How Are You Dealing with Your Emotions Now?

17.09.2020 |

Episode #8 of the course Control your emotions, control your life by Dr. Sofia Santiago


In the previous lessons, you learned what to do to control your emotions in a healthy way using the STAR™ techniques. In this lesson, you’ll learn the other part of the equation: what not to do.


Unhealthy Ways of Managing Emotions

People sometimes fool themselves believing they’re doing a good job at managing their unpleasant emotions when in reality they’re just doing a cheap patch-up job that’s detrimental to their wellbeing and may make the emotions worse.

Some dysfunctional ways of dealing with emotions are:

• binge-eating

• binge-drinking

• addictions (of course)

• procrastinating

• self-blaming

• blaming others

• ruminating

• catastrophizing

You know how binge-eating, binge-drinking, and addictions are harmful to your health and happiness, so I’m not going to lecture you. I will share, though, a few facts you may not know that prove how unhealthy the other habits in the list are:

Procrastination reduces stress in the short term, but over the long haul, it has been linked to increased use of drugs and alcohol as well as poorer health.

Self-blaming is related to depression and other measures of ill-health. [1]

Blaming others has been associated with poorer emotional wellbeing. [1]

Ruminating (which means overthinking or obsessing about situations or life events and sometimes asking unproductive questions such as, “Why does this have to happen to me?”) increases the duration and intensity of the negative emotion and makes you feel helpless; it has been associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking, binge-eating, [2] and lower job performance.

Catastrophizing (which means turning problems into catastrophes: having thoughts explicitly emphasizing the terror of experience) is related to maladaptation, emotional distress, and depression. [2]

As you read the list of unhealthy ways of coping, were you thinking about any of them, “Oh yeah, that’s me”?

If so, don’t beat yourself up. That’s called self-flagellation, and it only makes things worse. Instead, give yourself some credit; becoming aware that certain things you’ve been doing are harmful is a great accomplishment. Awareness is the first step in the process of change: you need to become aware that you want or need to change something in order to start working on doing things differently.


A Note for Procrastinators

There are many great books and articles out there that discuss the main reasons why people procrastinate, but one phenomenon they usually ignore is called self-handicapping. [3] As I describe it, ask yourself if this is something you might have been doing without being aware of it.

Self-handicapping is a mechanism by which your mind tries to protect you from feeling incompetent or stupid. Your mind has good intentions, but it ends up sabotaging you because self-handicapping lowers your performance.

Let me explain how this works using an example. Let’s say that tomorrow you have a job interview or need to deliver a presentation. You’re not fully prepared, and tonight is your last chance to fix that—but you don’t. Instead, you fool around, watch a whole season of Game of Thrones, or feel a compelling need to iron your bedsheets. You do things that could realistically wait.

You procrastinated and then avoided a task for no other reason than to mask your “fear” of failure and protect your self-image. You self-handicapped so that if you don’t get the job or your presentation ends up being lousy, you will have a reason and won’t attribute your failure to your lack of ability.

Get it?

Okay. Next time you catch yourself engaging in any of these unhealthy behaviors, STOP, breathe deeply, and start applying one of the STAR™ strategies.



1. Look through the list of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and identify the one you have engaged in (come on, be honest).

2. Ask yourself what emotion you may have been trying to evade by employing the dysfunction. (Pick just one for now.)

3. Then, identify one trigger that tends to lead you to unpleasant emotions and unhealthy behavior. (What happens that “makes you” _________?)

4. Now ask yourself, “What can I do from now on to deal with this emotion in a healthy way?”

5. Determine which STAR™ technique will help you regulate the negative emotion. Commit to using it next time you face a similar trigger.

* * * *

In the next lesson, we’ll talk about emotions that are particularly debilitating: fear, anxiety, and worry.

See you tomorrow!



Recommended book

The Procrastination Cure: 21 Proven Tactics For Conquering Your Inner Procrastinator, Mastering Your Time, And Boosting Your Productivity! by Damon Zahariades


Works cited

[1] Garnevski, N., Kraaij, V., & Spinhoven, P. (2001). Negative Life Events, Cognitive Emotion Regulation and Emotional Problems. Personality and Individual Differences, v .30, 1311-1327

[2] Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop, Psych Central

[3] Urdan, Tim, & Midgley, Carol. (2001). Academic Self-Handicapping: What We Know, What More There is to Learn. Educational Psychology Review


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