Here's Why You Struggle With Anxiety

Matt Lillywhite

How often do you find yourself struggling with anxiety?

If you’re anything like my former-self, your answer will be something along the lines of “all the time.”

Right? No matter how hard you try to rid yourself of negative thoughts, they plunge your mental health into an abyss of uncertainty from which you cannot escape.

It sucks.

Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in the same position as you many times. But I’ve discovered that the best way to heal anxiety is by letting go of external circumstances outside of your control. In the words of Epictetus:

“The more we value things outside of our control, the less control we have.”

So below are a collection of ways to take back control of your mind and remove the negative thoughts which are preventing you from living a better life. Each one of them helped me to eliminate my anxiety & improve my mental health. I hope they do the same for you, too.

Not Having A Routine.

I’ve discovered that anxiety, by definition, is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. So if you’re living each day without a defined structure, it’s likely that you’ll feel anxious due to a lack of routine.

Now that I wake up at 6.30 am every morning and read a few pages from a book, there’s a feeling of regularity at the start of each day, which helps to ease my levels of anxiety.

You don’t need to wake up at 5 am, meditate for 30 minutes per day, or follow any of the other personal development tips you see on the internet. Instead, try experimenting with a variety of different routines and do whatever works for you.

Trying To Suppress Your Thoughts.

If you’re not in control of your thoughts, they’re in control of you. Perhaps this is what Seneca meant when he said: “It is not what you bear, but how you bare it.”

So instead of suppressing negative thoughts, I’ve discovered that a better solution is documenting my mindset each evening. For example, I’ll write a short journal entry detailing any feelings of anxiety, and what I did to prevent them from re-entering my mind.

Whenever you feel like anxiety is creeping up on you, take a moment to document how you feel so you can understand its triggers, and how to stop it from affecting you in the future.

Eating Junk Food Every Day.

I’m not going to lie: I absolutely love eating a giant cheeseburger with fries. However, I’ve had to cut back on unhealthy food due to its effect on my mental health.

Research shows that eating large quantities of processed food can lead to an increased risk of anxiety & depression. So if you’re hoping to improve your mental health, reducing the amount of junk food in your diet is a great way to start.

Find a selection of healthier foods that you enjoy eating, and try to incorporate them into your meals more frequently. For example, I’ve started spreading avocado on my sandwiches instead of mayo.

Although adjusting your diet may seem like a small change to your lifestyle, the positive effect it will have on your mental health is profound.

Always Checking Your Phone.

I used to have a social media addiction. For 12–14 hours of the day, I was scrolling through social media, looking at other people’s lives, and continually wishing that my life could be different.

But a few months ago, I stumbled across a tip from Ryan Holiday, which helped me to spend less time on my phone, and take back control of my life. Quoting the article:

“If you have an alarm that’s not your clock app, your phone can go in the other room, and if your phone is in the other room, you can’t check it at night.”

This changed my life as I was no longer scrolling through social media until the early hours of the morning.

If you want to heal the effects of anxiety, consider limiting your phone use to certain times of the day. Because when you’re not constantly worrying about new notifications, your mental energy can focus on other things that genuinely matter.

Not Exercising.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was saying that I was “too busy” to exercise during the day. After all, I was so focused on my career that I didn’t even consider the negative effects that burnout would have on my health.

I’ve recently started taking a 45-minute walk each day to relax & have some time alone with my thoughts. Even though I’m only walking for a relatively short time, the reduction in stress caused by this habit has changed my life for the better.

Walk across town to get food on your lunch break, go to a park in the evenings, or take the stairs instead of using an elevator. When you begin implementing some form of exercise into your routine, you’ll notice that your anxiety will quickly fade away.

Not Getting Enough Sleep.

Studies show that a lack of sleep can lead to increased anxiety, high blood pressure, and a variety of conditions that can negatively impact your health. After all, sleep deprivation activates regions of the brain that contribute to excessive worrying.

So if you’re looking to reduce the effects of anxiety in your daily life, getting enough sleep is a great way to prepare your mind for the following day. In the words of the neuroscientist, Matthew Walker:

“Sleep recalibrates our emotional brain circuits, allowing us to navigate next-day social and psychological challenges with cool-headed composure.”

If you want to heal your anxiety, adjusting your daily habits is the best place to start.

So every day, ask yourself: “What actions can I take right now to stop letting anxiety control my thoughts?”

That’s all you need to do.

Photo credit via Unsplash

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