Are Your Physical Habits Making Your Mental Health Worse?

So often, our mental experiences spawn from physical habits we develop over time which reinforce our stress and anticipation. These habits can seem benign and necessary, but are in fact neither, for they only help set the groundwork for our anxieties to build. For me this week, I realized that much of my stress at work spawns from a physical habit I have developed over time.

So, here is some context. I have learned that most of my anxiety at work comes from anticipating the future and trying to predict outcomes. I work in surgery as a nurse and go into a number of cases throughout the day. Over time, I have developed a bad habit of coming into work and looking over the schedule like a hawk in order to predict what cases I might be going in and analyzing how my day is going to go. I don’t just look at my immediate case, I look at the whole schedule for the day and overload my brain with unnecessary information.

I have a neurotic obsession with having a predictable future most of the time and I am trying to let that go. I know it’s neither healthy nor desirable. I have realized over the weeks that the more I study the schedule, the more my anxiety builds. While uncertainty can trigger my anxiety, my anxiety also attaches to details like a leech and uses them to create false scenarios in my head of things that could go wrong. This in turn causes my anxiety to inflate to new sizes and creates real misery for me.

Perhaps sometimes, we have physical habits that change the mental trajectory of the day and by simply changing the physical, we can change the mental. Historically, I was over-analyzing the whole schedule, it’s almost like I was taking on the weight of the whole day and all of its possible scenarios. No wonder I felt like I was going crazy. So, this week I decided I am going to try something different. I made it a point this week that no matter how bad I wanted to, I wasn’t going to study the schedule. I was going to have tunnel vision, only looking at the case I was immediately assigned to.

This comes back to a common theme with dealing with anxiety and that is staying in the moment. The moment is all that we have. Staying in the moment and learning about myself are two key practices I want to master going forward. I am learning more and more about my mind as time passes. I know that my mind sifts through information looking for any amount of detail that can give it food for anticipatory anxiety. My mind is constantly hunting for food like some neurotic predator, trying to trigger worst case scenario events in my mind and the more details I have, the larger my anxiety grows.

When it comes to anxiety, the culprit is us. We are in control and we can’t blame anyone else for the kind of day that we have. I learned that I was feeding my anxiety. I was planting seeds and watering it every day while at the same time trying my hardest to rid myself of it. Self-deception is a funny thing.

Well I have decided to make a stand. I am no longer going to feed it. I am tired of feeling this way and I don’t deserve it. This is something simple I can change, a physical habit that can be overcome that can change the entire outlook on my day. I have been arming my anxiety most of the time. I have been feeding my brain details, overanalyzing about future events that almost never come true.

The changes I am starting to see with work by simply not looking at the schedule details is pretty profound. While there is still some tension with not knowing how my day is going to flesh out, my anxiety levels have been nowhere near what they normally are. Sometimes, we have to step back and understand when and how we are feeding our anxiety with our habits, and then take progressive steps to change them. I think back at my old job when they used to post the schedule the night before and I would hardcore stress about work the night before because I had details. Details and over-analyzing have been the seeds for my anxiety. When I switched to a new job that didn’t post the schedule the night before, my anxiety the night before dissipated and I was able to relax.

Changing our mental habits can be a real challenge, but sometimes there are simple ways to change physical habits that have tremendous repercussions on our mental health. Maybe there is something in your own life that you are doing out of habit that is triggering your anxiety. Maybe you could be feeding your anxiety as well. This life is all about discovery, including self-discovery, and slowly uncovering our habits and our veiled intentions can help us to understand where our stresses spawn from and can help us to overcome them a little at a time. I wish everyone reading this the best of luck. Life can be an overwhelming and confusing endeavor, but little discoveries like this are small victories we can each achieve if we take the time to do a little introspection. Here’s to life hacks! Much love ❤

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