keep anxiety at bay. The question is, do they really work and are they healthy?

Psychologist Judson Brewer, author of “Unwinding Anxiety,” suggests that instead of creating habits that might backfire, try calming your nerves by rejiggering your daily routine.

Perhaps when you’re anxious, you eat snacks that leave you feeling uncomfortable and concerned about your health. Or maybe you lose hours to worry in response to your anxiety. Whatever the case, Brewer points out that these habits, which might have once brought you comfort, may not help you anymore.

Cake was a solace when you were 18. Social media used to be fun. Now, though, these responses to anxiety just make the feeling worse. So what’s to be done?

If you’re beginning to sense that your habits are reinforcing your anxiety instead of banishing it, turn to the basic principles of habit change: Notice the habit and its trigger and then find something healthier to replace it (much like people switch to gum when they're trying to quit smoking or swap fruit for cookies in the break room).

Simply realizing that the anxiety-fighting habits you used to employ are no longer serving your interests will go a long way toward helping you change them. But Brewer also suggests positive alternatives to scrolling, snacking or stressing such as tuning into your breathing or throwing some thoughts of loving kindness out into the universe and measuring how those make you feel instead.