Anxiety can be increased within us in many different ways and the last few blogs have been looking at this. Avoidance can be a massive instigator of increased anxiety within you. Your mind is amazing, but it is always looking to protect you. If you are avoiding things then your mind will automatically think that this is something that is super scary and will react in these ways. A few thousand years ago we used our fight, flight, and freeze (FFF) response many times, every day, to protect ourselves from things that could cause us harm. If we saw a grizzly bear then we would, of course, avoid it, and if anything came up that could be similar, our minds would be reminded of the fact it could be a sign of a grizzly bear. This might be broken branches from trees, big footprints in the earth, or the place we last saw a grizzly bear, these are just a few of the things that could trigger your mind into a FFF response. Which of course was amazing and made us the most overpopulated species on the planet.
Now though for nearly all of us we are not being chased by grizzly bears, more like a grumpy boss, or a busy environment, or a stressful event. But your mind doesn’t realise this, and these things that we avoid are being seen as life threatening on a deeper primaeval level. The message this sends to every part of you will be stress, adrenaline, fear and all those other hormones the body produces in stress. Now, why not take a bit of time to look at your life and the things you struggle to do or avoid completely? Maybe there are jobs you have to do that you end up putting off? This is avoidance, and the more you put it off the more fearful your mind will be reacting. What you are best to do, is to just do those tasks you don’t want to really do or are avoiding, first thing in the morning. The minute you get that task done you will naturally just breathe a sigh of relief. You have to do it anyway, so why not just do it now and get the pleasure of getting this done, you will feel the benefits of living this way.
There might also be other things that you are avoiding completely. If this is the case then it is time to make a plan to get you to start stepping out of avoidance and moving forward into doing these things. If we look at this avoidant issue, it is good to find a plan to get your confidence growing in achieving this. If we imagine three different ladders; one ladder has rungs so close together that you are hardly moving with each step you take. Then another ladder has massive gaps in between the rungs and trying to take a step seems impossible. Then you have a standard ladder with evenly spaced rungs so that you can take those steady consistent steps to climb the ladder. Use this analogy to help you find the best way to challenge yourself, by not trying to do too much or too little in your journey to get out of those avoidances.
The reason for this way of approaching things that we have been avoiding, is that you don’t want to continue sending more messages of fear. If you try to do too much, like the massive steps in the ladder, then you might end up over-stretching and not achieving that next step, out of avoidance. If, for instance, you have been avoiding driving on the motorway, then a massive step would be saying you are going to drive to London! This would be too much. But work to do a small junction with as many supports as you can i.e., take someone with you, go when it’s quiet, and avoid bad weather or the dark. Then you are challenging yourself, but don’t stop on one journey, keep repeating this and then just keep adding to how far you go. Plus, you can start removing the supports you used to get you going, to help your confidence to continue to grow. But, with the first ladder with the steps that are so close together and you don’t get anywhere, this is when you just don’t challenge yourself enough and you end up not moving forward either. When you start to break free of those avoidances, the reduction in your stress levels will make you feel so much more relaxed. But please don’t expect that the first few times are going to be easy, they are not, but after a few times you will start to feel that you are feeling a bit better. It does take time to get out of big things we have been avoiding, but when we do, it is liberating. Your mind is like a muscle, and if you have just taken the plaster off a broken leg, then it will take time to build up those muscles again.
Set yourself goals that can help you make these changes, and you can add in achievement rewards to positively support yourself. As you step out of avoidance, you step into a calmer and more comfortable place within yourself. Sara.