The Benefits of Non-Avoidant Coping Diary

This is a followup for people who have already done the Costs of Avoidance worksheet, and Avoidance and Suffering Diary, as outlined in the previous post here. If you’re a newer reader, you can easily go read that material and come back to this post. Make sure you click through to the pdf links in that post and read the suggested pages. Its only a short read, but you’ll need the background info.

DIY Experiment

Rather than focusing on the negative, this time lets focus on the positive.

For a week, try keeping a diary of each instance of non-avoidant coping that you do. Note that I don’t just mean overcoming procrastination.

The goal is to record each time you do a behaviour that is personally meaningful to you (consistent with your valued life directions, your valued directions for yourself and relationships), despite that enacting the behaviour stirs difficult thoughts, emotions, memories or physical sensations for you.

You can use the following columns.

1. Time, date, and location.

2. What you did.

3. What painful thoughts, emotions, memories, or sensations got stirred? Be as specific as you can.

4. What were the benefits to you in terms of health, vitality, relationship issues, getting unstuck, decreasing pain, time/money/energy, increased confidence etc?

There will be times when your non-avoidant coping fizzes and doesn’t seem to produce benefits. That’s cool – you at least found out that you could do it. You won’t have a 100% hit rate, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the behaviour again or try it again a slightly different way.

5. Any additional notes you want to make.

Fill out your diary at the end of each day.

What types of things to record?

These are just a few examples.

– Times when you did your “most important task of the day” rather than getting distracted from that

– Times where you took care of yourself even when that felt effortful.

– Times when you communicated clearly even though you felt awkward.

– Times when you asked a question even though you felt awkward or anxious.

– Times when you did something in a moderate way that you would usually do in an all or nothing way.

– Times when you stuck with what you think is the right path for you even though a voice in your head was pulling you back towards old patterns (e.g. you did an alternative coping activity rather than binge eating)

– Times when you did something to improve closeness with an important person in your life, despite anxiety, lingering anger, or shame.


Times when you didn’t wait for the other person to make the first move.

Times when you didn’t wait for your emotions/thoughts to change before taking action. For example, instead of waiting until you no longer feel angry, you acted to improve closeness. Action is often necessary to change thoughts and feelings, rather than passive waiting for your thoughts and feelings to change. For example, you instigated some romance with your partner even if you have fallen out of the habit.

– Times when you sought feedback even when you were anxious that it might be negative.

– Times when you did “top of the cliff” problem solving.

– Times when you broke an overwhelming task into smaller, more achievable chunks, and did one of the chunks.

– Times when you did a task in a reasonable way, rather than an excessively perfectionist way.

– Times when you took responsibility and got started on something you need to do but have been avoiding.

– Times when you changed your self talk. Try talking to yourself the way you’d talk to your child if they were having the same problem as you i.e. gentle and loving, but not permissive of unhealthy coping. For example, “you feel overwhelmed right now, but once you get started you’ll feel better.”

– Times when you acted “As if” you felt appropriately self confident, even if you don’t feel it yet. Again, knowing the principle that action is usually necessary to change thoughts and feelings.

– Times when you ticked something off your to do list to get yourself out of a mood funk, rather than waiting for your energy/motivation to increase before acting.

– Times when you took responsibility for basic self care. For example, you took breaks during the day, you didn’t work through lunch, you went outside to get some sunlight at morning tea or lunch, you left work on time, you did a pleasure activity (e.g. watched a favorite TV show), you exercised, you ate a salad, you went to sleep early, you had a day away from your computer, you did 20 slow breaths to reduce your physical tension when you noticed yourself tensing, you invested in your relationships. The difficult thoughts stirred might be things like “this isn’t as important as the other stuff I have to do”.