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Avoidance is a natural part of the stress response. It makes sense that we would want to avoid things that put us in danger. However, much of the time we avoid things due to our perception alone and the anxiety that our perception creates. Without making this tendency right or wrong, becoming more mindful of where we avoid certain things and why we do so can help us to make more informed, empowered decisions. This can help to ease our anxiety as we become more mindful of our response and actions.
How Avoidance Increases Anxiety
When we experience anxiety, it is not uncommon for us to move into avoidance. For those with social anxiety, this might be an avoidance of public spaces or gatherings. For those with specific phobias, this would manifest as avoidance of that particular object or circumstance.
However, this understandable tendency often contributes to the fear or anxiety we are experiencing. To understand how avoidance increases anxiety in some cases, we might consider a quote by Alice Boyes, Ph.D.:
“Avoidance coping causes anxiety to snowball because when people use avoidance coping they typically end up experiencing more of the very thing they were trying to escape.”
The response is not to put ourselves unconsciously in situations that frighten us; this could be unhelpful and even harmful. Where mental health issues are concerns, it can be helpful to work with a trained professional.
However, we can indeed use mindfulness exercises for anxiety to help us better understand our fear response and what triggers it. We can also use worksheets such as this one to simply become more aware of the choices we make and why. Again, this is not to suggest we should or shouldn’t put ourselves into certain situations; it is simply a tool for enhancing self-awareness.
Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety
There are numerous mindfulness exercises for anxiety and stress that can help us to achieve a greater sense of inner peace and harmony. Exercises such as the basic body scan, deep belly breathing, and Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. of Compassion can all create soothing effects when anxiety and related emotions are unsettling us.
Learn more about anxiety and some practices that can help ease this experiencing by checking out the guide, 9 Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety.