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Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

Brooding

Everyone obsesses now and again—it's human nature. But brooding can become self-sabotaging when you waste so much time and energy mulling over a problem that you never manage to do anything about it, explains Strober. Research also shows that in women, brooding can lead to depression and anxiety, which can leave you emotionally paralyzed and unable to act.

What to do:

Keep a worry diary. Several studies have found that patients who write about their concerns experience significantly less depression than those who don't. "By writing down your fears, you begin to feel that you're more in control, and that helps you deal with them," explains Rebecca Curtis, Ph.D., a New York City-based psychologist and a professor of psychology at Adelphi University.

Sherri Bohinc, 32, an advertising account executive in San Francisco, gives herself an hour to type up a worry list on her computer once a week. "All my anxieties come out," she says. "Should I become a full-time mom, or continue my career? Did I respond appropriately to my boss's criticism, or did I not? Putting it all out there helps me not think about it for another week." The strategy works, says Curtis, because it gives you a sense of having addressed the concern and allows you to feel comfortable not thinking about it obsessively.

Curtis also suggests that you try this simple visualization exercise: Form a mental picture of your worry, then imagine a positive resolution. "For instance, if you're worried that your boss doesn't like your performance, picture yourself going into her office and having a heart-to-heart in which she praises you for your work," Curtis says. "Imagine it in as much detail as you can—what you see, hear, and feel." You don't have to follow through and actually do it, but "imagining a good outcome will help you feel much more positive, and it will be easier to let the worry go."

Jealousy

Like brooding, jealousy can set you up for self-sabotage by distracting you from what you need to do to solve the problem. "Rather than focusing on what's really wrong with your situation, and what you can do to improve it, you make someone else—a friend or a coworker—into a scapegoat," explains Dr. Jackman. "And then it's really easy to just give up."

What to do:

When you're jealous, you focus on everything you aren't and everything you haven't done. (After all, if you were happy with your own accomplishments, you wouldn't need to feel jealous of someone else's.) So flip your thinking: If you're starting a home business, don't worry about your friend who was up and running in two months flat. "Focus on the three new clients you did get—rather than on the 20 who went with the other guy," says Kauffman. "And while you're brushing your teeth tonight, ask yourself what you did right today. You'll be surprised at how much you accomplished."

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