Social interactions can be an important part of an individual’s life. Even the simple act of talking with a friend, parent, or other loved one can provide a much-needed mental health break.
However, not every conversation has a positive outcome, which can leave anyone mentally exhausted. Others may try to entirely avoid situations that they think may end badly.
This type of behavior is known as avoidant coping behavior. Often referred to as a key component of depression, people experiencing depression may avoid uncomfortable situations to potentially save themselves from experiencing mental anguish, but they also end up avoiding positive interactions.
People can find ways around their avoidant coping behaviors by engaging in fun hobbies, such as playing engrossing games so that they can better their mood enough to speak to others.
Another way to help either yourself or someone with avoidant coping behavior is to schedule online therapy sessions. Trained professionals use various techniques to address avoidant coping behavior, including the following four helpful techniques.
1. Identifying factors of avoidant coping behavior
The first technique a therapist could use in helping an individual with avoidant coping behavior is to start a conversation about factors in the patient’s life that may influence their withdrawal from society.
For example, someone might stop indulging in their hobbies because they lack the energy to continue. Some people may sleep in later so that they can avoid interacting with others early in the day.
Identifying factors in avoidant coping behavior is significant, as it can help you to create a goal, which the following therapy technique can help with.
SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely) is a goal-setting approach commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy.
Therapists use SMART to help you create a clear picture concerning your goals and the necessary steps to make your goal into reality. The acronym stands for:
When creating a goal, choose a concrete and specific task with a greater chance of being accomplished, as opposed to a vague goal. For example, instead of choosing “I want to write more,” specify your goal, such as “I want to spend 10 minutes writing in my journal every day.”
When crafting a goal, make sure that you specify its criteria. If you want to exercise daily, ask yourself “How long do I want to exercise each day?” to get started on reaching your goal.
Most importantly, ensure that your goals are realistic and attainable. You do not have to go above and beyond to make a positive change in your life. Even something as simple as eating one fruit per day can go a long way in improving your mental well-being.
Is your goal something you can achieve given your skills, free time, and desire? There’s no need to set a goal that involves you writing a novel every day; start with a simple task, such as crafting at least one sentence per day, to motivate yourself for bigger writing tasks in the future.
Lastly, create appropriate time frames for your goals. Your online therapist may want you to take your time when achieving any of your goals.
This strategy is not designed to complete your goals in the fastest time possible; the purpose of the strategy is to slowly become more accustomed to situations that you avoided previously.
3. Start a journal
Along with creating a goal through SMART, your online therapist could recommend that you starting writing in a journal about feeling uncomfortable in social situations.
Your therapist could ask you to keep the journal up to date while you set out on the SMART plan. Through this practice, you may identify more factors that lead to your avoidant coping behavior patterns.
Furthermore, you can come up with more ideas of how to reduce your temptation to withdraw from social situations. Perhaps during the next session, you can vouch for your new ideas, and your therapist may respond by incorporating them into the SMART plan.
Not everything will go your way; you may feel frustrated if you do not see the results of your online therapy sessions immediately. You may find yourself still withdrawing from various situations. Thus, a therapist may help you by defining the ACT way of thinking.
It is as follows:
- Accept any reaction you have about a thought or feeling and remain in the present moment.
- Choose one direction you can take in the present moment. Think of a direction that is different but potentially helpful for your growth going forward.
- Take action and accept the results that follow, whatever they may be.
Even if you choose to follow all of them, one of them, or think of another idea you can use in your therapy session, so long as you make one tiny step, then you are well on your way to overcoming avoidant coping behavior.