What is avoidant coping and do you think that you engage in it? Avoidant coping is when you avoid doing something or avoid thinking about something and we all do it to a certain degree. It becomes an issue, however, when our avoidance and procrastination becomes severe enough to create an negative impact upon our productivity and general coping with life and responsibilities.
Types of avoidant coping:
Examples of avoidant coping:
1) Spending time on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc) when we should be working or attending to something more important.
2) Avoiding confronting a problem in your life by denying it’s existence. For example, if there are issues in your relationship and despite being aware things aren’t rosy, you refuse to acknowledge the issues seriously and deal with them head on.
3) Overspending, overeating, gambling and other ‘escapist’ activities can also be seen as avoidant coping. They distract you from the real issue and offer a temporary respite from the accompanying anxiety related to the issue you are trying to avoid.
4) Avoiding socialising and withdrawing from others by spending more time at home is also avoidant coping.
How to resist avoidant coping
The problem with avoidant coping is that it helps in the short term and we are a ‘quick-fix’ society. We want solutions now and we’re impatient. We also don’t particularly enjoy dealing with unpleasant feelings and experiences that make us feel anxious, fearful or inadequate. We all love our comfort zones. Comfort zones are great as a soft place to fall but get too comfy in there and you will begin to lose confidence and skills needed to get on in life. Avoidant coping is one of the main causes of anxiety, obesity, out-of-control stress, low self esteem and relationship problems. It has a lot to answer for!
When you avoid something it tends to affect other areas of your life, there is a knock-on effect. A feeling of increasing powerlessness will pervade related to the very thing you are avoiding dealing with. Even things that seem like little avoidances can build up and become a ‘big deal’ over time.
Inadvertently, when we cope by avoiding things, we send ourselves a message that we’re powerless which leads us to feel worse – our self esteem and confidence suffers and we end up increasing the avoidant coping… and so the cycle continues.
1) Start by making a list of the top 3-5 things that you have been avoiding. Examples: dealing with your debt, dealing with your unhappy relationships, dealing with a health issue or dealing with a difficult person.
2) Make the first item on your list, the action/problem you feel least anxious about dealing with. Make the last item on the list the one you feel most stressed about confronting.
3) Start with the first item on the list – take small steps towards dealing with issues
4) Use chunking if necessary. Chunking means ‘breaking down’ the steps needed to finally achieve the goal you want. Instead of going straight over to your difficult neighbour, for example, make step one a research exercise:
a) Google legal rights regarding neighbour rights etc
b) Write polite letter to neighbour
c) Arrange a time to discuss issues with neighbour
5) Being aware your avoidant strategies is the first step in dealing with them. Limit your time engaging in avoidant behaviour. Cut back slowly.
6) See a counsellor or life coach to help you set up a productive structure for you to adhere to.
As I mentioned before, we all engage in avoidant coping, but the longer we keep it up, the bigger the problems grow in the background. Very rarely do they miraculously disappear. I have seen people go bankrupt, get served divorce papers, become obese, lose their friends and family as well as their jobs through excessive avoidant coping . Deal with your issues, nip them in the bud. There’s only so much time that you can spend with your head in the sand before the real issue comes along and bites you on the bum. You may not see it coming but your bum will definitely feel it!
Photo is courtesy ofÂ Amy Loves YahÂ Flickr Photo Stream, under Creative Commons Licensing.