Stress Management or Avoidance?

When do coping techniques turn into avoidance?

Recently we had a minor crisis in our home.  It was actually one with a positive outcome, but regardless of the ultimate result it was unexpected and overwhelming.  Without even thinking, I began a new book.  I love to read.  I’ve devoured books since I was a child and still feel at loose ends if I don’t have a book going.  It’s a natural coping mechanism for me:  A blissful escape from problems and stress.

Soon I began reading at every possible moment.  The laundry began to pile up and the kids rejoiced at pizza and fast food dinners.  I read during dinner, in the evenings, while cooking or emptying the dishwasher.  When I wasn’t able to read, I was thinking about how I’d sneak in the next few pages.  I was avoiding the original crisis, the people around me and every tedious task I could.

I told myself that I deserved the break.  Reading is healthy and even educational, I rationalized.  But, my coping mechanism was no longer solving a problem.  It had, in fact, become the problem.

Avoidance of painful events and trigger cues can be functional strategies for tolerating immediate stressful events.  There are times when it is healthy to distract yourself from pain.  Crisis situations and the pain they cause cannot always be immediately processed and there are times when we need to be able to function.  However, suppressing and avoiding all contact with a crisis situation ensures that the pain will continue and that problems related to the crisis will remain unsolved.

Escape and distraction can become a habit.  It takes courage to face new and challenging circumstances.  It requires a personal assessment to determine at what point continued distance should give way to approach, in order to manage the current upheaval.  If avoidance is beginning to interfere with your day-to-day functioning or your relationships, it’s time to take a closer look.

In the short term the ability to self-soothe and distract are effective skills to get through difficult moments.  However, at some point we must return to work and school and face day-to-day life, despite emotional pain.

5 Replies to “Stress Management or Avoidance?”

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  4. I found myself doing the same thing with puzzles. At first it was an outlet and then I couldn’t wait to sit down to put together the puzzle. That was nearly fifteen years ago and I don’t remember what I might have been avoiding but I do remember realizing that I really wasn’t living my life. And this is someone who was in charge of a stress management clinic–we’re not immune to avoiding life’s stresses either. Fortunately it was limited to about a three month period of time.
    With lessons I learned from my life and hundreds of clients I have many self help cds at http://www.DStressDoc.com but recently I have learned that one thing to remember is that stress can severely deplete the body’s glutathione levels. And of course there’s all kinds of stress such as pollution, habits such as smoking, drinking and so on, plus toxins in our food in addition to mental stressors. The body makes it’s own glutathione but after age 20 it diminishes by a minimum of 10% each decade. Glutathione is responsible for protecting DNA, boosting immunity, reducing inflammation to name just a few things. Until three years ago there was nothing that could be done about it, today we now have a glutathione accelerator available.

    I always said that the first defense against stress was deep breathing, and it still is,  but concurrently another most important defense against stress, pollution, toxins, free radicals and so on is glutathione. For more information please go to http://www.glutathioneforhealth.com/

  5. I absolutely agree, the ability to self soothe is vital for coping with the pressures and stresses of everyday life. We are all different and many can find their own techniques but sometimes it is necessay to seek assistance. Complimentary therapy such as reflexology, to help overcome anxiety and manage stress can be a first step to learning how to self soothe, just by scheduling some time to relax the immense rewards of this can be realised.
    thank you

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