Woman with poor coping skills looking at anxious sitting with two co-worker.

4 Ways Poor Coping Skills Can Aggravate Your Anxiety

Anxiety affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally and can make it challenging to get through your workday. And if you are like most people, you look for fast relief when your anxiety level is high. But, unfortunately, much of the time, you could be turning to poor coping skills that you learned early on and are deeply engrained. 

Unhealthy coping skills aren’t just counterproductive but downright harmful and can lead to more stress, overwhelm, and low self-confidence. So, while it’s essential to manage stress, let’s make sure you are not falling back on habits that make it harder to manage.

Here are five common coping mechanisms that will worsen your anxiety, even though you think they’re making you feel better.

4 Poor Coping Skills that can aggravate your anxiety

Avoidance coping

Simply put, avoidance coping is trying to avoid stressors rather than dealing with them. For example, if you are prone to anxiety, you use this technique to avoid addressing a challenging situation or facing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. 

How it can aggravate your anxiety

Research shows that the more you avoid the things that make you anxious the more anxiety-provoking they become. 

Think about a time when something was stressing you out, and you avoided it. Did you really stop thinking about it? The answer is probably, no. 

Whether it was a task to be completed or a needed conversation to resolve a conflict, avoiding it did not remove the stress. That’s because we typically keep thinking about whatever needs to be done and continue to feel mounting tension until we do it.

2. Unhealthy self-soothing

Sometimes people turn to substances or soothing behaviors to self-soothe their anxiety. For example, they may turn to drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, or sex to ease distressing feelings. However, using any of these things excessively is not only a poor coping skill, but a potentially dangerous one as well. 

How it can aggravate your anxiety

While using these substances or soothing behaviors may take the edge off your stress at the moment, they can contribute to long-term problems, which in the end only serve as fuel to your anxiety, making it a cycle that can be difficult to break. 

3. Negative Self-talk

We all have an inner critic. And sometimes it can help show us how to improve. But negative self-talk is not constructive and seldom motivates us to make any changes in behavior. Examples of negative self-talk are:

  • When you make a mistake, the first thing you think of is, “I’m an idiot.”
  • When something goes wrong, you always blame yourself.
  • Your boss wants to talk to you, and you immediately say to yourself, “Now, what did I do wrong.”
  • You stumble on some words in an interview, and your conclusion is, “I’ll never get a job.”

How it can aggravate your anxiety

When you engage in negative self-talk, it limits your ability to believe in yourself and your abilities. It also makes it hard to attain the goals you’ve set for yourself. That’s because your confidence keeps getting chipped away by negative self-talk. You tell yourself you want a shot at the brass ring, but struggle to capitalize on opportunities that may come your way because of the way you perceive yourself. 

4. Making stress your enemy 

Often, people who live with anxiety tend to be perfectionists and over-achievers. When they can’t be at their best, they often get mad at themselves and let that harsh inner voice take control.

Think about it this way. The feelings of anxiety are just as real as a migraine or a bad toothache. And if you were dealing with those issues, wouldn’t you cut yourself some slack and try to take care of yourself? Of course, you would.

You wouldn’t get mad at your head or tooth for causing you pain. And yet, when you see your feelings of anxiety as your enemy, you are essentially saying your feelings and your body are your enemies. In other words, you’re fighting yourself.

How it can aggravate your anxiety

You’re in the middle of the workday, and out of nowhere, you can feel the anxiety start to creep in. You’re not even sure from where it’s coming. Maybe it’s the deadlines you have to meet or specific tasks that need to be completed.

Regardless, you can feel yourself starting to worry, and you’re having a hard time focusing. You tell your mind to co-operate, but no matter how many times you tell it to knock it off and stop being anxious and get back to work, it’s to no avail. Kind of like telling yourself to just fall asleep when you have insomnia. And we all know how that works.

Working against yourself when you are vulnerable is a sure way to make your anxiety worse and is the last thing you need at that moment. 

All in all, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just turn off your anxiety when you entered the door of your workplace? But, unfortunately, that is not how it works. 

Take some time and think about different situations at work where you were anxious and look back on how you handled it. Did you use any of the poor coping skills such as those above? If so, it’s to your advantage to learn some good coping skills that will help you manage your anxiety in a healthy way.

Working with an anxiety coach through Breakthrough coaching is a great way to have some extra help in discovering and mastering new ways to handle stress. And when you learn how to work with your anxiety and not have it work against you, you can expect to be more successful in your career.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. The easiest way to start taking control of your anxiety is to take the FREE 5-Day Anxiety Detox Challenge. If you would like more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Numerous coping skills are healthy and helpful. Working together, let’s figure out which type of coping skills are likely to work best for you in your situation.

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