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Anxiety and Stress

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Strategies That Increase Distress

Research has shown that there are certain strategies that are ineffective coping strategies for dealing with negative emotions. Engaging in any of the following strategies can prolong and exacerbate your emotional suffering.

  1. Experiential avoidance: You try to avoid painful emotions, thoughts, and uncomfortable activities. Whenever you feel uncomfortable you try to suppress, numb, or push away the experience or avoid the situation. Not only does this have long term consequences, but research has shown that efforts to avoid negative emotions make them more intense.
  2. Rumination: You continuously worry and obsess about things to help prevent fear and uncertainty. You prepare for the worst and try to prevent bad things from happening. However, instead of solving problems, rumination raises anxiety by focusing on the negative, no matter how unrealistic or unlikely.
  3. Emotional masking: You don’t let people see your pain. You are afraid of what others would think if they saw your emotions. You fear being seen as weak, foolish, or crazy. Your real emotions and experiences stay hidden behind the mask you wear to look good. No one can provide you what you want or need in relationships because they never get to know what you really want or need.
  4. Short-term focus: You engage in immediate relief from emotional pain. You try to avoid, suppress, and stop the emotion and create a wall between yourself and your feelings. Despite the momentary relief, the long-term consequences are not positive because you reinforce yourself for behaviors that isolate and disconnect you from yourself and others.
  5. Response persistence: You’re afraid of trying a new strategy and repeat behaviors that are not helpful or effective. You might have rigid rules about how you “should” react that prevents you from seeking a new solution. Your current strategies may have been helpful at some point, but right now they are not working for you.
  6. Hostility or aggression: Anger is often an umbrella emotion that is used instead of recognizing that you feel fear, stress, loss, guilt, shame, overwhelmed, rejected, ineffective, or any other painful emotion. In addition to creating conflict, the more you use anger to cope, the angrier you get.
  7. Negative appraisal: You use negative evaluations and judgments to prepare you for failures, bad outcomes, controlling others, and beating yourself up over the mistakes you have made or will make. You assume everything is going to go poorly and over focus on things you perceive as negative. This does not prevent painful experiences. It filters out the positive and prevents you from enjoying your experiences.