If you are reading this, there is a chance that you are well acquainted with the timeless problem of avoiding situations that make us feel uneasy, anxious or restless. Sometimes we question ourselves, is avoiding good or is it harmful in the long run? Today our psychologists will explore just that.
What Can Trigger Anxiety? 2 Examples
Anxiety triggers encompass the situations, things, or events that cause us to feel uneasy, worried or anxious. Triggers of anxiety come in many shapes and forms and most of them are based on our personal experience and personality.
For example, for some people, having a difficult conversation with someone can trigger their anxiety. It might be a scary feat to communicate their boundaries, and they might be afraid of conflict.
While others might feel uneasy when they are about to make a big decision in their lives. Especially as big decisions come with changes that they might not be ready to accept.
All of these situations might be anxiety inducing for some people, so many of them rely on one coping mechanism that makes them feel good in the short-term but can be detrimental in the long-term.
This coping strategy is avoidance.
Why Do We Avoid Anxiety Triggers?
Put yourself in the shoes of the people in the situations we described above. These situations can be scary and unpleasant, so you might choose to not engage at all. You might decide to avoid having the conversation, making the decision, or setting your boundaries. But, why? Why do we tend to avoid anxiety-inducing situations?
The answer can be simple: we simply might not know what to do. We might not be equipped with the tools in order to confront other people. We might not know how to communicate our opinion in a diplomatic way or might fear putting somebody else in a difficult position. Sometimes, we might fear that we will burden others, be regarded as unfriendly or that we will hurt their feelings.
At times, we also erroneously think that if we don’t think about our anxiety, one day it will go away by itself. We think that time will take care of it. We hope in vain that we will not need to do anything about it and at some point, we will simply forget about it. Because of all these reasons, we sometimes choose avoidance as a coping mechanism.
Can Avoidance Be Helpful?
We tend to think of avoidance as a bad thing, but there are ways in which avoidance can be a healthy coping mechanism.
For example, sometimes we need a break. We might not be ready to step in and resolve something that is complicated. We might need to pause and analyze the situation. Or, sometimes we might need time to regulate our emotions. Maybe we are feeling so overwhelmed that we cannot think clearly to find a solution. Or we might be very angry, so we need to cool down before taking action.
At these moments, avoiding engaging immediately is a healthy strategy.
When Avoidance Doesn’t Help
However, avoidance is not always helpful. Sometimes we choose to avoid for too long, and this is when avoidance can become problematic. Oftentimes we choose avoidance not because we want to create space to make a decision, or regulate our feelings, but because we want to put our heads in the sand and hide. This strategy is related to denial and is what impulses the avoidance-anxiety-procrastination cycle.
Avoidance, Anxiety & Procrastination: A Vicious Cycle
Why doesn’t avoidance always help? It is simple. The worries that we have, don’t just go away. They just stay in our system, and they accumulate until the point where it creates even more stress and worry.
As we continue avoiding, we start to feel the issue lingering inside us. We procrastinate dealing with it to a far away day when we will deal with the issue. And that is when unpleasant feelings such as guilt start bubbling up. At the back of our head the situation is still bothering us. But we are choosing to ignore it and that makes us feel guilty. We wonder if today will be the day when we address it. We start questioning ourselves: “why haven't I addressed it?” “Am I even capable of this?”
Every day that goes by without addressing the situation, we lose a little confidence on ourselves. We start wondering if we are simply not capable of doing it, if we are weak. We might start believing that while others can while we don’t, that we are not smart enough, or that it is simply too difficult for our capabilities. So our self-confidence takes a hit. As you no longer believe in yourself, you continue procrastinating it; after all “you are just incapable of doing it.” And the cycle continues..
Anxiety Avoidance in Relationships: An Example
This vicious cycle is not only harmful for your self-confidence, career, or studies. It can also impact your relationships negatively or any other domain of your life.
For example, take a couple that needs to have a conversation about an important problem. They might experience lots of fear and anxiety over it. After all, it is a difficult conversation that might backfire. So they choose to postpone it, and they keep procrastinating it and not addressing the thing that is eroding their relationship. They are scared of having deep conversations as in the back of their head, they fear the issue might come up. So they choose to not communicate as much. Their relationship might turn superficial with no real intimacy. With time the distance between them grows, and even resentment or anger appear, successfully damaging the basis of their relationship.
How To Deal with Anxiety Triggers
Anxiety can be overwhelming. It can be a very unpleasant emotion, so sometimes we choose to not feel it by avoiding triggering situations. This strategy can sometimes be beneficial, if it is for a brief period of time as it can help us regulate our emotions or think about the next proper step.
But, when we procrastinate addressing an issue for too long, it can lead to a vicious cycle. This results to even more unpleasant emotions and lower self-confidence which prompt us to keep avoiding the situations. It can erode our relationships, our work and any other life domain.
So, when avoidance is not a helpful option, what can we do to appropriately deal with our anxiety triggers? There are many healthy coping mechanisms that can help us.
We address healthy coping strategies in this article. Also, make sure to follow our social media channels (instagram, facebook, youtube), where we discuss how to manage your anxiety and more. And, if you’d like some support along your journey, don’t hesitate to shoot us a message. Our team of psychologists are always eager to help.
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