Stress Reduction and Management

6 Common Mistakes that Contribute to Crisis

Christy Matta, M.A.

There are as many ways to relate to the world as there are people in the world. Each person has an individual set of characteristics, personality traits and learned responses that together make up the way that they interpret and respond to the world around them. You might be generally happy, see the glass half full or tend to be content and not highly motivated, while someone else might be highly motivated, decisive and less friendly. Regardless of your natural style of approach to the world, when you're facing challenges, making important decisions or experiencing a big life event, avoiding these common mistakes can prevent problems.

crackMistake #1: Believing that action must be in accord with mood. Separating current mood from current behavior is essential to reaching goals. Sometimes you just don't feel like getting out of bed, getting focused on a project or taking care of irritating details. If you believe that action and mood must be in agreement, you will leave important, but unpleasant tasks undone.

Mistake #2: Always taking a passive approach to problem solving. This is the "I can't do it" attitude. A passive problem solver assumes that others are better at tasks than they are. They dismiss challenges as hopeless and give up before they have started. To break out of the cycle of passivity, a passive problem solver needs to learn to control their own behavior by creating structure and motivation to complete tasks and solve problems. This might include things like contracts, deadlines, lists and schedules.

Mistake #3: Being overly idealistic, pessimistic or impractical in your expectations. Crisis is often a result of difficulty in predicting realistic outcomes. Whether you learned to trust the views of others more than your own or simply optimistically see only the up side, your extreme idealism and inability to make accurate predictions can result in careless or reckless action. Duke University professors Manju Puri and David Robinson found that extreme optimists make irresponsible and unwise money decisions. If you're at one extreme or the other, it's important to learn to make realistic judgments and choices.

Mistake #4: Not accurately expressing stress and emotion. Some people are independent and seem like they can manage any circumstance. The reality is that we all face obstacles require support and help from others. Whether you've misjudged your ability to handle a situation, are putting on a brave face or don't realize that others aren't getting that you need help, failing to communicate a need for help can leave you alone in the midst of crisis. If the people around you believe you've got it all under control, you won't get the help that you need.

Mistake #5: Being a perfectionist. Setting unrealistic goals with perfect standards for yourself can result in self-judgment and ultimately a failure to try new things in the future. Perfectionism is often accompanied by thoughts like "I'm an idiot" or "I am bad." This invalidation of yourself leads to shame, hopelessness and giving up before you have started. If you tend to have perfect standards for yourself and are quite hard on yourself, try practicing self soothing and self acceptance. Notice those judgmental thoughts and replace them with more accepting thoughts like "I tried my best" or "it's not perfect, but it's pretty good."

Mistake #6: Avoiding all negative emotions. No one wants to feel grief, shame, anger or fear. But the reality is that everyone experiences loss, makes mistakes, is mistreated or feels threatened at some point in life. It's impossible to stuff these feelings indefinitely. The more you avoid them, the more likely it becomes that the dam will break and you will experience them as a crisis, rather than as individually painful, but manageable.

Being aware of your own attitudes and reactions to problems, challenges and stressful life events can help you steer clear of additional crisis. If you find yourself making one of these common mistakes, changing your approach can send you down a smoother path.

 




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