Recently, I was talking with someone about their panic attacks. We came across this article where Julia Martin Burch, Ph.D., a psychologist at the McLean Anxiety Mastery Program and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, says:
It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the most effective ways to react in the midst of a panic attack is to ride it out instead of resisting it.
The article continues, stating that if you are in a situation where a panic attack arises and you leave, this becomes known as a “safety behaviour.” But this can be a bad thing, becoming:
a strategy you employ to avoid a feared situation, which can get in the way of dealing with panic attacks long-term.”
The danger of doing this, says Randi E. McCabe, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Treatment & Research Clinic at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, is that:
This reinforces the idea that when you leave, you feel better, and then you may start to avoid situations where you’ve had panic attacks in the past.
This danger of avoidance has been on my mind as I restart my writing habit.
For the past few months, I’ve been struggling.
When it comes to writing for Counios and Gane, the work comes easy. But on my own website, I’m quickly blocked by perfectionism, second-guessing, and fear. And although I didn’t realize it at first, this reaction seems to manifest itself in a very physical way.
The moment I hit a roadblock, I react. My head starts to pound and I immediately want a nap. Instead of powering through it, I accept it and lay down on the couch for a sleep. Unfortunately, the writing never gets done.
My fear is that I’ve built this avoidance into a habit. Sure, I feel better—who doesn’t love a good nap—but I’m not getting the work done.
Perhaps what I really need to do is to ride out the feeling and keep writing. Sure, it might be shit, but maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the real focus is practicing the writing habit and working through the desire to quit.
For example, I spent a lot of time grinding away at this blog post, and a lot of bad versions—worse than this one—were written and discarded beforehand. To do this, I set a time limit (Wednesday midnight) to upload something—no matter what. Another strategy could also be a set word count that must be achieved on a regular basis (ideally daily).
So that’s the strategy that I’ve been using to get back to the habit and practice of writing.
How about you? Do you ever find yourself exhibiting “safety behaviour” that keeps you from writing? If so, how did you get through it?
I’m interested in hearing from you.