The Worst Strategy to Deal with Anxiety
Let's play a little game: can you see which is the strategy used to avoid anxiety in the three situations described below?
You are not comfortable with small talk at work meetings, so you arrive right as the meeting starts (and not a minute earlier!) and leave right as it ends (and not a minute later!);
Your closest colleagues can't make it to the office party so you decide not to go either so that you don't have to face the awkwardness of meeting new people;
You are afraid to sound stupid so you keep your questions to yourself at the team meeting - you'll just figure it out later or ask someone else in private.
That's right. The strategy used to avoid anxiety in all three situations described above is: avoidance.
Now, here's the tricky thing with avoidance: it is both one of the BEST strategies to avoid anxiety in the *short* term, and the WORST strategy to avoid anxiety in the *long* term.
In the short term, avoidance allows you not to feel the anxiety that a situation typically produces for you. If you feel awkward meeting new people, not going to the office party altogether allows you not to feel that anxiety at all! If you hate speaking up in public, not asking your questions at the team meeting allows you not to feel nervous!
But here's the problem LONG term:
When you constantly avoid situations that make you feel anxious, you rob yourself of the opportunity to find out one of two things:
The situation actually isn't that scary, OR
The situation actually IS scary, but you can still totally handle it.
Say public speaking is the thing that makes you want to run as fast as you can. Well, by actually exposing yourself to it rather than avoiding it constantly, you might actually find out that you are quite good at it! And, little by little, what once used to be so scary won't be an issue for you anymore!
OR, you actually will continue to find it hard but, by doing it, you will prove to yourself that being nervous doesn't mean that you can't do it. You can do a good job at it while feeling nervous. You can do hard things!
So here's your homework: ask yourself - which situations do you tend to actively avoid?
For me... how do you think I came up with the three situations I gave as examples ;) I'm guilty of avoidance in all three of them - but I have been actively working on exposing myself to them for a few years now and, while it still feels hard sometimes (although way less now!), I know that I can DO it even if I feel anxious at the same time. I can do hard things and that confidence keeps growing stronger and stronger.
(Teaching yoga is the best thing that I have done to work on my fear of public speaking)
Now you go! As always, feel free to email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love having chats with you!