The equation seems obvious. Anxiety can be agonizing. Even at it’s best, it is no fun at all. Therefore, avoiding anxiety makes a whole lot of sense. Right? Well…as you know, things aren’t always that simple. Let’s start by introducing the concept of negative reinforcement.Every time you gain something by removing or ending something else, it’s negative reinforcement. Again, not so simple. In the case of anxiety, it can become a reversal. What if you fear interaction with a certain group of people? You get invited to a party at which you know you’ll encounter them. You avoid anxiety by not going.This might sound logical. But it creates a few problems, for example:You reinforce the idea that it’s okay to let your fear control your behavior. Your goals can be sabotaged if you never face up to your fears. Each time you avoid a situation that makes you feel anxious, you become more likely to avoid it again.Of course, there are times when it’s best to get yourself far away from trouble. Anxiety is a human survival mechanism. But out of control anxiety takes time and some work to learn how to manage.  But it’s some of the most important and rewarding work you’ll ever do for yourself.

5 Ways to Avoid Avoidance Before it Impacts Your Anxiety Level

1. Catch yourself in the act.

Recognize your pattern of avoidance as it happens. Don’t allow it to become natural or something you no longer notice. It’s important that you stay in control of your reactions. The next time you feel anxious, start focusing on the sensations in the body. Then pay very close attention to how you “resolve” it.

2. Make a list of your biggest/oldest fears (or any fears that have gotten in the way of your dreams)

This will require brutal honesty. If possible, it may also involve talking to those who’ve known you the longest. We’re taught to not admit fears but they are a normal part of life. The first form of avoidance is ignoring that a fear exists.

3. Make a second list of how to face those fears.

Take a good hard look at your list of fears. Be discerning. Some fears may be justified. The odds are, however, that most of your fears can be safely confronted. Decide which ones you want to address first? How will you address them? it’s okay to take baby steps.

4. Give yourself permission to be afraid when it’s justified

As stated above, fear and anxiety can be lifesavers. They are not only a natural part of being alive, they are part of our survival system. So, don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you should have “no fear.”  Our society’s sports figures and fictional heroes in action movies seem to be fearless. This is an unhealthy form of modeling. We become ashamed of fear and anxiety. Thus, we go to great lengths to avoid them.

5. Have at least one #YOLO day per month (or week?)

If you’re going to do the hard work of confronting your fears, why not turn it into an event?  A #YOLO (you only live once) day gives you the chance to make it super productive. No avoidance. Stand up to anxiety with your very own cheering section!

No one needs to be told that anxiety is a tough customer. It can become a chronic pattern in the nervous system.  There are some things like deep breathing and cognitive structuring you can try on your own.  If anxiety comes back, why not ask for help?

Working one-on-one with a therapist affords you a time and space to get in touch with the courage inside you.  It also helps you be more compassionate with yourself…anxiety is there for a reason.  Over time, with anxiety treatment, you can create new patterns. This means less avoidance and yes, less anxiety!

If you would like skilled, professional support managing your anxiety, please click here   or a free 30-minute consultation to learn about how I can be of service.

To find out more about the services I offer click here: Kate Kendrick Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling


Kate Kendrick, MA, is a holistic psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Longmont and Boulder, CO.  She specializes in relationship counseling, couples therapy and anxiety treatment.  Kate has training in Applied Existential Psychotherapy, Nonviolent Communication, Focusing-oriented therapy, Somatic Therapies and Gestalt.  To find out more about Kate and the services she offers, visit her website at