It’s not all about you.

Do you believe your thoughts and feelings cause your problems? Do you think negative states like depression and anxiety are both your problem and the cause of your problem? Do you tell yourself that such emotions are the reason you can’t form committed relationships or be able work cooperatively with others?

When you believe your emotions are the cause of your problems, you will try to manage, control, and, most importantly, avoid them. Unfortunately, when you take this approach – a suppression strategy – those negative emotions will become more frequent and intrusive in your life. Thought suppression rarely works, and results in frustration, agitation, and demeaning self-talk – “It’s all my fault.”

You must accept your feelings for what they are — only feelings. Yes, they are a part of you, but when you focus on them because you feel negatively affected and bothered by them, you treat them as a negative part of who you are. “I’m too much of an anxious person to deal with this!” If that’s your perception of yourself, you’re not going to cope well with stress.

If we have been describing you, it’s time to stop focusing on your emotions as responsible for your problems. That focus makes it all about you and who you think you are, and when you’re wrapped up in yourself you will look “inside” yourself for solutions, not “outside” yourself where genuine coping takes place.

It’s time to focus on the fact that you are stressed not because of your emotional characteristics, but because of actions you take, actions like social withdrawal, avoidance of responsibility, generating conflict with others, or hanging on in an unsatisfying relationship like some masochist. Let some air out of your ego and accept the reality that you are stressed because of actions you choose to perform. When you do so you will find it easier to engage in more productive actions, and you will be taking an important step toward more effective coping.

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