3 Everyday Activities That Can Damage Your Mental And Emotional Health

Psychiatrists seek to help members of our society cope, not only with deep-rooted personal issues, but with the sheer hustle and bustle of modern life. Many "normal" events and behaviors can produce abnormal results without your even realizing the cause. Here are three everyday activities that might be doing your mental and emotional well being more harm than good.

1. Excessive Computer Use

If you're experiencing unusual levels of depression or anxiety, along with a deep-rooted reluctance to go to work, you might simply be troubled over a conflict with a co-worker, or boss, or evaluation result. But if you work with computers all day long, the very technology you depend on at work might be setting the stage for a mental health crisis. Research has indicated that employees who spend more than five hours at a time sitting at these ubiquitous digital workstations may be at higher risk for anxiety and depression.

How could a hunk of hardware and software threaten your mental and emotional stability? While the exact reasons are uncertain, it is believed that constant computer use disrupts the sleep cycle, causing daytime fatigue and boosting stress hormone levels. The activities and interactions pursued through the technology may also promote stress, anxiety, anger, fear, and other negative feelings that impact mental health. Even the sheer loneliness of spending the workday in an isolated cubicle could contribute to these problems. If these scenarios strike home with you, try taking more breaks from your computer during the day and making more of an effort to socialize with colleagues. You might sleep better -- and feel better!

2. Caffeine Consumption

Speaking of sleep deprivation, caffeine is a known culprit. Insomnia from too much of this powerful stimulant can produce the same fatigue and stress symptoms as insomnia caused by "computer abuse" -- but it can also create its own specific, genuinely unsettling form of temporary insanity. Caffeine intoxication is all too easy to induce in a world dominated by coffee and energy drinks. Symptoms include anxiety, nervousness, confusion, restlessness, and rapid and/or incoherent speech. Since low levels of caffeine are actually associated with greater mental focus and feelings of well being, many people become dependent on the substance, only to place themselves at higher and higher risk for caffeine intoxication as their intake increases.

Caffeine can also aggravate existing mental health issues. If you're prone to anxiety or panic attacks, for example, caffeine can crank up both your heart rate and your sensitivity to perceived threats. Sleep and eating disorders also seem to be worsened by caffeine, and there may even be similarities between the neurotransmitter levels caused by caffeine use and the levels observed in schizophrenia. If you're suffering from symptoms of caffeine overuse, a slow, careful weaning from the drug could have a dramatic effect on your mental well being.

3. Slouching

How's your posture? If you make a habit of slouching when you walk or slumping in your office chair, you could be doing harm to your mind and emotions as well as your body. Research has found that people actually experience more negative moods when they habitually use negative body language such as poor posture. This is obvious in the way they express themselves -- participants in studies tend to use more negative words and sentiments in their speech when they allow themselves to slouch. Even sad or serious facial expressions seem to reinforce a negative emotional state.

Of course this doesn't mean that people with serious depressive disorders can simply straighten up and smile off their issues -- professional counseling and medication (where appropriate) are critical for anyone experiencing severe symptoms. But if you've been plagued with a light to moderate case of "the blues," give serious consideration to correcting any postural problems you may have. There's genuine support for the idea that adopting a straight-backed, cheerful demeanor can literally work on your mood from the outside in.

Any of these everyday activities could be creating or amplifying whatever depression, anxiety, or other mental and emotional issues you may be struggling with. If you're currently undergoing counseling or other treatment, ask your mental health professional whether modifying these behaviors could modify your entire outlook on life!