Avoidance is a coping strategy for anxiety (according to Brene Brown). It’s like zigzagging from things that feel all consuming, and that we know need to be dealt with and it’s pretty tiring over time. Sometimes we can put whatever we are avoiding in a mental box, and just never take that box off of the shelf. Just leave it there. It will stare at us from all angels of the room, but we can avoid it.
Because typically, we avoid things that are painful. And not necessarily physically painful, but very emotionally painful. So rather than facing the emotional pain, we stay away from it all together. It sounds like that might work, but then there is something called stacking. Where whatever we are avoiding … stacks. And so pretty soon there are so many things to avoid, that conversations about the weather are the only safe places to go.
I have played the avoidance game quite a bit in my life. Sometimes leaning into a conversation is way harder than ignoring it all together. And like I mentioned above, avoiding the thing doesn’t make it go away. It just sits there and waits. And the longer it sits, the bigger the story I make up in my head about it. So something that might have been a very small fire, now turns into the wildfires of California. Burning down everything around me.
If there is an event, and something needs to be addressed from the event. But no one wants to do that because it’s uncomfortable, that’s avoidance. Think of it as rupture and repair. The event is a rupture, and by avoiding whatever needs to be said or done, there is no repair. Only more rupture.
Fast forward to today, and I cope in different ways.
I have the flexibility to have a therapist. And my therapist is very good for me. Together we come up with different strategies to cope with different avoidance situations. And today I’m going to share my top 3 ways to cope with those hard things that need to be repaired.
For me, journaling has been my #1 coping strategy for avoidance. And I have met a lot of people who say they could never journal, but they have never tried it. Journaling is good for me. The actual pen to paper doesn’t need to make sense for anyone but me. I journal, I doodle, I draw. All of it gets captured. And I explain journaling like this. I journal to find the feelings and thoughts that I didn’t know were there. Journaling brings up things that I didn’t know existed, and I am able to process through those things now because they are pen to paper. And they exist outside of thoughts that I knew existed.
You knew I was going to put this one. I’m closing in on 200 days of continuous meditation. So, this journey is still quite new for me. Meditation is somewhere I go that I have to sit with my thoughts and feelings. I can’t zigzag and find a shiny object to follow. I have to sit with my thoughts and breathe. I use guided meditation, Sarah Blondin is the best, and that gives me somewhere to take my thoughts. She guides me through 15-30 minutes of calm, peaceful, awareness. And it’s beautiful. I am always much more clear with my thoughts on the other side of a meditation.
I’ve gone back and forth with this one. Since Sept 2021 I have had a regular exercise routine. So again, it’s still pretty new for me. I find that if I’m not in a group exercise, or signed up with a coach, I won’t do it. I know myself, and I’m not at a place yet where I will just muscle up and power through. I will find some housework to do, or groceries to go and buy. But if I have a coach, I will follow through. Because I’m a coach, and I respect the process of coaching. Exercise releases dopamine and endorphins, and those things make us feel good. And even better, your brain is giving you feel-good chemicals, and the exercise is getting rid of chemicals that make you feel stressed and anxious. Bye bye avoidance.
These are my top 3 ways to not avoid things that I need to repair. I still avoid things. But I am aware of it, and I will intentionally journal, or meditate on the conversation, thought or feeling that I am avoiding.
Avoidance can impact so many areas of your life. It will keep you in a bad relationship, it will keep you financially strapped, it will keep you in a bad career. Avoidance is patient, and it will sit and watch you. It will watch you avoid the things that will give peace in life. Don’t give it that power. Find the tools and strategies that will work for you.