One level higher than distraction for coping with stress is AVOIDANCE. As one 14 year old said, “when I don’t want to do something, I go online.” That is probably true for a number of adults too. We can get lost in the online world and even have an excuse saying we are doing research or something else.
When it comes to the higher level of avoidance, procrastination is very high on the list of common ways of putting off something that we do not want to face. Using procrastination on projects, studying or deadlines may be a sign of not wanting to deal with real problems or emotions, and we may find ourselves living with high levels of high anxiety.
Some use sickness as an avoidance strategy. In the USA over 160,000 students miss school, many times using sickness as the excuse to avoid bullies at school. It is not that the illness, stomachache, headache, muscle pain or a whole slew of sympton’s are not real – but the root cause may be stress about something deeper that needs to be dealt with that we are avoiding.
Others use sleep as a way of avoiding stressful situations and challenges. There is no doubt that when we are rested we can do a better job of facing our work, but if we are spending over 12 hours in bed or not leaving our bed on the weekend, it could be a sign of avoiding something. One thing for sure is that sleep will not solve deeper challenges.
But here is the surprise avoidance tactic of all, being super involved and overachieving to overcome negative feelings. Staying busy with many clubs, sporting activities and high end class course work may be a sign of trying to prove to yourself and others that you are good enough. Trying to keep it all together to prove to our else and others that everything is good, can be so difficult and stressful on us that without even noticing things continue to get worse for us.
Avoidance many times leads to seclusion, with your own negative thoughts, that can lead to feeling hopeless and depressed. Feelings like this may lead to the highest level of non-coping, escape. We will talk about the dangers of that in our next article.