You know how when you’re about to eat a doughnut, you can feel the sugar rush before it even touches your tongue? We all have those urges when we indulge in something we love. But what happens when we try to resist those cravings? Our body might react as if food is being withheld from it, which causes stress and anxiety. That’s just one way bad habits affect our mental health. Here are 9 other bad habits you probably don’t want to add to your list:
- Comparing yourself:
You’re more likely to suffer anxiety when comparing yourself with others. We all do it, but it can be more difficult to cope with life’s hardships when we have a negative self-image. What are you comparing yourself to? Society’s standards for beauty, what other people think about you, your past successes, or who your friends and family are? Whatever the case may be, it can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. However, you don’t have to bury your head in the sand. Put down the magazine, and close that thread on Facebook — there are other ways of comparing yourself without neglecting everyday self-care. If you’re unable to break this unhealthy thinking pattern causing you anxiety, you can also try anxiety therapy to manage your mental health better.
- Not exercising:
It’s called the “runner’s high” for a good reason. When you work out, your body releases a feel-good brain chemical called endorphins, which promote feelings of pleasure and euphoria. You don’t need to go to the gym every day or join a marathon in order to reap these benefits, either. Even walking can help you feel better. Just make sure you give your muscles and nervous system some time to rest before you start sprinting again.
- Skipping meals:
When you skip meals, your body believes it’s being starved. So, to keep itself alive, your body goes into “save energy” mode and produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This can cause feelings of anxiety, depression and irritability. Your blood sugar levels also drop, which increases anxiety. Ideally, you should eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and small snacks in-between meals every few hours throughout the day. Plus, if you sit down to eat a big meal that’s high in fat or starches at night before going to bed, you might have trouble sleeping because your metabolism is going so fast.
You can’t always overwork, but if you work too much, you might be sabotaging your mind. A number of studies have shown that people who work more than 12 hours a day are more prone to depression. Even if you aren’t depressed here and now, working long hours can increase your risk of developing depression or anxiety in the future. Make sure you find enough time to do the things that make you feel good and put yourself first every once in a while.
- Spending too much time on devices:
Think about all the stuff you pack in your bag when you go on vacation: your phone, tablet, camera, and passport. You can’t leave your computer at home while you’re away, unfortunately. But try not to check it every few minutes — that can be the difference between productivity and distraction. What if you could actually be distracted by something? That’s right: nature. Read a book or go for a walk; anything that helps you relax would probably do more good than harm.
- Not getting enough sleep:
It’s easy to get by on less than the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, but after a while, your body will start to suffer. A lack of sleep makes it difficult for your brain to work correctly, which can result in anxiety and depression. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to feel fatigued, confused and overwhelmed. You might also have trouble concentrating and be less motivated to do your job. And too little sleep can also increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes in the long run.
- Drinking too much:
Nothing is worse than waking up the next day with a hangover. But if you overdo it, drinking too much can have serious consequences. Alcohol reduces your inhibitions, which can cause you to act impulsively. Drinking also triggers a reaction in your brain called “fight or flight,” which increases your heart rate and blood pressure and puts stress on your body. So if you cut back on alcohol, you’ll be better able to cope with life’s ups and downs.
- Drinking too much caffeine:
Think about how you feel after a can or two of soda or Red Bull (or three). You might be jittery, nervous and anxious — especially if you don’t eat anything while you’re drinking caffeine. The same thing happens when you drink too much coffee: you become agitated and jumpy. While caffeine is known to increase alertness, it also increases stress levels and blood pressure. Regularly drinking caffeine can cause your adrenal glands to work too fast, which can lead to severe symptoms such as insomnia and panic attacks. So if you want to keep your anxiety in check, take a break from the caffeine once in a while — or try cutting back on how much caffeine you consume.
When you gossip about others, they might not know it — but your brain sure does! You might feel good at the time because it makes you feel better about yourself when you criticize others. If you want to feel good about yourself for real, stop gossiping. You’ll feel better about yourself, and the people you gossip about will be better off for it too.
Just keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once. The best way to get rid of depression is to take things one step at a time; but if you’re going to take several small steps toward happiness, make sure they are in the right direction — away from depression! If you feel like you need further help to remove these bad habits from your life and improve your mental health, you can always opt for online mental health counselling.