Why You Should Avoid Avoidance

Have you ever put off doing something that you know you should do because you felt anxious or stressed about it?
Instead have you gone and done something else that is easier like cleaning the house, or distracted yourself with a more pleasurable activity like watching TV or eating ice cream? If this sounds familiar then you have used avoidance behaviours as a way of trying to beat anxiety.

The problem with avoidance

When we feel anxious our stress response is triggered. Avoidance is a stress response and its main purpose is to increase our feeling of safety by avoiding things that cause us discomfort.

There are two main problems with the repeated use of avoidance behaviours:

  1. Avoidance doesn’t last. Even though we feel strong relief as a result of getting away from something or someone that makes us feel anxious, this is short-lived. The reality is that the reason for our anxiety still exits and will return. Continual avoidance usually makes the situation worse not better in the long run.
  2. Avoidance feeds our anxiety: Simply put, the more we avoid something the stronger our anxiety becomes about facing the problem in the future. This leads to ongoing avoidance behaviours which continues to feed our anxiety, which continues to lead to more avoidance behaviours, and so a vicious cycle of avoidance is established.

Learning to be brave

To beat anxiety we need to overcome avoidance behaviours that keep us trapped in a cycle of life limiting choices that serve our anxiety. In simple terms this means learning to be brave and changing the choices we make.

Here are 3 tips to help you do this:

  1. Accept emotional discomfort as a part of life. This can be a tough one as no one likes feeling negative emotions. However there are times when it is normal to feel worried, stressed, upset or anxious. The reality is we can’t have all the positive feelings without the negative ones too. And the good news is that by accepting a negative feeling we create a passage for it to pass.
  2. Do the opposite of your avoidance behaviours. If there are people or situations that you have been avoiding then it’s time to start finding ways of facing these things in your life. For example if you are worried about an upcoming exam but have been avoiding studying for it, sit down, open up your books and start reading and reviewing the course material. Even though it feels uncomfortable stop making excuses and just start doing it.
  3. Act quickly. Take action and do the opposite of your avoidance behaviour within five seconds. If you allow yourself to take longer than this your brain will hold up a stop sign and you’ll most likely repeat your old avoidance behaviours.

“Oh the places you’ll go ……..”

Avoidance behaviours are life-limiting, make it hard to beat anxiety and stop you from achieving your full potential.

Answer this question: “What would you be doing differently if you stopped trying to avoid the things that make you feel anxious?” Imagine what it would be like to stop being a slave to your anxiety and instead have the freedom to live your life the way you want to.

To find out if anxiety is affecting you use this link to take our FREE Online Anxiety Test.

Many people overcome their anxiety using simple strategies like those described above. However it’s not always easy to do the simple things on their own. If you need help we provide expert Counselling to help manage Anxiety.

Contact Ahead Psychology on (07) 3352 3577 or use our online Request a Booking form