5 Ways You May Be Making Things Harder for Yourself

young woman with headache and holding her temples
Nislan Hughes/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Though virtually everyone experiences stress, sometimes the way we react to stress amounts to self sabotage. We’ve all found ourselves being impatient with people or taking out frustrations on innocent bystanders, or causing unnecessary conflicts and mental stress because stress is clouding our judgment. And while some people find themselves creating this type of drama in their lives occasionally, others make this self sabotage a way of life, continually creating additional mental and emotional stress for themselves without being aware of their own role in this.

The following are some of the most common ways that people create mental and emotional stress in their own lives. Carefully think about whether any of these self sabotage techniques apply to you, so you can make simple changes to reduce significant mental and emotional stress in your life.

Press Play for Advice on Limiting Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares why a fear of happiness might lead you to self-sabotage. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Amazon Music

Being “Type A”

People who move through the world in a Type A pattern of behavior typically rush frantically and treat others with hostility, among other things. If you react to life in a Type A manner, you’re probably bringing unnecessary emotional stress to relationships with aggressiveness.

You may be missing simple solutions to problems because you’re rushing so much that you don’t pay close enough attention to details, and thereby creating bigger problems. The Type A pattern also typically brings health problems somewhere down the road.

Negative Self Talk

Sometimes, the enemy is inside your head in the form of negative self-talk.

The way we talk to ourselves, while generally formed during childhood, can follow us through our lives and color each experience like a ray of sunshine or a dark cloud surrounding us and blocking our vision.

Those whose self-talk tends to be negative may attribute malevolent intent to others when none exists, interpret potentially positive events as negative and missing important benefits, or create a self-fulfilling prophecy by believing that their stress level is more than they can handle. If you suspect that you habitually use negative self-talk in your daily life, it’s not too late to learn positive self-talk.

By keeping a journal and using other tools to become more aware of your inner voice, using positive affirmations and surrounding yourself with positive energy, you can turn things around for the better, and experience much less mental and emotional stress in your daily life.

Poor Conflict Resolution Skills

Do you tend to act aggressively with people when simple assertiveness will work better? Or do you passively let others walk all over you because you don’t know how to say no? Conflicts with others are generally a part of life, but how we handle them can actually strengthen relationships, or can cause loads of additional mental stress for all involved, and create bigger conflicts that take on a life of their own. Interestingly, many people who act aggressively aren’t fully aware that they’re doing harm in their relationships and aren’t familiar with a better way of handling things.


If you’re a pessimist, you may see things as worse than they really are, may pass up opportunities to better your, overlook solutions to problems, and cause yourself mental stress in many other ways as well. Because the traits of optimists and pessimists are specific and slightly elusive to someone who doesn’t know what to look for, many people with pessimistic tendencies are completely unaware of it and view themselves as optimists.

Pessimism is more than just seeing the glass as half-empty; it’s a specific worldview that undermines your belief in yourself, brings poorer health outcomes, fewer positive life events, and other negative consequences.

Taking On Too Much

Are you overscheduled and overstressed? You may be taking on too much, and putting yourself under undue pressure because of it. Whether it’s because you’re a type A type person or because you’re not sure how to say no to others’ demands on your time, you can put yourself in a state of chronic stress if you habitually take on more than you can handle. If you're not handling the parts of stress that frustrate you, you won't be able to soldier on.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.