Masking your reaction to stress is a way of dealing with repetitive racing thoughts. Masking is behavior that’s used to cover up uncomfortable emotions. Driven by anxiety, you do something to get you mind off of a negative situation. It can be effective if used correctly, but it’s usually not. There are several categories of masking, including:
- Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes
- Getting caught up in a “good cause” (which might be excellent, but the driving force behind it might be somewhat suspect if examined carefully.)
- Excessive involvement in hobbies
Several of the activities listed above are not problematic. If you choose to pursue a deep passion on your own terms and value system, you are creating alternate neurologic pathways that are very powerful in improving your mental health. Being deeply connected to your own value system and pursuing your passion is an important strategy in neurological reprogramming. However, pursuing a passion is a completely different process than being driven by anxiety. It’s impossible to outrun your anxiety without paying some price.
Masking strategies, even when anxiety-driven, might be slightly more effective than suppressing or masking in that they are not feeding the negative circuits. They are not slowing them down, either, though. When you are done with that particular activity, the repetitive negative thoughts are still there.