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What's your first instinct when facing a problem?
If you're like me, your first thought is to run… or avoid it at all costs. And while that's a natural response, it's not always the best response.
In fact, dealing with problems makes you a stronger version of yourself. I promise.
So, in this article, I’ll offer 7 steps you can take to stop running from problems and better face and work through stressful situations.
But first, let’s take a look at why people ignore problems in the first place.
Why Do People Run Away from Problems?
People run away from problems because of fear. That’s a fact.
When facing difficulty, your natural instincts kick in, and you instinctually want to protect yourself. We all have the fight-or-flight instinct built into us.
Along with fear, when a problem arises, you may also feel stress and anxiety. Moreover, feelings of hopelessness, despair, or confusion may lurk in the back of your brain, too.
While you may want to protect yourself from these feelings by distancing yourself from the situation, it can actually be harmful for you.
The Consequences of Running Away from Problems
There are quite a few consequences associated with avoidance. Here are just a few:
Additionally, a study concluded that avoiding emotions increases the risk for cancer.
Now, everyone is an individual and addresses issues differently… but these consequences are most common among distinct personality types, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Even narcissists have issues confronting problems head on.
The Benefits of Facing Your Problems
The good news is that the benefits of facing your problems are just as common as the side effects of not doing so.
When you work through your problems, you:
How to Stop Running Away from Your Difficult Problems
It’s no mystery that facing your problems is better for you than running away from them.
So, how do you stop running away?
Here are 7 steps you can take to end the vicious cycle of avoidance once and for all.
1. Stop and Think
Stop and think about the situation instead of reacting, and possibly over-reacting to it. In other words, don't give in to the fight-or-flight instinct. Think about what's going on.
While you're thinking, figure out:
In short, take time to reflect on what's happening around you… how you got to that place and how you feel about what's happening.
While you're reflecting, two things happen:
This allows you to think more clearly about the situation. Also, it helps to lower the amount of stress you feel, which decreases the fight-or-flight response. Then, you're more physically and mentally prepared to deal with your problem.
So, take a deep breath, calm down, and reflect the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation.
2. Recognize that Escape Is a Short-Term Fix
Escaping a problem may look like a solution, but the problem will catch up to you. Also, avoidance may make the problem bigger.
For example, if you find yourself struggling with a large amount of debt, ignoring the debt collectors won't provide you with a solution. Actually, it's avoiding the inevitable. Plus, it's probably going to make your debt bigger through interest and late fees.
In reality, escape isn't a solution. In fact, it's avoiding a solution.
In order to stop running away from problems, you need to recognize your avoidance behavior.
Avoidance behaviors are things you do to escape from your problem. Things like:
As you can see from these examples, escapism creates more problems than solutions because they affect you physically, mentally and socially.
The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you will be able to address your problem.
3. Embrace the Negative
Negative feelings are going to happen. It's a part of life. Avoiding negative feelings only prolongs the inevitable.
Living beings grow… and growth hurts. But you have a choice to either grow from your experiences or allow them to set you back.
By recognizing negative feelings as they happen and processing them, you grow from the experience. As a result, you become a better version of yourself. You will have created positive change in your life.
To stop running, you're going to have to change. Change takes work… but it's worth the effort.
Not only will you have handled a problem and removed it, you will have learned better coping skills. Moving forward, you'll have a new skill set you can use on the next problem.
4. Find a Solution
Before you can act, you need an action plan. You need to do some research into what you actually need to do to fix your problem.
Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Find out how others faced the same situation and learn from them. Then, make a plan that works for you based off what you've learned.
Break up your plan into smaller chunks.
One of the reasons you want to run away is because your problem seems so massive. By breaking your plan into smaller steps, you're not facing a mountain. Instead, you're tackling a molehill.
Also, be sure to set goals for yourself. Make short-term and long-term goals to help guide you through your action plan.
Make your goals SMART goals. Make them:
What does a SMART goal look like?
Let's use the debt problem as an example. A SMART goal would be: to pay off a $1200 bill in 6 months by paying $200 a month toward the bill.
Setting a goal helps you stay focused on the solution, instead of the problem. Plus, you can celebrate small wins to encourage you to keep working at it.
5. Use Support
Solving a problem alone only reinforces the temptation to run. You don't have to feel like it's you alone against the world. Others are available to help you if you know where to look.
It's tempting to stay quiet about your problems. Feelings of guilt or shame will make you not want to reach out for help.
So it’s important to remember that problems are universal. Everyone struggles at some point in life.
You're not alone.
If you feel like you can't trust someone close to you, there are people online willing to listen.
Find someone you can trust. Talk to someone who has been through what you're going through. Maybe they have some sound advice to give you. Or, they can just listen and provide encouragement.
Lean on your personal cheering section. Surround yourself with positive feedback.
6. Remove Negative Influences
To implement a solution, you will need to control who you allow to speak into your life. As stated earlier, you need positive reinforcement from others.
Unfortunately, you might have some negative voices surrounding you. There might be people in your life that aren't good for you.
These people may be leading you in the wrong direction. Additionally, they may actually encourage you to run.
To stay and fight, you need to remove these negative influences. If someone is saying things that negatively influence you, they're really not a friend.
Sometimes, fixing a problem means removing negative influences from your life. As you grow into a more positive person, you will outgrow negative people in your life. As a result, you will grow apart from these types of people.
7. Stick to the Plan
In the midst of your struggle, you may be tempted to give up. Don't. Stick to the plan and increase your efforts and your support from others.
When feeling discouraged, lean in even more on your support network. Schedule a cheering session. Let them remind you of the progress they see.
Sometimes, you need to see your situation from a different perspective.
Fill your mind with positive thoughts:
Also, take time to pause and refocus. It's not running away. It's preparing yourself mentally for increasing your efforts. When you're inclined to quit, do the opposite. Increase your efforts.
Remind yourself of why you are working so hard. It's a process, and it's going to take time. Be patient and follow your plan.
Taking these steps will ensure that you stay consistent in your efforts toward your goal of solving your problem.
Final Thoughts on Running Away from Your Problems
Whenever you're tempted to run away, work your way through this list step-by-step.
Remember, avoidance isn't a solution. It's delaying a solution.
Facing your problem head on will increase your self-confidence as you grow into a more positive person.
It takes time and effort to stop running away from problems… but you’ll get there.
For more information to help you better prepare to act and solve your problems, be sure to check out this article on 4 Steps to Overcome the Freeze Response.
Finally, if you want to increase your happiness and life satisfaction, then watch this free video that details the 7-minute habit for planning your day to focus on what's important.