Berry and Reynolds Psychology

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Overcoming Avoidance - The Key to Beating Anxiety

When you feel uneasy about a situation the most natural reaction is to avoid it. Although it is important to understand where your anxiety is coming from, the key element to overcoming anxiety is to focus on how you respond to your fears. In fact, the way you respond to your fears often determines how anxious you actually feel.

Avoidance, escape and safety behaviours are the things we do to try to control anxiety. Complete avoidance is things like quitting swimming lessons, refusing to go to school or not attending a party. Escape means leaving a situation when feeling flooded with fear, such as ending a speech midway through or hiding in the bathroom when at school.  Safety behaviours involve staying in the situation but doing things to slightly avoid, like keeping busy in the kitchen during a conversation or avoiding eye contact and speaking softly.  The problem is these behaviours all tend to make anxiety worse in the long run!

Overcoming avoidance is the key to overcoming anxiety. How do we do this? With the help of a psychologist-

First, you find what it is you would like to be able to face rather than avoid. 

Second, you decide on the gradual steps you need to take, starting off with something you can already master and building from there with more anxiety-provoking steps.

Third, you identify coping strategies that help you stay in the distressing situation until your anxiety peaks and then comes back down again.

Finally, you REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT until you don’t feel anxious in this particular situation anymore. Then once you have mastered this step you move to the next step.

By stopping yourself from avoiding a situation you are taking a step towards feeling more free and less controlled by anxiety!

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