Every worrier subconsciously uses coping strategies for anxiety, hoping to solve the problem and get over worry. Unfortunately, these techniques are not only useless, but also make things worse for you. Why is that? They work in a short (to be honest, very short) term, which gives you an illusion that you will solve the problem if you worry more. For a few minutes, you may feel relief, but, in the end, these useless techniques actually fuel your anxiety.
Ironically, your worries persist precisely because of the way you want to get rid of them. Being aware of these bad coping strategies for anxiety will help you overcome your worries.
Worst Coping Strategies For Anxiety
#1. Seeking reassurance
Uncertainty is just unbearable, so whenever you feel unsure about how you look, the impression you’ve made or any (potential) health problem, you seek reassurance. This strategy doesn’t work because reassuring yourself once isn’t enough. In fact, you doubt the reassurance too (no matter how many times you get reassured). The possibility that something may be wrong always remains and threatens you to death. how can you be sure that your friend isn’t just feeding your ego? Can your doctor tell that you don’t have cancer without submitting you to all kinds of tests?
#2. Trying to stop your thoughts
When you hear that you must not think of white bears, what do you do automatically? That’s exactly the result of your attempts to stop intrusive thoughts. According to psychologist David Wegner, suppression of certain thoughts actually leads to an increase of these thoughts after suppressing them. The more you try not to think about white bears, the bigger the polar bear population in your mind.
When you evaluate your thought as harmful, you either try to suppress it or become hyperaware of it. One way or another, the result is that you give it more importance that it actually has, and therefore it comes back to you even stronger than before. Which is not quite what you wanted, right?
#3. Collecting more and more information
Information is power, so what can be wrong about collecting too much information? Well, the information you collect may be (and probably is) misleading. You are searching for facts that confirm your initial hypothesis or negative beliefs, and misinterpret unrelated facts in a way that you start seeing trends when there’s only a bunch of random information. Thus, someone’s neutral or ambiguous behavior may be interpreted as threatening by a person who’s anxious about how s/he is perceived by others. This is called confirmation bias.
#4. Checking over and over again
Triple-checking everything is another coping strategy for anxiety that is completely useless. Why? Because it’s short-term. After checking the object of your concern, you only feel better for a short time. Then you need to check again. And again. No matter how many times you check, you never may be 100% sure that everything is all right. Especially when you’re blogging in a foreign language and have no proofreader.
#5. Avoiding discomfort
Procrastination and avoidance are among the most common ineffective coping strategies for anxiety. Robert L. Leahy points out:
If you are worried about your taxes, then you avoid filing. If you are worried that you are not the prettiest woman in the world, then you avoid parties. If you see a man who looks attractive but worry that he’ll reject you, then you avoid eye contact. If you are worried that you might have a disease, then you don’t go to doctors.
Does this sound familiar? To me, very much… Why is avoidance harmful to you? Problems that need you to take action pile up and reinforce your belief that you can’t handle them, which makes you more worried in future.
#6. Numbing your emotions with alcohol, drugs or food
Using these substances is not even about lifting a low mood – it’s an escape from reality. Instead of examining your irrational thoughts and worries about certain situations, you chose to flee from your worries. Yet drinking, getting high and binge eating works only for a moment. You may forget about your worries, but the problems don’t solve themselves in the mean time.
Overpreparing, in my opinion, is one of the most useless coping strategies for anxiety. There are things that happen whether you prepare for them or not. People who overprepare fear that if they are not perfect, they would give an impression of being an idiot. That’s a complete nonsense, especially whe it comes to public speaking. „Ironically, researchers found that speakers who were rated higher in quality actually prepared very little right before the talk”, Robert L. Leahy says.
#8. Using safety behaviors
Safety behaviors are the things we do to feel momentarily safe and secure in an uncomfortable situation, because we believe it gives us sense of control. In fact, we engage in them because we feel we have no control whatsoever. What kind of behaviors is it? For example, when you fear you will get rejected by an attractive person, you anticipate that avoiding eye contact, lowering your voice, ansewr in short sentences and escape as soon as the opportunity comes.
The extra caution does not protect you though, but it reassures you that given situation is dangerous.
#9. Trying to make a great impression
You definitely care too much about what people might think about you. You watch every gesture and face you make, every word you say, to avoid saying something stupid or awkward and being judged. Focusing on everyone’s feelings about you has a lot to do with perfectionism – and so does anxiety. I thought I wasn’t concerned about what people think about me, but the fact that I only shared this blog with ONE PERSON speaks for itself.
While worry is about future, rumination involves past and present. You ruminate things hoping to find a perfect solution that will allow you to stop rumination. But there is none. Past can’t be change, and there are many things in the present that you have no control over. Rumination only makes you more aware of how bad you feel and leads to insomnia (another thing to worry about).
#11. Demanding certainty
In this uncertain world, there is no such thing as certainty (apart from death and taxes). The only thing that looking for certainty guarantees is more worry.
#12. Rejecting your “crazy” thoughts
You not only worry about real situations, but also about your “crazy” thoughts – thoughts that are disgusting, illegal, or violent. They make you feel guilty, ashamed and out of control, which urges you to get rid of them ASAP. Thoughts aren’t reality – they’re nothing but mental events. Yet, chronic worriers treat them as if they were signs of an imminent catastrophe. People who suffer from panic disorder believe that their thoughts about a panic attack precict their panic attack, an so on.
The Best Remedy For Anxiety
Luckily, our brains have an awesome ability: they can learn new solutions and unlearn things that don’t work. With a bit of patience and some work, bad thought habits may be broken and new, useful anxiety management strategies can be learned.
Want to learn coping strategies for anxiety that work? Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a scientifically proven method that will let you get rid of self-destructive behaviors and acquire new coping mechanisms. Before you decide to invest in therapy (which is quite costly, I must say…), I suggest you try get over your anxiety yourself.
“Don’t worry, be happy!”
PS. Read more: Understanding Anxiety: 7 Rules of Highly Worried People