In the UK, a staggering 37.1% of women and 29.9% of men report high levels of anxiety.[1] These are not just statistics; they’re a reflection of real issues where common anxieties escalate into intense phobias or irrational fears that seriously impact people’s everyday lives. Despite how prevalent anxiety is, there is still a significant gap in awareness and understanding, leaving many without the knowledge or tools to effectively manage their symptoms.

Through my experience working with those affected by anxiety, I’ve seen how the tendency to seek solace in avoidance or denial only makes the problem worse. Only by understanding these behaviours can we begin to develop a plan to manage and transform our relationship with anxiety. 

Below, we’ll examine some common symptoms and examine a process for managing anxiety in everyday life. 

Understanding Avoidance Behaviours

Avoidance behaviours are when we dodge situations or activities that cause us anxiety. 

For example, I once had a client who had a crippling fear of dogs. It was a phobia that stemmed from a childhood incident where he was bitten while out playing in the park. It came from nowhere, with no provocation, and despite him not being seriously injured, it left him terrified of encountering a similar situation. 

To avoid being near dogs, he would take longer routes to work, decline social invitations, and pass on outdoor gatherings of any kind. His failure to deal with this phobia gradually restricted every aspect of his life. Now, while this may appear to be a solution on some level, ultimately, he never truly felt safe—he just sometimes felt he was in less danger.

Overcoming Safety Behaviors

Safety behaviours act as a shield to protect us from our fears and anxieties. They’re often the small, inconsequential actions we undertake in a bid to deflect perceived threats. 

A common manifestation of this is the excessive use of hand sanitiser driven by germophobia. Though it provides a temporary feeling of safety, it inadvertently reinforces the fear it aims to protect us from, limiting our life experiences and interactions with the world around us.

The path to overcoming these safety behaviours lies in acknowledging and reshaping your thoughts. Each time you reach for that metaphorical shield—whether it’s a bottle of hand sanitiser or avoiding eye contact to escape social scrutiny—pause, take a breath, and think about what’s going on for you. In that moment, ask yourself, ‘What fear is driving this action?’

This process – known as cognitive restructuring – invites you to examine your fears rationally, question their validity, and change your response. By challenging these behaviours and the thoughts that fuel them, you start the journey of taking back control. 

Minimisation, Denial, and Mindfulness

Minimisation and denial serve as mental barriers against acknowledging issues that create discomfort or fear. This defensive mechanism can manifest in various ways, such as downplaying a fear of public speaking by convincing ourselves it’s not a big deal. However, this denial only heightens anxiety levels when faced with the actual situation, thereby hindering performance and personal growth.

One way to break this cycle of avoidance is through the practice of mindfulness and acceptance. Mindfulness encourages us to be fully present and engage with our surroundings through our senses. This practice grounds us and allows us to observe our thoughts and emotions from a place of non-judgement.

In essence, embracing mindfulness involves recognising our tendencies to minimise or deny our feelings and consciously choosing to look at them with openness and compassion. As we do this, how we interact with our anxiety changes, allowing us to search for different solutions to what is troubling us.

Introducing Tapping

In conjunction with traditional therapy methods, tapping techniques like the emotional freedom technique (EFT), thought field therapy and meridian tapping offer unique ways to tackle anxiety. These methods involve gently tapping specific points on your body while focusing on the feelings that are causing you distress.

Why Tapping Works

The efficacy of tapping is a subject of various theories. Initially, its creators drew parallels with Eastern medicine’s meridians, akin to acupuncture’s principles. Others see similarities with bilateral stimulation, reminiscent of certain eye movement therapies. Despite differing opinions on its mechanisms, the consensus on tapping’s effectiveness is strong, and its success is supported by a lot of research. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Tapping Away Phobias

Begin by focusing on what is causing your anxiety, assessing it and assigning a number to the intensity, where 0 signifies no fear and 10 is unbearable. From this point, while concentrating on the anxious feelings, you tap on the following points:

Tapping Points:

  • Eyebrow: Find the spot just beside the bridge of your nose at the start of your eyebrow and tap.
  • Side of the Eye: Tap the bone at the outer corner of each eye.
  • Under the Eye: Tap just below the bone under each eye.
  • Under the Nose: Tap the area between the bottom of your nose and your upper lip.
  • Chin: Tap the midpoint between the bottom of your lower lip and the tip of your chin.
  • Collarbone: Locate the area where your sternum, collarbone, and the first rib meet and tap.
  • Under the Arm: About 4 inches below your armpit, tap on your side.
  • Hand: With two fingers, tap on the side of your other hand, similar to a karate chop.
  • Fingers: Gently tap each finger near the nail.
  • Top of the Head: Using your fingers, tap gently across the top of your head.

Typically, the emotional charge of the anxious feelings decreases as you progress through the exercise. You might find your thoughts drifting to related issues or memories, indicating significant areas for further tapping. Continue with the process until you feel more in control, and after the final tap, take a deep breath, and shake off any residual feelings. 

Professional Support 

Managing anxiety is an ongoing process. With consistent effort and by taking the time to understand what drives your feelings, you embark on a meaningful journey toward regaining control of your mental health.

In addition to self-help techniques, seeking expert guidance from a therapist or counsellor can help you understand what is driving your anxiety with support tailored to your personal challenges and specific needs.

Remember, the path to improvement isn’t always linear. There will be moments of success and times of challenge; so take time to acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small, and be kind to yourself during more difficult periods, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. 




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