Avoidance or Self-Love? The Self-Care Dilemma

Your boy had some serious writer’s block this week. I legitimately could not come up with a topic for this week’s post. There were no major revelations. There were no areas of interest for yours truly. I channeled my inner Regis Philbin and asked the audience.

I put out a request for suggestions on my Instagram story (follow me @thecaringcounselor). I received some awesome suggestions, but one really caught my attention. It was so simple, but thought provoking. Where does one draw the line between avoidance and self-care?

Avoidance is an innate response to any negative stimulus. When our ancestors were confronted with predators, they did not stand there in an attempt to befriend them. They hauled ass out of there. Over the centuries, the predators have been replaced with much more threatening stimuli such as relationships, work, thoughts, and feelings. As a result, genetics kick in. We simply avoid, or at least give off the illusion of avoidance.  It is easiest to go with what we are familiar with rather than confront the stimulus.

Based on this idea, I am going to rephrase the question into how I interpreted it. When is it appropriate to avoid as a means of self-care? There are a few factors to take into consideration here.

Seriousness of the situation. There are situations that simply require your attention. A couple of punk teenagers ride their skateboards past you and almost hit you. It is probably better to brush it off and move on. Instead, they run over your foot and hear something crack followed up by pain, that probably cannot wait. If someone’s safety is at risk or it is time sensitive, it is likely something that needs to be addressed rather than put aside.

Thought put behind the decision. How much consideration did you really put into your decision to avoid said stimulus? An impulsive decision could be more along the lines of a natural response rather than a well thought out choice. One could save you a lot more headaches than the other.

Long-term effects. If you decide to put off whatever it may be, what are the long-term repercussions of your decision? If a coworker comes into work a bit grumpy because they are sick, by keeping your space from them likely will not harm the working relationship in the long run. However, if you keep avoiding your significant other because they “want to talk,” you may be prolonging the inevitable and even doing more damage by not confronting it.

Intent to eventually address it. Sometimes setting aside a specific time to come back to the situation is healthier than confronting it immediately. Some individuals hold everything in until they go to therapy because they see it as a “safe space.” If you are angry towards someone and cannot manage your feelings, it could be better to set aside a later time to talk about the issue once you have cooled down.

Planning steps to address it. Having it in the back of your mind to eventually come back around is one thing. Take it to the next level. When we leave a goal vague, we are less likely to follow through. If we know the specific actions surrounding our plan, then it will likely be carried out, and we will hold ourselves accountable.

Defining the purpose of your avoidance. Give yourself a reality check. What is the real reason you are staying away from IT? Whatever IT may be. More importantly, seriously weigh out the benefits of your avoidance. Maybe you need to recharge from burnout. Possibly you need time to regroup. These are perfectly valid reasons. However, you might not want to feel uncomfortable or have a tough conversation. These are not good reasons to avoid.

As someone who has been on both sides of the spectrum, I can safely say that avoidance can easily go from a healthy short-term coping skill to a problematic habit. It is definitely not a coping mechanism that should be utilized under the right circumstances and with cautious optimism. If you can though, try to avoid using avoidance.

-The Caring Counselor

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