Discover how to stop avoidance cycle, stop missing out on things in life, face your fears, and live fully.
We all have fears – fear of public speaking, making decisions, changing your job, aging, losing a loved one, ending a toxic relationship… the list goes on.
People who are stuck in avoidance cycle, usually share some of these signs:
- They struggle to make important decisions in their lives.
- They spend a lot of time daydreaming about the things they want to do, but they never take action on their dreams.
- When facing a risk, they usually imagine the worst-case scenario and end up not taking the risk.
- Often, they allow other people to make decisions for them so they won’t have to go through the anxiety of making a decision.
One of the main reasons that make people avoid taking risks is fear.
This fear usually stems from a lack of knowledge about how to calculate risk accurately.
Why We Avoid Facing Our Fears?
Emotions can influence our thoughts and when you don’t try to rationalize your thoughts, you end up making irrational choices.
A thinking process where emotions prevail is usually in terms of “what if”, what if things go wrong? What if I fail and lose everything?.
On the other hand, a rational thinking process would go like this “What could be the worst thing that can happen?
If you ask yourself that question, you’ll find out that it’s not as bad as you thought the outcome would be.
You’ll be able then to calculate your risk and determine whether or not it’s worth taking and determine an alternative strategy.
In other words, because of our fear, we choose not to think about the risk.
In doing that, we’re not able to predict the probable consequences or measure their impact.
Without understanding the potential outcomes of taking a risk, we often end up avoiding taking action.
How Can Fear Paralyze You?
1. You can’t grow as a person without taking risks
Avoiding risks to avoid any discomfort, usually leads to missing on some great life opportunities.
Without these opportunities, one can’t reach his full potential and is bound to lead a mediocre life.
2. Emotions prevail logic
Fear is a healthy emotion that helps us avoid danger, like looking both ways before crossing the street so we won’t get hit by a speeding car.
However, our “fear meters” aren’t always reliable. Sometimes you feel afraid even when you’re in no danger.
This is why it’s important to be aware of your emotions by rationalizing your decision-making process.
Free Printable Worksheets For Avoidance (PDF)
To overcome your fears and find the courage to do whatever you’re afraid of doing, you need first to acknowledge the following:
5 Truths About Fear
Truth 1. Fear will never go away as long as you are growing as a person
Personal growth is your way to reach your potential and fulfill your dreams. And growing requires taking actions outside of your comfort zone.
This means taking new risks and trying things for the first time. Naturally, while growing as a person, you’ll feel afraid at almost every new step you’re going to take.
Therefore, you’ll need to acknowledge that no matter how much you’ll grow, you’ll still feel the fear of taking the next step.
This will help you stop fighting the fear because it isn’t going to go away.
Truth 2. The only way to get rid of fear of doing something, is to do it anyway
When you’re focused on getting rid of the fear of doing something, you lose. You didn’t beat your fear, and you didn’t do what you were afraid to do.
The right way to get rid of your fears is by doing the very thing you’re afraid of doing despite the fear.
In fact, the “doing it” comes before getting rid of the fear. It’s because you did it that you were able to defeat your fears.
Truth 3. The only way to feel better about yourself is to DO IT
As you’re doing the thing you’re afraid of doing, you’ll gain confidence bit by bit.
You’ll realize that it wasn’t as frightening as you thought it’s going to be. You’ll notice that the more you do it, the less fear you feel and the more confident you become.
Once you become comfortable doing it, you’ll start looking for the next thing to do. And you guessed it, you’ll feel the fear again preparing you for the next challenge.
Truth 4. You’re not alone
Even those who look relaxed constantly trying new things, they really aren’t.
However, those who seem to have it figured out are those who pushed -and are still pushing- through their fears to get where they are today.
It’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let your fear prevent you from doing the things you need to do. Go ahead and do it, despite the fear.
Truth 5. Pushing through the fear, is less frightening than living with the fear that comes from the feeling of helplessness
Those who refuse to push through their fears, are living with a feeling of helplessness and dread that is far more frightening than the actual fear of taking the risks. However, they don’t seem to be aware of this.
They keep worrying about the “what ifs” so much so, they can’t see how taking the risk can make them feel any better. They simply forget that the answer is “I’ll handle it!”
Best 9 Tips On How To Stop Avoidance Cycle
#1. Balance Emotion With Logic
Your anxiety level shouldn’t be the factor that helps you make the final decision about the risk. Keep in mind that the more emotional you feel, the less rational your thoughts will be.
The key to balance your emotions with logic is to increase your rational thoughts. Some people choose not to travel by airplane because they’re afraid they might die in an airplane crash, so they drive instead. What they don’t realize is that the odds of dying in a car crash are around 1 in 500, while the odds of dying in an airplane crash are close to 1 in 11 million.
So if you’re going to take a risk, wouldn’t you choose the odds in your favor?
However, because of their anxiety, people don’t choose based on facts, they choose the option that will cause them the least amount of anxiety.
#2. Calculate The Risk
The level of risk in any given situation is unique to you.
While some people might perceive public speaking as a risk, for some other people it’s not risky at all.
To calculate your risk ask yourself the following questions:
– What are the potential risks? Sometimes the consequences of taking a risk are tangible and can be measured, like losing the money you’re going to invest.
But oftentimes, the consequences are intangible, like the risk of rejection or failure.
– What are the potential benefits? Every situation has its risks and benefits. Ask yourself what are the benefits of taking the risk if things turn out well?
If the benefits are important, you’ll find it easier to take the risk.
Keep in mind that benefits aren’t just tangible such as money. They can be intangible such as gaining experience, growing as a person, and learning something valuable you wouldn’t have learned any other way.
– How will this help get closer to my goal? When taking a risk, make sure that it’s something that will get you closer to your goal.
You don’t have to take every risk that presents itself in your life if it’s not going to positively impact your life.
Write your answers down to review them, and keep searching for more information so you can have enough facts to calculate your risk properly.
#3. Minimize The Risk
After determining the worst-case scenario of taking the risk, ask yourself what could be done to minimize the risk that might occur.
If you’re for example considering investing in a business, what steps can you take to increase your chance for success?
#4. Practice Taking Risks
Taking risks can be a source of anxiety. Instead of avoiding anything that might trigger your anxiety, learn how to manage it.
One way to do so is by repeating the very thing that makes you anxious.
The more you take risks, the more comfortable you become doing it.
Keep in mind that taking risks is inevitable. Success isn’t going to find you, you’ll have to seize the opportunity as it comes and take action.
#5. Empower Yourself By Changing Your Vocabulary
When dealing with their fears, people are divided into two groups.
Those who approach fear from a position of power, and those who approach it from a position of pain.
The former group sees it as irrelevant. It won’t stop them from taking risks and doing it anyway.
The latter group is totally paralyzed by their fears. They feel helpless and vulnerable.
To approach your fears from a position of power, is to be able to do what you want to do freely, with no restrictions.
To move from pain to power, you need to change your vocabulary.
Replacing any destructive words you might be using with empowering ones have a powerful impact on the quality of your life.
In fact, your subconscious mind believes whatever you say repeatedly. But your subconscious believes what it hears and not what is true or what you mean.
Every time you utter a destructive word, your power is taken away from you.
Below are some examples of destructive words you might be using, and what you need to say instead.
It’s a problem
Life is a struggle
It’s not my fault
It’s an opportunity
Life is an adventure
I’m fully responsible
I can handle it
“I can’t” implies that you have no control over something, whereas “I won’t” makes the situation under your control and implies simply that it’s your choice that you won’t do it.
“I should” implies that you have no choice in the matter, whereas “I could” implies that you do have a choice, but you simply may choose not to do it.
And so on…
Monitoring your vocabulary and choosing powerful words over destructive ones will help you expand your comfort zone and take on risks.
#6. Expose Yourself to Discomfort (Gradual Exposure)
Each one of us has a comfort zone based on which he makes his decisions.
This comfortable space can only be stretched through risk-taking. Whatever makes you uncomfortable is going to expand your comfort zone and push you toward taking bigger risks and fulfilling bigger dreams.
Start doing the things that make you uncomfortable. Call someone you feel intimidated to call, ask for something you want but can’t find the courage to ask it like a promotion you believe you deserve or a girl you want to date…
Even if it doesn’t work the way you wanted, at least you tried and you didn’t sit back, helpless, wondering what if.
With each risk you take, not only does your comfort zone expands, but your whole life expands. You become more powerful. Your confidence increases and it becomes easier for you to take in more and bigger risks.
To make taking risks easier, try the visualization technique.
Close your eyes and see yourself doing what you’re afraid of doing. Make your visualization as clear as possible and feel the power that comes from doing the very thing you’re afraid of doing.
#7. Increase Your Positive Thoughts Ratio
No one wants to think negatively, yet people seem to resist thinking positively mostly because of the assumption that positive thinking is unrealistic.
It seems to many people, that negative thinking is the closest to reality.
However, it is reported that more than 90% of what we worry about, actually never happens.
This means that only 10% of our negative thinking has a chance of happening.
So what’s more realistic?
To think positively and be 90% correct, or to think negatively and only be 10% correct?
In fact, your thinking is so powerful that it can change your life.
Someone thinking negatively is usually someone who’s always fearful and worried, and often times, finds himself paralyzed by his fears that he rarely, if ever, takes any risks and achieve anything.
A person who thinks positively, on the other hand, is someone who’s motivated and empowered to act on his dreams and fulfill his potential. His positivity keeps attracting new opportunities into his life.
Shifting your thinking to the positive side can be challenging. If you’re not going to actively think positive thoughts, you’ll be thinking negative thoughts by default.
Therefore, it’s going to take special commitment and a great deal of practice. You get better at it with time, but you’ll always have to make the effort.
To help make your thoughts more positive, try the following:
1. Start listening to audio material such as audiobooks, affirmations, motivational speeches…
2. Start reading positive books that will inspire and motivate you.
3. Pick up some positive quotes, write them on post-it notes, and put them all over your room or working space.
4. Start your day with positive affirmations. Affirmations are a powerful tool to shift your self-talk toward a positive direction.
When you become good at shifting your thinking, positivity will become more automatic in your life. You’ll just need a few reminders every now and then to keep you uplifted.
#8. Surround Yourself With Positive People
When you start to adopt a more positive way of thinking, things within you and around you start to change.
You stop whining and complaining, you become more cheerful, you take more risks and do things your old self would never have done.
People around you start noticing the change in you and some of them might not like it. In fact, they’ve become accustomed to interacting with you in a certain way, and when something changes, there’s usually upset. Instead of a cheering squad, you’re faced with a troop of enemies.
Even when this upset is to be expected and you make an effort to be understanding, it might still discourage you from moving forward. You value these people and you’re afraid of losing the relationship.
You need to ask yourself some questions here, are they supporting your growing or are they dragging you down?
Are they excited about the new you or do they prefer the company of the old you that you’re outgrowing?
If the latter part of these questions is true, you might consider making some changes.
Negativity is contagious, and so is positivity. Therefore, you need to stop spending time with negative people and start surrounding yourself with positive ones.
#9. The Antidote to Fear: Radical Acceptance
Whatever happens to you in life, just nod your head up and down and say yes.
This applies to which we have little to no control over. Whatever unexpected event that might change our direction and set us up for a great deal of fear.
By saying “yes” to the universe, you agree to these things that life hands you without resistance and you let in the possibilities that life offers you.
Doing this will allow you to calmly examine the situation which will in order, reduce your upset and anxiety.
The other alternative would be saying “no”. By doing that you become a victim “How could this happen to me!”.
You reject any opportunity there is for you to grow and you end up wasting energy resisting the unexpected situation.
This is why saying “yes” not only does it help you cope with everyday disappointments and rejections, such as sickness, a lousy date, a traffic jam…, but it’s also the antidote to your fears.
You build confidence in your ability to handle all that life will throw your way. You become a winner, no matter what the circumstances are.
The following steps will help you become more open to what life brings to you:
1. Be aware of when you say NO
Frustration, dissatisfaction, anger… all these signs indicate that you’re resisting and saying NO to the universe.
Surround yourself with reminders to help you become more open and say YES.
You can stick notes around your house or on your desk that says “SAY YES TO YOUR UNIVERSE” or recite affirmations throughout the day such as “I am finding value in everything that happens to me” or you can simply say “Thank you” to whatever you’re being handed over.
Even if you can’t see the good the situation will bring, say thank you, and accept it. You’ll soon realize how beneficial that situation was.
2. Once you become aware of your resistance, start saying yes
Try nodding yes with your head up and down. There’s something physically affirming a thought that helps you open up and accept the situation.
3. Look for ways to create value from any situation
Always look for any opportunity to grow in any given situation. See how the experience helped make a good change in your life or helped you become a better person.
Let go of how the outcome of any situation “should be” and open up to the new possibilities.
4. Be patient with yourself
You might find it hard to accept what life throws your life at first. We usually have an idea of how things should be.
This idea, while helpful when it comes to making decisions, won’t serve you anymore once the decision is made and little can be done.
Be patient with yourself. As with anything associated with change, opening up, and accepting life experiences is going to take some practice and commitment.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, © 1987 by Susan Jeffers. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, © 2013 by Amy Morin. All rights reserved.
- Stress Generation, Avoidance Coping, and Depressive Symptoms: A 10-Year Model – PMC (nih.gov)
- Explorations of avoidance and approach coping and perceived stress with a computer-based avatar task: detrimental effects of resignation and withdrawal – PMC (nih.gov)
- Avoidance Coping and Why it Creates Additional Stress (verywellmind.com)
- Avoidance Coping Strategies | SpringerLink
- (PDF) An Exploratory Study on the Effect of an Approach-Avoidance Coping Program on Perceived Stress and Physical Energy among Police Officers (researchgate.net)
- Frontiers | Role of Stressful Life Events, Avoidant Coping Styles, and Neuroticism in Online Game Addiction among College Students: A Moderated Mediation Model | Psychology (frontiersin.org)
- Avoidance coping mediates the effect of hardiness on mental distress symptoms for both male and female subjects – Thomassen – 2022 – Scandinavian Journal of Psychology – Wiley Online Library
Hadiah is a counselor who is passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards mental well-being. Hadiah not only writes insightful articles on various mental health topics but also creates engaging and practical mental health worksheets.
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