A few weeks ago, I wrote about the anxiousness I felt while seeing an empty calendar. Unscheduled days looked a little bit like chaos and I wasn’t sure how to proceed with my week.
You might have heard before that avoidance is the opposite way of how we should deal with anxiety. Face your fears head on. Venture out into the abyss. Feel your feelings. And this is partly true.
If we are constantly avoiding how we feel or the things that make us anxious, oftentimes anxiety can spike when we are eventually confronted with those things, simply because we don’t have experience dealing with them. Our brains need repetition and experience to feel safe.
So this is really great information to know. We can’t avoid everything forever. Feelings want to be felt.
I know all of this, but when my week didn’t look how I expected it to look last week, I absolutely engaged in some of my tried and true avoidance strategies.
I think that simply telling people that we need to stop avoiding things and feel our feelings creates an unrealistic expectation that we need to be emotionally attuned at all times.
It is okay if you are not ready to feel your feelings.
Sometimes it's not safe or effective to feel your feelings. Sometimes you are with people you don’t trust with your true feelings. Sometimes you are at work, and need to just get by. Sometimes you just want to engage in a different activity and let your mind go elsewhere. Sometimes avoidance is the absolute best option.
I am here to say avoidance is absolutely okay. Distraction and healthy detachment offer temporary ways to gain control over your feelings. This can be called grounding or centering, essentially focusing your attention on something different from the overwhelm you are experiencing. I wrote a whole blogpost on grounding strategies here.
My favourite grounding strategy is finding one thing I can control amongst the chaos. At weaving club last week, I started a project that I knew I could finish that night. Gifting myself some control with repetitive movement.
It felt really good to just let go for a moment, and focus on what was directly in front of me.
Anxiety will always want our attention. And sometimes we give it to it, and sometimes we distract ourselves when our heads feel too full.
We can set up supportive practices like consistent therapy and scheduling time with friends and journalling and movement for processing our feelings. But true self care means that we also get to take breaks from hard things.