What if I told you that there’s one thing that’s nearly guaranteed to make your anxiety worse? And what if I told you that there’s a there’s a 99 percent chance you’re doing it? Almost daily. This thing that you’re doing? It seems totally helpful. And at first glance, it’s a great idea. But it doesn’t work. In fact, it’s probably the worst thing for anxiety. Watch below to see what you’re doing almost daily that’s increasing your anxiety. Plus, learn what to do to stop and turn things around.
When anxiety pops up, your brain freaks out. It immediately looks for the quickest way to make your anxiety go away. You’re uncomfortable, you’re scared, and your brain doesn’t like either of those things. So you do what you think will help, but it reality, it’s the worst thing you can do. You avoid.
You turn away, say no, or back down. You put it off, opt out, or say you’ll do it later. At all costs, you avoid what’s making you anxious. You’re anxious about having a difficult conversation with your partner, so you avoid it, telling yourself you’ll talk later. You’re anxious about the big paper you have write, so you procrastinate and put it off. And you know you need to go to the dentist, but you hate that drilling sound, so you cancel your appointment.
To put it simply, you’re anxious, so you avoid.
In these moments, avoidance seems like a helpful strategy because it instantly lowers your anxiety. Picture this. You think about starting that paper, which you aren’t totally sure what you’re going to write about. You’re stressed, and your anxiety immediately increases, so you look for the quickest way to get that anxiety and that paper off your mind. You avoid, telling yourself you’ll do the paper later, and your anxiety immediately decreases.
This avoidance seems helpful, but only for the short term. Because it in the long run, avoidance increases your anxiety by reinforcing that the thing you’re avoiding is even scarier and more awful than you imagined.
So, while your anxiety decreases in the moment, it actually increases in the long run, making you even more anxious. This anxiety leads to more avoidance, which leads to more anxiety, and oh my goodness, can you see how sticky this cycle really is?
So if avoiding is the worst thing for anxiety, what’s the most helpful? Well, it’s the opposite of avoiding. It’s doing. It’s leaning in, saying yes, and doing the thing that scares you.
This is of course easier said than done, so here’s a great question to help you out. When you’re avoiding, ask yourself, “Is this danger or is this discomfort?” If it’s danger, then avoidance is okay. Avoiding danger is a survival strategy that’s kept humans alive for thousands of years.
For example, if you’re thinking about repelling down a mountain without a safety harness, and you feel a bit anxious, that’s a good thing. That’s dangerous, and avoidance is helpful. But if you’re thinking about applying for a new job, and you notice yourself anxious and avoiding, that’s not danger. That’s discomfort. And it’s essential for your anxiety that you do uncomfortable things. (See why here.)
I know it’s hard. I know it sucks. But there’s no proven way to cope with, manage, or reduce anxiety without facing discomfort. So you’ve got to use your coping skills and break it down into bite-sized pieces. You’ve got to focus on just the next step and talk back to the fear as it arises.
Avoidance is so tempting. It feels good in the moment, and it works for a few minutes. But it’s the worst thing for anxiety. Because just minutes later, the anxiety creeps back up, greater than before, and you’re back in the same boat. Avoidance will cripple you, leaving you stuck, waiting, and still afraid. So you’ve got to lean in. You’ve got to do what scares you, what makes you anxious, and what your brain is trying to say you can’t do.
You can do it, and you must. I believe in you!
PS: Struggling with anxiety? Check out the major lie your anxiety wants you to believe!