Did you know that humans tend to be fairly inaccurate when predicting future emotional states?
Take anxiety for example. We can spend hours or even days obsessing over a task that needs to be done. Maybe an unpleasant email or phone call – a task that in and of itself will consume less than half an hour.
For those that struggle with anxiety – avoidance loops are a common occurrence. In our heads we build up how displeasurable it is going to be for us to engage in this future task- so displeasurable in fact that is it now something we need to fear.
And the cycle looks something like this:
I don’t want to do this thing.
It’s going to be awful.
I’ve put so much energy into avoiding this thing, I must have been right about how awful it is.
I’ll push it off a little more.
And so on & so forth.
And the emotion builds. And the urge to avoid the task increases. And before you know it, you’ve managed to spend an entire work week avoiding a 15 minute phone call!!
At what cost? Hours of your thoughts held at hostage – to yourself. Thinking of all the reasons you don’t want to and listing the litany of ways things could go wrong and spiral desperately out of control. If you struggle with anxiety this pattern probably feels super familiar to you! Here’s a simple trick to help you break the cycle.
Your new mantra:
JUST DO THE THING.
If you are feeling anxious about something (and you have the opportunity to put if off or do it now), it is always better to go ahead and get things over with. Heres why:
- If by chance your worst case scenario does occur – then you’ve got as much time as possible to enter the problem solving stage. Because you didn’t waste valuable time – you have more opportunities to get things back on track when they do veer off.
- Exposure therapy. When we avoid things we are scared of, we reinforce fear pathways in our brain. This makes it even harder for us to approach the next time we are presented with that stimulus. Engagement gives your brain an experiential way to check the facts and prove to itself that the fear is unjustified.
So when you notice yourself wanting to avoid a task or having thoughts about how awful something in the future will be, just go ahead and tackle it. Do it and be done with it.
This is super simple application of the Emotion Regulation – Opposite Action skill. If it isn’t hanging over your head, there’s way less reason for it to steal time in your thoughts. Which gives you space for a more mindful day 🌻
Do you struggle with the anxiety / avoidance loop? What skills do you use to help you keep these urges in check? I’d love to hear about your journey – drop a message in the comments & let’s start a dialogue!
If you’re looking to make changes this year and interested in hearing more about the DBT Skills or my signature DBT Transformation Coaching – I’d love to share information with you! Use the contact form to get in touch! Check out my coaching site ⬇️
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