How to Stop Avoiding and Start Living : Coping Skills


Welcome back to the How to Stop Avoiding and Start Living series!

As you may recall, in Part 1 of the series we explored the basic idea behind experiential avoidance and how this can lead to a ‘worry cycle’ consisting of :

  1. Feeling anxious about a particular event/experience.
  2. Avoiding the event or experience in order to reduce anxiety.
  3. Life becomes more restricted or less fulfilling as a result of avoiding experiences/situations.
  4. Consequently, you feel worse and continue to feel anxiety in regards to that particular experience.

Naturally, being better able to face events which we perceive to be stress-inducing or anxiety-provoking can be a difficult task. And yet, the only apparent way to ‘get out’ of this worry cycle is to just that. BUT…

The Good News

Fortunately, there are various tools and techniques that can help us in facing our fears. Indeed, a great deal of the work I have done with my clients has centered around coping skills which can help you to be more resilient in the face of anxiety, engage in more meaningful experiences, and stop avoiding!

The following coping skills are particularly useful in reducing anxiety and sticking it out when times are tough.


“S.T.O.P.P.” Stands for:

Stop – Pause for a minute.

Take a Breath – Take a deep and try to focus all of your attention on your breath.

Observe – What thoughts are you currently having? What mental images are going through your mind? Emotions? Bodily sensations?

Pull Back – Are my thoughts true or exaggerations? Are my beliefs/perceptions about the situation fact or opinion? How important is this? How important will this be a year from now?

Practice What Works – What is the best, most rational thing for me to do right now?


“T.H.I.N.K” Stands for:

Ask yourself if your thought around the anxiety is:

True? – Is this thought fact or opinion?

Helpful? – Is this thought helping me in any way?

Inpsiring or Important? – Does this thought inspire me? Is it truly important? What IS important to me right now?

Neccesary? – Do I really need to dwell on or act on this thought? Now? Later? Ever?

Kind? – Is this thought kind toward myself? Others?


By “Breath”, I mean just that! Take 5-10 deep, slow breaths, and focus all of your attention on your breathing. This simple, brief practice can actually be quite effective all by itself.


Stay tuned for next week, where we will discuss the importance of goals and values and how to use F.A.C.E. to face our fears and escape the worry cycle!



How to Stop Avoiding and Start Living, Part 2: Coping Skills

Further ReadingHow to stop avoiding and start living coping skills


Give these coping skills a try and let us know if they were helpful in the comments!

James Voss, MA, LMHCA

James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

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