Istock Photo
Source: Istock Photo

When we’re slipping down anxiety’s slopes, it’s usually not pretty.

We rant. We rave. We make blanket statements on the condition of our lives.

When under pressure, inaccurate self-judgments are likely to creep in. We forget to factor in that we’re overworked, tired or just plain depleted. We lose sight that we’re resilient, and quite capable of coming up for air and regrouping once we’ve regained our footing.

Psychologists call the tendency to zoom in on what we believe to be true confirmation bias, which becomes a dangerous path if we’re analyzing during peak anxiety moments. Beliefs born out of anxious moments can catapult us into an avalanche of messy cognitive distortions and self-sabotage.

Here are four traps to watch out for when you find yourself saturated with stress and anxiety:

Trap # 1: You forget about context. You go on a bender ripping yourself apart without fully accounting for what’s going on around you. It’s natural to be wound up when we’re facing the treacherous conditions commonplace in today’s breakneck world. Most of us are doing the work of multiple people and enduring endless checklists and massive time pressures. Account for what is happening around you. It’s not a moral failing if you find yourself saturated with anxiety. It means you’re working hard and you care.

Trap # 2: You bolt. The quick exit is so tempting when things go awry. Research overwhelming affirms that difficulty can build grit and stress resistance. Even though the instinct to give in or escape discomfort may be intensive, it’s wise to try and buy time and reevaluate once the anxiety has subsided. Very often, after a regroup, we identify new solutions and tools that make a huge difference in ability to navigate anxious moments.

Istock Photo
Source: Istock Photo

Trap # 3: You try and problem solve in the heat of the moment. When we’re clobbered with stress, we want to make immediate sense of things so we can develop an effective plan. Unfortunately, high anxiety levels can lead to unproductive mental gymnastics, and impede our ability to see the big picture. Generally, we problem solve best when we have enough stress and adrenaline to be focused, but not so much that our brains are spiraling into overdrive.

Trap # 4: You keep it a secret. Most of us who have faced anxiety know that we should have come out with it sooner, and that doing so brings about great relief. Letting it fester and go untended is a surefire way to add fuel to the fire. Anxiety is part of our human essence. When we’re out living life, stress finds us. We don’t have to shout our turmoil from a mountaintop, but seeking trusted confidants-whether in the form of a mentor, friend, family member, coach or therapist can bring about tremendous relief. Hidden anxiety can wreak havoc, leaving us wound up, worried, and in a perpetual state of turmoil.

In today’s complex landscape, we all struggle with anxiety in one form or another. Which traps are you most prone to fall into? Are there some that you are generally able to avoid? Your capacity to navigate the slopes of anxiety can be improved by focusing on your capacity to regroup and become more surefooted, and avoiding the trappings of inaccurate self-judgment.

Originally published at


  • Dr. Kris

    Behavioral Science Expert. Psychotherapist Comedian. Global Citizen.

    Northeastern University

    Dr. Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW, known as “Dr. Kris”, is an internationally recognized, award-winning behavioral science clinician, researcher, educator, speaker, and comedian from Boston, Massachusetts. As the Lead Faculty for Behavioral Science and Faculty-in-Residence at Northeastern University, Dr. Kris’s research and teaching interests include individual and organizational well-being and resilience, particularly for marginalized and underserved populations.  Dr. Kris works with organizations and leaders around the world on how to use the science of behavioral change and human potential to build healthy mental health cultures that help prevent burnout and promote organizational and human sustainability.  She is the author of RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Motivational Book of 2015, best-selling Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking-Learn What it Takes to be More Agile, Mindful and Connected in Today’s World and Worth the Risk: Learn to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, a 2022 The Next Big Idea Book Club nominee. She is the host of Crackin’ Up: Where Therapy Meets Comedy and is a regular contributor to Psychology Today and Thrive Global. Dr. Kris’s work has been featured at Harvard and on NPR, Fast Company, Forbes, and CBS radio. Her TedX talk, The Risk You Must Take is featured on Ted. In her spare time, she can be found out on the running trails, attempting tricky yoga poses, eating peanut butter cups and drinking kale juice—but not all at once. Connect with her at or @TheRealDrKris (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat).