Emotional Wellbeing


Mandy Kloppers

Are you avoiding life?


Avoidant coping

Avoiding life takes many forms. It can take the form of procrastination, withdrawal, isolation or just plain old avoidance. Avoidant coping occurs when we build up a story now heads about how awful something will be. We then choose to believe these thoughts that may not even have any real bearing on reality.

There are two types of avoidant coping:

1) When you are avoiding doing something

Are you avoiding a task or activity that needs doing? Do you need to sort out your debt or is there a family crisis that you have been avoiding? Avoidant coping is a surefire way to add to your existing problems. Small problems will snowball into bigger problems and it is essential to nip this behaviour in the bud.

2) When you are avoiding thinking about something

The more we avoid something, the more we tend to feel powerless. When we feel powerless or anxious tend to feel worse and this can then feed into our self-esteem and our ability to cope in life. When we regularly avoid inadvertently send ourselves messages that we are helpless and powerless against the situations we face.

How to stop avoiding life

It is often a good idea to start with baby steps. Start with a diary and write down what you regularly avoid. Note down upsetting thoughts feelings and memories. Make a note of what you tried to escape, avoid or distract yourself from.

Ask yourself what the disadvantages are of avoiding these issues. How are they holding you back in life? Think about the true consequences of avoiding life.

Focus on the positives-think about how good you will feel once you have completed something you have been avoiding. Imagine that feeling of accomplishment. Think of yourself five years from now and how your situation will be if you continue to avoid life.

Keep notes of every time you do something that you have been avoiding. Give yourself credit for positive steps taken. Remind yourself regularly of why you are progressing in this manner and what you’re trying to achieve. Make a list of goals and stay focused on these goals to help you move forward.

Don’t be disheartened if you have a few setbacks as that is just part of life. Here are a few examples that some of my clients have allowed me to share-examples of when they battled and won over their tendency to avoid life:

Jill-I got stuck in today and managed to get the most important task out of the way instead of distracting myself with menial side jobs.

Mr A – despite being nervous about asking a girl for her number, I made the effort and it paid off. We are now dating!

Miss T-I managed to stick to my diet for 90% of this last week with out being pulled back into my old ways of eating junk food. I feel so proud of myself and this has spurred me on to continue.

Mrs C-I have always tended to talk to myself in a very negative way and they have been a few times recently when I have stopped myself and made myself change what I was telling myself. It feels unnatural at first that I am determined to improve my self-esteem.

Mr L – the diary helped me to recognise my patterns of avoidance and I have set myself goals to change my patterns. I know I’m on the right track finally even though they have been a few setbacks

Gradual exposure to the things you fear is key to freedom and peace of mind. Learn to tackle those problems that you are avoiding and you will soon find that they are not as scary as you anticipated. Even if things do not go quite according to plan you will be able to exercise your abilities to deal with challenges and this will add to your confidence. Avoiding and then believing your crazy thoughts about what might happen is the worst possible situation to be. Experiment and the brave and you will be amazed!

Mandy X

Photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³