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Avoiding Safety Behaviors: Learning to Manage our Fears

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Avoiding safety behaviors sounds like a bad idea, right? At 1st blush we might think “Why would I avoid being safe?” but Safety Behaviors refers to a group of self-protective defense mechanisms that we engage when we are scared. If we are always running from the things that scare us, unless it’s a wild bear chasing after us, we never get to learn how to SAFELY confront or resolve our fears. The most common safety behaviors include:

Procrastination: When we are scared of having to get through something important, we have a tendency to wait until the last minute to prepare, making us even more scared when it's time to execute.

Overpreparation: When the anticipatory anxiety prior to your event is so intense, you over do your prep work leading to exhaustion after the feared event is over.

Reassurance Seeking: When you seek medical attention for concerning symptoms and are not happy with your physician’s response so you go for 2nd or even 3rd opinions or get expensive diagnostic testing, meanwhile fueling the fear by jumping around from doctor to doctor instead of trying to understand the diagnosis and working with it.

Overchecking: Persistently reviewing the same thing over again (i.e oven temperature, find my friend location app, blood pressure) which only fuels the anxiety.

Perfectionism: Over Controlling situations to appease your fears and ending up under performing in many instances because you are so over stressed in your execution.

Over dependence: While having an identified support person or network is an excellent tool, if we get accustomed to facing situations we fear (i.e. difficult conversations, doctor’s appointments, riding an elevator) only in the company of our support person/people, we never learn to de-escalate the discomfort of facing our fears alone.

We all engage in safety behaviors at one point or another. To reduce our reliance on these unhelpful behaviors, we should consider the following 3 guidelines:

  1. Notice that you are engaging in a Safety Behavior.

  2. Accept the fearful situation so you can begin working on overcoming it.

  3. Develop your own coping strategies based on your needs.

Join us for our #EMPOWEREDSPOONIES talk on this subject!

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