When it comes to health and productivity, it’s important to learn skills that help us control mood fluctuations and anxiety distractions. If you struggle with nerves before games, or find it challenging keeping your spirits high when leading your team, it certainly makes sense to incorporate techniques to reduce anxiety and improve your mood. The problem, however, is symptom management is often a temporary fix, and without getting to the root of the cause it’s likely that the symptoms may end up existing indefinitely. Think of it another way — if you heard a rattle in your car you could simply turn up the radio (thereby making it difficult to hear the rattle), or you could take your car into the shop to have to problem addressed. The big takeaway is that if you want to improve your status for the long-run, then it behooves you to learn as much as you can about the root of the cause of the problem, versus simply managing symptoms every time the problem occurs.
The limits of symptom management techniques
A symptom management technique, at best, minimizes unpleasant symptoms when they occur. Similar to how a Tylenol pill might help reduce the pressure of a headache, many psychological tools and techniques are also designed to reduce symptoms. For example, deep breathing can quickly reduce high anxiety, while positive self-talk can help improve a negative mood state. While both tools may prove to be effective in the moment, they don’t tell us anything about why you are experiencing anxiety, or why you are having challenges sustaining a positive mood.
If you only experience high anxiety or depressed mood very intermittently in your life, then maybe a symptom management approach is all you need. If, on the other hand, you experience bothersome issues/conditions on a regular basis, it may make more sense to dig deeper at the root of the cause and go beyond a symptom-management approach.
A deeper dive requires a greater investment of time & effort…
If you regularly battle with insecurities, anxiety, depression, or focus, then it may be time to drill deeper into the problem. Unlike managing symptoms, however, exploring your psyche and the unique things that make you tick will take more than just a few minutes of time. Often the bad habits we have developed have crystallized over time, meaning that it will require patience and commitment unraveling the maladaptive behaviors you have learned. No, taking in a few deep breaths or using a cue word won’t be enough to give you a comprehensive view of the problem, unfortunately. Instead, you will need to be honest, objective, and open-minded — and this may require outside professional assistance.
Most people need to both learn symptom management techniques, as well as better understand the underlying issues that prompt unwanted symptoms. The big takeaway here is to understand that managing symptoms rarely helps us figure out the root cause of our issues, and that sometimes in life fixing the root problem is the best way to go. Only when we better understand root causes to our problems can we begin to employ unique, specific solutions to provide long-term relief and improvement.