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Distractions - Helpful or Avoidant?


When most people experience negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or sadness, the immediate, natural response is often to avoid these feelings. This is referred to as experiential avoidance, where you disengage from being in touch with that particular experience. You would subsequently take steps to avoid these specific sensations, suppression is one way of trying to achieve this avoidance. Although experiential avoidance may work in the short term, it will not work in the long term. Research has shown that experiential avoidance is linked to a great diversity of negative outcomes. In the reverse, adaptive avoidance serves as a temporary distraction from your pain characterized by an accepting stance towards painful emotions. You accept these emotions but avoid being completely overwhelmed by them. In short, healthy distractions are about finding a balance between facing unpleasant emotions and getting some reprieve from the pain. Adaptive avoidance often involves reconnecting with others and engaging in activities that focus on your well-being. In the context of traumatic life events, adaptive coping behaviors are more likely to lead to productive and healthy psychosocial and physical outcomes. Ultimately has a positive impact on your mental health.

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