The Daily Habit That Might Be Making Your Anxiety Worse

While anxiety might be part of the daily experience for many people right now, a lot of us don't realize how small habits may be contributing to feelings of restlessness. Since the body is impacted by what goes on in its immediate environment, our routines can either hurt or help our mental state. And if you wake up every morning jonesing for caffeine, you might be hard-pressed to believe that it's likely making you feel even more anxious. 

Consider: If you have a natural tendency towards feeling anxious, having a cup of Joe every day can make matters worse, because coffee is a stimulant. According to Everyday Health, caffeine jitters mimic a scary event, moving the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode. This response increases your heart rate and breathing and also may cause shaking (via VeryWellMind). Plus, this survival state also spikes your cortisol levels — aka the stress hormone.

These sensations are very close to anxiety and the body can't tell the difference. Psychologist Susan Bowling tells Health, "The natural effects of caffeine stimulate a host of sensations, such as your heart beating faster, your body heating up, your breathing rate increasing—all things that mimic anxiety." She goes on, "psychologically, it's difficult for your mind to recognize that this is not anxiety because it feels the same."

Caffeine impacts everyone's anxiety levels differently

While some people can down three cups of coffee a day and go about their business relatively unaffected, caffeine can wreak havoc on others. Studies have shown that drinking more than 200 milligram of the stimulant — about two cups of coffee — can increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks in people who are sensitive (via Health). The DSM-5 manual even has a subclass called "caffeine-induced anxiety disorder."

With that in mind, it's important to take note of how much caffeine you're ingesting on a daily basis. Record how you feel on the days that you drink coffee versus the days that you don't. If you find that your heart beats faster, you feel more anxiety or worry, it's time to cut back. Bowling recommends consuming caffeine in moderation while keeping track of the way you feel when you refrain from coffee. She says, "For people who have anxiety, they often notice an improvement in their anxiety levels."

The bottom line is that caffeine can make anxiety worse in some cases. So, take note of how you feel when you drink coffee and see if you feel that it's worth cutting out from your routine.