Avoidance is not the answer. It’s part of the problem.
Avoiding anxiety? Have you noticed the more you avoid activities because of your anxiety, the MORE anxious you become? Hmmmmm…
It makes perfect sense. If you’re afraid of something, escape it. Run for the hills! In a way, it makes logical sense.
“If I just…
- Avoid driving over that bridge, I won’t get anxious.”
- Stay out of the store when it’s crowded, I won’t feel panicked.”
- Don’t call him, I don’t have to have that difficult conversation.”
- Stay home, I won’t feel bad.”
- Do _______, rather than start that task.”
But it doesn’t work.
Why avoiding anxiety fails
Part of the reason it doesn’t work is that anxiety and panic are NOT logical fear. ANXIETY stems from false evidence appearing real. Your body responds like you’re being chased by a woolly mammoth—but the threat isn’t real.
Another reason it doesn’t work is that the anxiety is not the result of an external threat. Instead, it’s internal. It’s inside of you. What’s worse, because it’s inside you, it follows you wherever you go. You’re looking to solve the external cause.
The bad news is that it’s also going to keep flaring until you can see it through a different lens.
What’s the problem?
The problem with avoiding the supposed source of your anxiety is that you don’t learn how to calm yourself.
What’s more, anxiety has a way of creeping into all aspects of your life. In other words, every time you avoid that bridge, you feel momentary relief. Every time you stay out of the store, the anxiety briefly eases up.
But it’s a false sense of security.
Deep down you know that anxiety still has a grip on you.
Avoidance does not work. Avoidance fuels your anxiety.
What does work
What works is knowing that you can calm yourself down–no matter how anxious or panicked you get. Then it doesn’t matter where you go, that skill is yours.
I know it’s not easy. I had anxiety and panic attacks. Often, I was told, “Just relax, honey.”
If I COULD have, I would have.
What I’m saying is: strategies that get you to a relaxed state will work. That’s because no one can be anxious and relaxed at the same time.
The first step
The first step is to identify when you’re avoiding or steering clear of:
- Social activities
- Anything else that makes you stressed
By recognizing the source, you’ll begin to understand how it’s getting in the way.
More to come…
I’ll be including ideas for relaxation in upcoming blogs.
In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Become an observer of your behavior of avoidance instead of a participant. Deep breathe. In time, you can kick anxiety to the curb.