Getting Started: Breaking Avoidance to Decrease Anxiety
Well, here goes nothing! I am so excited (and a little terrified) to launch this blog. The blog concept and ideas for topics are things I’ve been sitting on for a long time. NOW is as good of a time as ever to Just. Do. It. In my practice, I am often encouraging individuals to reach their goals or to conquer their anxieties or fears. So how can I sit back and let my own fear stop me from posting a few words?
I often say to my clients that ACTION is the best antidote to anxiety. Our brains are trained to STOP when we feel anxiety, frequently leading us to avoid the thing that is making us anxious. Ironically, avoidance only makes our anxiety higher. The more we build something up in our minds as something to be feared, the harder it seems to overcome. We get stuck in an anxious-avoidant-more anxious-more avoidant-even MORE anxious loop. But it does not have to be that way. We can change that association and re-train our brains to feel the anxiety yet do it anyway. This sometimes requires work to accept or "sit with" feelings of anxiety. However, Anxiety does not have to equal STOP. Taking one small action step toward what it is we’re avoiding often can melt the anxiety away. Sometimes that’s as simple as making a deal with yourself to tackle the smallest part of an obstacle first, telling yourself that you’ll only do that one part. Many times, you’ll find that once you’ve started, motivation kicks in and you keep working beyond that first small step. So here I am, taking my own advice.
As a psychologist, I sit across from people from all walks of life hour after hour, day after day, year after year. People share with me their most intimate thoughts and feelings on their journey to self-discovery or to decreasing unwanted symptoms. I’ve sat with people experiencing the most unimaginable pain, as well as celebrated in some amazing successes. I am lucky to go along for the ride---while hopefully offering great insights, encouragement, or validation along the way. I truly feel privileged to do the work that I do. I am so grateful that others can trust in me to let themselves be vulnerable in a way that most social situations don’t allow. I believe that my years of experience listening to the inner workings of so many others’ minds, coupled with my years of education in clinical psychology, give me some interesting perspectives on life. The goal of this blog is simple…to share such perspectives, some food for thought, and tips for mental health and wellbeing. I truly hope you enjoy it!