What Is The Cause Of Anxiety? 10 Toxic Behaviors You Could Be Avoiding

Throughout my years of struggling with anxiety, there have been many people who have asked me, “What is the cause of anxiety?”. There are so many causes for anxiety and it would be impossible to include them all in one blog post.

This is not a scientific explanation that could be summed up by me saying that anxiety can be genetic or caused by certain triggering events. Alternatively, these are behaviors that could be avoided and tips for avoiding them. These aren’t just beneficial for anxiety sufferers as we all have partaken in these toxic behaviors at one point or another.

Stop Worrying

If you have looked into any of my other posts, you are already aware that I love to take the most realistic approach as possible. These are a list of toxic behavior’s you could be avoiding to help lower your anxiety levels.

1. Worrying

This is number 1 on my list because I am a severe chronic worrier. I will hyper-focus on something that I am not even going to be confronted with for another 6 months or even a year from now.

The amount of energy I waste on worrying is sickening. I just imagine how much more I could get done throughout the day if I wasn’t wasting so much of my energy on worrying. Then I worry about the fact that I’m wasting energy worrying! It’s a vicious cycle.

Worrying is physically, mentally, and emotionally EXHAUSTING.

I recently heard this tip from a podcast my significant other was listening to called Mind Pump (it is a weightlifting/workout podcast that I would never choose to listen to on my own but I’m glad I did). They gave some amazing advice that will cause whatever you are worried about to lose its power.

Tip: His practice involved coming up with the worst scenarios that could happen and repeating them to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and repeat to yourself over and over again the outcome you are worried about.

For example, if you are worried about a job interview coming up and whether you will get a job, repeat to yourself “I might not get this job, I might not get this job, I might not get this job”.

Eventually, this thought will lose most of its power over your mind because you have trained it to accept this outcome as a possibility.

After hearing him say that, I realized that in some sense I was already doing this as a coping mechanism. To make myself feel better, I think of the worst possible outcomes and I try to accept them. This just takes it one step further as a mindful practice.

2. Not Getting Enough SleepSleep

Statistics show people who suffer from insomnia or lack of sleep, in general, have higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who sleep normally.

Tip: I know it can be hard to force yourself to go to sleep earlier, especially when you are someone who works like days and the sooner you go to sleep means the sooner you will be back in the office. However, something as simple as getting a couple of extra hours of sleep per night could make drastic changes to your happiness throughout the day as well as your anxiety levels over time.

3. Eating Unhealthy Food

There are a plethora of reasons eating unhealthy food can lead to anxiety, but let’s just look at the least scientific and most obvious one. When you eat like shit, you feel like shit. If you put on a few pounds, or even 50, you are going to have anxiety over it whether you are someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder or not!

Tip: Start small and just choose to eat healthy 5 out of 7 days each week. If you need to, start even smaller and say you are only going to eat one unhealthy thing per day and make a conscious effort to eat healthy for the rest of the day. This is proven to help you feel better and we all have to start somewhere.

4. Comparing Yourself To Other People

This is something humans are just inclined to do no matter what. You could be the most healthy, happy, and satisfied person around and at some point, you are going to compare yourself to another person.

This can have it’s good points if it involves another person motivating you to be better. However, the majority of the time this seems to have a negative impact. In order for this to stop negatively impacting you, you have to have self-confidence.

I find myself comparing myself to others who appear to be happier than me or more successful than me ALL THE TIME. But I can honestly sit here and tell you that no matter what, at the end of the day, I am confident in who I am, what I have accomplished, what I look like (for the most part), how far I have come, and where I am going.

You Got ThisNow, it took me a LONG time to get here. But I worked my ass off for it and I’ll be damned if someone else’s happiness is going to cause me to feel like shit about my hard-earned accomplishments. Saying it out loud just seems silly, it should make us HAPPY to see other people HAPPY!

Tip: If you’re not happy, that is your choice. If you’re not confident in yourself, then you will have to put in the work to change that. Self-confidence is one thing in life that can’t be handed to you no matter who’s hand you shake.

5. Getting In Your Own Way

I recently attended a workshop about “getting out of your own way” held by a local therapist in the St. Louis area. She went into detail about all of the ways we get in our own way and keep ourselves from reaching our full potential of happiness.

To take my own personal spin on her advice, these are some things we are all doing to get in our own Stop Waiting For the Perfect Lifeway and keep our anxieties flourishing:

    • Complaining – there is not a single person on this earth who couldn’t find something to complain about if they really wanted to. However, there are many people on this earth who would have a hard time finding something positive to say. Complaining is a waste of time and energy that could be spent making changes.
    • Feeling sorry for yourself – we all do it. We all throw ourselves a pity party every now and then, but that is not going to get you anywhere.
    • Not taking ACTION – the main point.

 

Tip:

Financial Struggle: If you are struggling financially…. GET ANOTHER JOB or get a different job! I can’t tell you how many times I was struggling and said to myself “time to look for another job”. For almost 6 years I had anywhere from 2-4 jobs at one time on top of being a student. I fought for my independence and for the life I wanted to live because no one was going to hand it to me.

I am thankful not to have to do that any longer today, but I can tell you with confidence that I wouldn’t be as far as I am today if it weren’t for hustling so hard back then. Keep the hustle going people, there are no excuses.

Unhealthy Relationship: If you are in an unhealthy relationship, MOVE ON. Allow yourself to move on. Allow yourself to be deserving of more. Allow yourself to be happy. I’m not going to elaborate on this because that’s an entirely different issue.

Stressful Job: If you are in a job that has you stressed out and unhappy for longer than 3-6 months, get the hell out of there!! Stop putting yourself through that misery.

I completely understand that job searches are going to be even more stressful at first than the job you currently hate, but that is temporary!! If you don’t get out of the miserable job, it could become a permanent issue. Stop whining and start making moves.

Have another action point you would like tips on? Leave me a comment and let me know 🙂

6. Not Taking Time For Yourself

Mental health is becoming a very talked-about topic these days and I am over the mood glad! The human body isn’t made for zero relaxation time, we all know that. To keep anxiety at bay with jobs, kids, school, and taking care of basic needs such as house cleaning and laundry, you absolutely MUST choose to make time for yourself.

Tip: Set aside time every day or if that’s too much even once a week just for yourself. Spend that time reading a book you enjoy, taking a bath, going to see a movie, meditating, working out, or even just mindful relaxing in a quiet room.

By mindful relaxation I mean closing your eyes, not falling asleep and not touching your phone or watching TV or doing ANYTHING for 15-20 minutes.

7. Trying To Fix Other People

Fixing Other PeopleThis really should be up there with number 1 because this is another behavior I struggle with and fill me with an abundance of anxiety. I have gotten a lot better over the years in accepting I can’t force people to do or say or be certain things and that’s okay. I have also accepted that I can’t change how people were raised or why they are the way they are and that’s also okay.

I am not a medical professional and I am under no authority to even begin thinking I am capable of fixing people and the majority of you are probably in the same boat I am. If you look at the bigger picture and realize why people are the way they are, whether that is the way they were raised or a medical condition, just the thought of it is overwhelming.

 

We can’t change YEARS of learned behavior and we certainly can’t change a medical condition. Even if someone wants to change and is trying do you really think they can change years of learned behavior overnight? Uhhh nah. You have to accept that and realize it is OKAY that you can’t fix them, you are only one person and 9 times out of 10 these issues are bigger than us.

Tip: Accept that you are only one person and it is unreasonable to think one person without a medical license to do so be able to fix another human. If someone doesn’t want to change, stop trying to force them. You are killing yourself and they are going to walk away unharmed.

I truly believe other people can change if they want to, but it will never happen overnight and we have to accept this and allow them the time they deserve to grow.

8. Allowing Toxic People To Remain In Your Life

If there are people in your life who don’t make you happy, you have to let them go. Worrying about why they are mean to you or don’t appreciate you is never going to be worth it. There are plenty of people in this world worthy of your time and those are the ones worth spending it on.

Tip: Be strong enough and confident enough to choose your own happiness, stop allowing other humans to bring you down.

9. Too Much CaffeineCoffee

I’m including this because it’s just a simple fact. Anxiety is worsened by caffeine and that is never going to change. However, coffee is one of the little things in life that makes me feel happy and the trade-off isn’t important to me.

Tip: If you haven’t already tried this to ease your anxiety, try going 2 weeks without caffeine and monitor your anxiety levels.

10. Thinking You Are Alone

This is just as important as any other number on this list. Thinking and/or believing you are in this alone or other people don’t understand can cause so much unnecessary anxiety. There are so many support groups and support systems in place these days to prove this completely wrong. You are absolutely NOT alone.

Tip: If you are feeling alone or struggling, find a community in which you feel comfortable. There are groups that meet in person or groups on Facebook that are willing to listen and help at all hours of the day. I am also available any time you need someone to talk to, feel free to reach out!

Most of these are on more of the obvious side, but I think sometimes we get so bogged down with these scientific explanations and answers it can become too overwhelming to even begin. These are all huge contributing factors to my anxiety and I hope these tips are helpful for you or maybe a loved one who is curious about what causes anxiety.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kay

18 Comments

  • Wilson

    Hey this article is great! I believe the source of a lot of my anxiety is worrying. I don’t know how to stop worrying about things though because everything is so stressful. Do you have any good methods or helpful tips to help me stop worrying about things. Like I get stressed about tests, relationships, money. I can’t just stop worrying about those things I think I need to do it more healthily.

    • Kay

      Hi Wilson! I have the exact same problem and have struggled with it for many years. I find other situations I am going through in my life trigger my worrying to be even worse. Have you tried the tip listed above in order to help your worries lose their power? I have found it to be very useful.

      The only other thing I do personally other than the typical answer (hobbies, working more, studying more, expressing feelings to significant other) is a form of meditation on my thoughts. I will basically talk myself into accepting that it is what it is and I have done everything in my power to make the best of this situation. I will have to complete this process every day for sometimes weeks at a time before I can ease my mind of these worries. It’s a very tedious and conscious effort on my part.

      There is one quote that sticks with me, and I do apologize if you are against religion, but even so, I think everyone can relate on some level (replacing “God” with “the universe”):

      “If God wants a thing to succeed – you can’t mess it up. If He wants a thing to fail – you can’t save it. Rest and just be faithful.”

  • Eco_Catherine

    You make some very valid points in this article. The points about toxic people resonate with me and think that many people allow these people in their life hoping that they can change them. Forget it and move on.

  • Cathy

    You’ve got some great advice here. It seems you’ve described me somewhat. I’m toxic to myself, am constantly undermining my efforts and getting in my own way, feeling sorry for myself and worrying about complete impossibilities. It’s funny to read about myself that way. I’m going to try and implement your ideas and be less of a downer. Thanks for publishing this!

  • Jesse Lee

    Great post!
    Drinking too much caffeine can have all kinds of negative effects on us. I try to keep my caffeine amount from getting too high because if I drink more caffeine it always makes me feel more anxious.
    All of what you have listed here are toxic behaviors to minimize in order to cut down on anxiety and to be happier.
    Thanks for this list of behaviors to cut down on!

  • Eco_Catherine

    You make some really interesting points here. Trying to help other people is a big one. I find that firstly, who is it to say there is anything “wrong” with somebody in the first place? Secondly, if somebody does want to change for the better, this is up to them to do by themselves, nobody else.

  • Jacquie

    Hi Kay,

    Thank you for sharing this insight! There are so many factors related to anxiety, and I have learnt it is such a big area! I have to say, that a few years back I found myself in difficult circumstances that were hard for me to remove myself from. Over time I found myself trying to take action, but getting nowhere. 

    As I felt my frustration and anger increase and found myself unhappy I went to a psychologist who diagnosed me with anxiety. This was a strange place for me to be, because I have throughout my life been mainly a happy-go-lucky individual, and hadn’t suffered anxiety before.

    It was a hard one to deal with and I found myself rejecting the deep breathing exercises and other suggestions made. I found it hard to even meditate, as I would burst out of it in anger. There is no doubt in my mind now, that anger itself is a downward spiral. 

    In the end, it was being able to exit the situation, with the help of my family that enabled me over time to lessen the anxiety and move on. I’m still dealing with the health related issues brought up by the excessive release of cortico-steroids over that time, but now I am so much more informed about confidently moving forward with the challenges life brings up, and I realise that if I get angry, I’m the one who is going to suffer the most. It won’t be helping me solve the issues or come up with sane strategies to try. 

    So for me, getting support through understanding people has been a major help. Also, learning to deal with things one step at a time was helpful. If I couldn’t meditate, I could at least sit with myself and understanding others and come up with a plan. 

    Thank you for sharing this post, and out of all the things you listed, I’m sure there are many helpful tips to assist with many different types of anxiety.

    • Kay

      Hi Jacquie! 

      When I am going through a difficult time or feeling high levels of anxiety, it can also be a really hard thing to be to focus on breathing exercises and/or meditation. It’s a battle between trying to calm my brain down enough to even focus on something so simple and giving myself the discipline to do the task. 

      I am relating to your story very much in that being in a toxic situation for so long can lead to long-term side effects and it truly does take a very long time to get over it completely – for some people longer than others.

      I really like your outlook on meditation. If you couldn’t bring yourself to meditate you simply chose to be in the moment and realize what was going on with yourself, and the people around you. 

      I truly appreciate you stopping by and sharing your story

  • Fran

    You have written an excellent post, and your list of causes of anxiety is great.  Now, if we can just learn to leave some of these causes out of our life, we can improve our whole well-being.

    If each of us would study this list and do everything we can to avoid these behaviors, we would be so much better off.  If we are seeking success, we need to rid ourselves of anxiety and develop a positive mindset that will sustain us through every thing we do.  It isn’t always easy, but we can do it.  Thanks for sharing this list with your readers.

  • Andrew

    Hi Kay,

    i really enjoyed reading your article about the causes of anxiety. My eldest daughter suffers badly from anxiety and stress (she is 21) and it has started to have a major effect on her life. I am sure some of the tips you have offered will help. I have tried giving her ashwagandha tablets and I wonder what your opinion on herbal remedies such as this is? Thanks again for a really informative article. Regards, Andrew

    • Kay

      I am sorry to hear she is struggling with this. That is around the age when my anxiety really started to show – I was 19. I have never heard of ashwagandha, but I have heard of other natural forms of anxiety reduction in a pill form. However, I have never tried them because I am already on prescribed medication. I’m not sure I would be able to get true results unless I was taken off of prescription med for anxiety.

      I have tried CBD oil using a vape pen but I didn’t really have much luck with that. I may need to try a different brand.

  • Mary Ann

    Hi Kay. Thanks for sharing these great tips. In the past, when I would go to bed, every thought about the day would roll through my brain or what it is I needed to do tomorrow. What helped me was finding a couple of mantras that I repeat to myself as soon as I close my eyes. In no time, I am asleep and have not given any thought to what happened during the day or what is going to happen tomorrow.

    I have given up caffeine in coffee a couple of times but I just like it too much and go right back at it :).

    • Kay

      I have heard of people finding mantras to repeat and it is extremely helpful! I am so glad to hear you have something in place that helps keep you from being stuck in your own mind. It can be a truly defeating feeling. 

      I have also tried to give up caffeine with not much luck! LOL

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