Anxiety: 7 Ways to Ruin Your Mental Health

Excess Anxiety

Everybody has anxiety. I have it, too. While I cannot imagine what it would be like for anxiety to rule my life the way it does for some people, there have been times when it was a problem for me. I’m not sure at what point a problem becomes a full-blown disorder, but last year, for the first time in my life, I felt I might be getting close. 

It started with a feeling of shadowy dread whenever I thought about some unpleasant task on the horizon: a social event with lots of strangers, public speaking engagement, or trip to an unfamiliar place. Just nerves, I told myself, as I took comfort in a glass of wine, promising myself some extra alone time after I was done.

Then I noticed it creeping into my daily routines as I dealt with the ordinary challenges of life: bills to pay, deadlines at work, a family to take care of, problems with the house and cars. Faced with paralyzing worry, I would suddenly become aware that my heart was racing, my stomach knotted, and I’d pour myself another glass of wine.

Temporary Relief vs. Long-Term Solutions

Alcohol really seemed to help, as did mindless entertainments, avoidance of stressful situations, procrastination, and in a strange way, worrying itself.

These coping mechanisms provided temporary relief. But in the long run, they only seemed to make it worse. I realized that far from curing my anxiety, these practices and habits were fueling it.

Once I realized that, I took stock of my behavior and started making changes. I stopped drinking alcohol and cut back on caffeine, paid more attention to exercise and diet, and, perhaps most importantly, came up with a plan for dealing with all the little annoyances in my life that were weighing me down.

Two months later, I still experience the racing heart, but it happens much less frequently and without that feeling of dread I felt before. For this post, I was going to write a list of things that helped me recognize and manage my anxiety. But there are already so many of those on the Internet, and my story is not so much about how I recovered, as how I nearly made myself sick. It is in this spirit that I offer the following “how-to” tips for allowing your anxiety to get the better of you.