When it comes to stress, you might be your own worst enemy.
Sure, external factors are a huge contributor to an uptick in anxiety ― but what about those times where it seemingly comes out of nowhere? Or what about when that situation you’ve been mulling over only seems to intensify?
It turns out your habits can affect how you feel just as much as the initial situation that’s stressing you out. And what you think is actually helping your worries might be making them worse. Below are just a few ways your behavior may be sabotaging your stress levels:
1. You avoid what’s bothering you.
As tempting as it is to ditch the source of your stress and head for greener pastures (in your mind, at least), it’s not going to work. Experts say this method is actually counterintuitive. “Avoiding makes it like it isn’t happening — and the more you avoid it the worse it gets ... The more you deal with things that stress you out, the more mastery you have over them,” David Spiegel, Stanford University’s associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, previously told HuffPost.
2. You stayed up past your bed time.
Sure, hitting the hay at 1 a.m. doesn’t seem like a bad idea at the time, but your emotions might beg to differ. Stress and lack of sleep may as well be partners in crime. You’re more likely to be irritable and ruminate over your worries without proper rest.
3. You gave into your inner couch potato.
Want to blow off steam? Hit the pavement. Exercise is known for reducing stress. Even if just a walk makes a difference. Whatever you do, don’t stick to the couch: Studies also suggest that being sedentary can take a toll on mental wellbeing.
4. You vented to your friends.
Your first instinct to go on a rant may actually do more harm than good. Research shows that stress can be contagious, so soon enough you’ll be feeding off each other’s negative emotions. Yikes!
5. You scrolled through your newsfeed.
It’s impossible to check Facebook or Instagram without seeing a fairytale engagement, a pregnancy announcement or photos from someone’s amazing vacation (or all three). If social media leaves you a little more high-strung than you found it, science may have an explanation as to why. Research shows that the networks can lead to social comparison, or stacking your life against other people’s, which can then mess with your mental health.
6. You hit the mall.
Indulging in a little retail therapy may sound like a perfect solution to an overwhelming day but it may only exacerbate how you’re feeling. According to a small 2013 study, materialism seemed to intensify the effects of stress.
7. You made an impulsive decision.
It may seem logical to act on your stress ― after all, it’s biological ― but some choices are better left for a clear mind. Research shows that people with high levels of stress are worse at making good long-term decisions.
Now that you know what you shouldn’t do when it comes to stress, try one of these tricks instead: