“Thou Shall Not Avoid”
Avoidance will certainly help you win the battle when feeling hesitant; however it will cause you to lose the war with anxiety, and maybe even something grander in the end.
Often I hear people talk about how their anxiety has become an obstacle in their daily life functioning, preventing them from fulfilling life’s ambitions. For example, they might feel uncomfortable dining with others, so much that they avoid dating; yet complain of loneliness. Or they may avoid speaking up in meetings, missing opportunities to share their opinions, leaving them feeling dissatisfied in their career.
Sometimes the avoidance patterns are even subtler, like those who avoid eye contact or never exchange a friendly smile with a stranger. These people usually feel as though they are not liked by others or talk about feeling very disconnected.
If you find yourself repeatedly avoiding situations because you feel uncomfortable or nervous, the best remedy to cure your anxiety is to not deter yourself from these situations. The more you avoid, the worse your anxiety will get.
Here’s basically why: our nervous system has a memory component. So once you experience anxiety in a situation, most likely your body will feel anxious the next time you are in a similar situation. This will continue until your body learns to remain relaxed in those situations. In order to do this, your body needs time to calm down. Repeated avoidance or escape from these situations deprives your body of this opportunity.
Not to mention, each time you avoid a close encounter you end up rewarding the anxiety with a sense of relief. Thus, encouraging the anxiety to return, as well as increasing the likelihood you will continue to avoid.
What to do? Continue on to the next post The CBT’s Ten Ways to Stop Avoidance and find out.