Articles for the Month of April 2015

How Avoidance Makes Anxiety Worse

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on April 12, 2015

Why should you hide from anxiety?

Why should you have to avoid it, accommodate it, or act like it isn’t really there?

After all, anxiety is supposed to work for you. It is supposed to be that voice of reason in a tight situation. Fight or flight, right? Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, many anxiety sufferers learn that the way to deal with anxiety is to avoid it.

You start avoiding the things you fear the most to feel safer.

You start pouring all your effort into escaping rather than dealing with your anxious feelings and triggers.

But is it working?

Probably not.

Like any problem you refuse to face

Anxiety will get more determined to find you.

And it always does, usually in a big way.

Avoidance simply produces more anxiety.

It produces more distance between you, the life you want to live, and the people you want to love.

Avoidance simply empowers anxiety.

Avoidance simply keeps you stuck.

That is not okay.

So, how should you deal with this stalker you call anxiety?

How can you get it to fall in line in your head and respect your peace of mind?

Avoid no more.

That’s right.

Otherwise, life just gets more complicated and too limiting.

Not sure you can face your fears successfully?

Need more motivation to make a change?

Let’s look at how avoidance coping actually makes managing anxiety harder.

1. Avoidance usually just keeps you focused on the people, situations, or feelings you’re trying to avoid. Aren’t you constantly conscious of the thing you don’t want to deal with? It seems like you’re constantly maneuvering mentally in order to avoid pain, pressure, embarrassment — whatever.

Avoidance doesn’t improve anything; it just amplifies your anxiety. You’re better off “avoiding avoidance.” When you’re ready to say enough is enough, then it’s finally time to face your anxiety with the support of family, friends, or a counselor.

2. Avoidance is not as passive as it seems. In fact, avoidance is actually an attempt to fight anxiety. This rarely works. By forcing yourself to ignore your feelings you subject yourself to punishing rounds of self-deception and self-protection. You end up losing precious time and energy trying to ward off and block your uncomfortable feelings. Your health and relationships suffer as you attempt to aggressively ignore the triggers. This is fruitless. Eventually, the anxiety comes back stronger anyway. Anxiety still gains the upper hand because you won’t make peace with it.

Avoidance doesn’t allow you to tell yourself the truth about your fear and discomfort. Learning to accept anxiety is the best counter measure.

3. Avoidance makes you intolerant. Avoidance coping keeps you afraid and unable to deal with intrusive thoughts and scary feelings naturally and progressively. You simply don’t deal. Learning how to process feelings you don’t like or want to experience is emotional tolerance. Emotional tolerance is key to helping you cope differently.

Avoidance doesn’t make room for emotional self-soothing, regulating, and competency. Learning to recognize and embrace your anxious feelings will give you better opportunities to overcome or reduce them as you move forward.

Avoidance keeps you hemmed in.

It is not the powerful position it first seems.

But you are not powerless.

With the help of a compassionate professional you can regain your ability to fight or flee appropriately.

You are not solely at the mercy of over-stimulated anxiety or the draining task of ignoring it.

When you learn to accept that reality includes anxiety, anxiety will begin to loosen its hold on you.

You can look anxiety in the face, shrug your shoulders, and truly be okay.

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Married? Let Go of your Parents!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????By Cathy Neville, LPC on April 10, 2015

Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them.

They move on. They move away.” ~Mitch Albom

Mitch has a point.

Grown-ups leave their parents. They move on.

Especially the married ones.

Why?

Because you promised yourself to your spouse.

You promised. And your parents taught you to always keep your promises.

It’s the right thing to do.

Let’s face it:  Marriages have enough challenges these days without divided loyalties.

You were a child for a while; you had your time.

But now? Now you have responsibilities, a life to build.

You needn’t be unkind or disrespectful, or distant.

Boundaries, however, are a must.

Not sure if your boundaries are misplaced?

That’s easily remedied. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in your home.

  • Does the doorbell ring regularly, without warning, signaling a parental drop-by surprise?
  • Is it fairly normal for your arguments to begin, “I can’t believe your mother said…”
  • Do you plan your calendar around your parents’ birthdays, their anniversary, their vacations…instead of your own?

If you’re nodding your head, it’s time to finish the business of leaving the parents and start cleaving to each other.

Not sure what that looks like?

Again, no problem. Let’s make a plan:

1. Change your minds. Decide to be there for each other first. Give up parent pleasing as your primary priority. It is exhausting and not the proper focus of any marriage.

You and your spouse needn’t be consumed with thoughts of child-like obedience. Instead, set your minds on being full-time partners, homebuilders, and dream chasers.

“‘Til death do you part.”

2. Speak your minds. “Mom, Dad, we love you. Right now we need to focus on our marriage and we need some space to do that.” Is that so hard? Maybe.

But grown-ups do hard things sometimes.

Especially when in-law problems are one of the top contributors to divorce.

Especially when a happy union is on the line.

Especially when the pillow you rest your head on is not between your mom and dad.

3. Prepare for blowback. Hopefully, your parents understand. Hopefully, they will pat you on the back, respect your wishes, and help you erect the boundaries you seek.

Hopefully.

Unfortunately, some parents will be offended, puzzled, or generally pissed.

You may be surprised by that. You may not. You know your parents.

That may even be the reason you have put off boundary-building for so long.

It’s okay.

They’re entitled to their response, but not your relationship.

You’re grown-ups. You have each other. You can stand on your own.

Your parents can too.

Let your parents go. Be understanding, but don’t back down.

Let them be responsible for their own feelings. Show them you’re a unit.

Respect them the way you hope they’ll come to respect you.

4. Communicate well. First and foremost, communicate love, loyalty and support to your spouse. In no way allow your spouse to think that choosing him or her over your parents is a chore or burden. Openly share your desire to meet his or her needs and make the necessary compromises.

Remember, you promised to be there for your spouse.

Apologize for taking so long.

Celebrate the opportunity to love like adults do.

5. Move on. Go on, do what Mitch suggests, get on with the business of being grown-ups.

You still love your parents. You’ll visit. You’ll call.

It’s going to be alright, your parents will be okay.

They’ve been adults for awhile now.

It’s a new season for everyone, new loyalties and a new normal.

Married people unite!

Photo by Dreamstime

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