4 Unhealthy Habits That Will Lead to an Anxiety Relapse

A serene stretch of days, weeks, or even months—the gnawing, debilitating presence of anxiety has finally released its grip on you.

You’ve regained control, and you can breathe freely again. This period of calm, whether achieved through therapeutic intervention, self-care practices, or medication, feels like liberation.

But then, there’s a shift.

A setback happens. Perhaps you fall back into old habits, unhealthy behaviors you’d previously managed to sidestep. Gradually, anxiety begins to creep back in, tightening its hold once more.

This is an anxiety relapse—an often unexpected resurgence of intense anxiety symptoms after a period of recovery or remission. Just like a game of dominos, one unhealthy behavior can trigger another, setting off a chain of events that spiral into a full-blown relapse.

Neglecting Self-Care

When we’re swept up in the busyness of life, it’s easy to put self-care on the back burner.

We might skip meals, stay up late working, or sacrifice our downtime to meet deadlines. However, neglecting our physical well-being can have a direct impact on our mental health, leading to increased anxiety.

Regular sleep, balanced meals, and time for relaxation are not luxuries but necessities for maintaining our mental balance.

Avoidance Behavior

Avoidance is a common reaction to anxiety. It feels easier to avoid the situations, places, or people that trigger our anxiety rather than face them.

But in the long run, this avoidance can perpetuate the cycle of anxiety. It can limit our experiences, create a false sense of safety, and reinforce the power of anxiety over our lives.


It’s not uncommon for people to turn to self-medication when dealing with anxiety. This can take the form of overusing alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, or even prescribed medications, to try and manage anxiety symptoms.

In the short term, these substances might seem to offer a sense of relief or control, but they can potentially lead to dependence and can exacerbate anxiety symptoms in the long run. This unhealthy coping mechanism can set you on a precarious path, making you more susceptible to an anxiety relapse.

Engaging in Negative Self-Talk

The way we talk to ourselves significantly impacts our mental health. Persistent negative
self-talk, a running internal dialogue of self-criticism and doubt, can erode self-esteem and fuel anxiety.

Replacing this harmful pattern with a more compassionate, constructive internal narrative is essential in maintaining emotional balance and preventing anxiety relapses.

Self-Awareness as a Tool for Anxiety Management

Self-awareness isn’t about knowing how tall you are or what your favorite color is.

It’s the vital skill of understanding your inner landscape, of noticing the subtle shifts in your mood, the reactions you have to certain events, and the triggers that nudge your mental state one way or another. It’s about becoming intimately familiar with your inner dialogue and understanding how this dialogue interacts with the world around you.

But more than noticing, self-awareness is about actively managing these dynamics. It’s about recognizing the power of our inner dialogue and learning to guide it constructively.

With self-awareness, we can notice the triggers that lead us towards unhealthy habits and, instead, consciously redirect our actions towards healthier practices. This could mean choosing to engage in a relaxing activity instead of resorting to self-medication, or re-framing a negative thought instead of succumbing to negative self-talk.

This practice transforms self-awareness from a state into a tool, one that empowers us to navigate anxiety more effectively and avoid the pitfalls of relapse. It provides us the means to directly influence our emotional outcomes, and to maintain our mental health with greater resilience.