Does anyone else go extreme avoidance when they are overwhelmed? That has been my life lately – hence why I’ve been a little absent on the blog front.
I’m almost 2 years past a really traumatic event that round-house kicked me in the guts and flipped my life upside down. But I can’t seem to get out there and try again. Right after it happened I was pro-active, getting straight back into teaching (probably too soon) and that turned out bad too. So now my go-to move is to avoid, to do the bare minimum, to not put myself out there because I terrified that I am going to get wounded again.
I had these big plans for my life, I started studying my Grad Dip in Play Therapy to help get me there, I got a new job, I joined the Volunteer Fire Brigade. I tried so hard to do all this new stuff and be brave but it hasn’t led me to my perfect future yet! I’ve been studying a year and a half and am still no closer to knowing what my big plans are.
This scares me! What if it doesn’t work out? What if people don’t like me? What if someone hurts me? What if I get caught in the cross fires again and cop an arrow straight to the heart? What if I can’t do it?
So yeah, I’ve been avoiding stuff. Avoiding conversations I know I should have. Avoiding my uni work and not putting in as much effort as I know I can. Avoiding looking into options for my future. Avoiding spending time with God. Avoiding going to a place where I don’t know many people. Avoiding doing my assignment that is due on Monday! Just being an ostrich and shoving my head so far in the ground, hoping it will be different when I come up for air the next time.
There’s this thing in my brain that says if you don’t try as hard as you did at that teaching job then you won’t get hurt as much as you did. Now I know how stupid that sounds and that what happened to me had nothing to do with how hard I worked and how much I loved my job. But the voice is still there, telling me to just avoid it and then no-one can hurt me and nothing can go wrong.
Here’s some things I read about avoidance behaviours (and I pretty much encapsulate them all!)
- You avoid conversations that may lead to conflict (check!)
- You don’t test the actual reality of your fears (check!)
- You fear and avoid things that might bring up negative memories (check!)
- You assume the worst (CHECK!)
- You put off activities that are unpredictable or create uncertainty (check!)
- You try to avoid any potential of making someone else angry or upset (check!)
- You avoid putting yourself out there (check!)
Now I am learning that avoiding stuff is a great short-term technique to escape my fears but it is also a wonderful long-term strategy to guarantee suffering. So there’s no point in sticking my head in the sand because my issues will just keep coming back again and again until I face it, deal with it and learn from it.
So here are some other things to help when you (but mostly me) feel overwhelmed and want to just run back to bed!
- Your body will tell you when you are slipping into avoidance mode, so stop and think about what your avoiding and then work on shifting your behaviours.
- Don’t assume that a conversation will be bad or the outcome will be the worst, you won’t know until you try and it might turn out better than you expected!
- Break big projects into small, less overwhelming steps.
- Catch yourself before you go down the black hole of worry because the worst case scenario you are concocting in your head will most probably never come to fruition.
- Do it now! Stop putting it off because while you are avoiding it the stress is just building and building.
- Find the evidence. For example: I am avoiding writing my assignment because I’m worried I might fail. I need to look back on my past results, have I failed any? Only one. So the likelihood that I will fail this one is slim.
- Take responsibility if you do make a mistake. We are all human and it does happen – even for perfectionist like me 🙂
Avoidance won’t solve any of our problems or block any of our worries. So let’s make a deal – let’s try these strategies and stop avoiding the things that scare us because they very well may end up being the best thing we ever did!