Running away from problems, people and life: why we do it.

Everyone feels like running away from problems, people, and their life when it’s gotten to be too much to handle. We feel like running away from problems because stress & anxiety have overwhelmed us. What’s happening is that we’ve simply become too afraid to deal with the problems at all. 

 By M. Ward / June 22, 2019

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running away from problems

“Nothing is more harmful to a new truth than an old error”
John Wolfgang von Gothe

Why we want to run away from our problems.

As Edward A. Selby Ph.D. presents in his article, Avoidance of Anxiety as Self-Sabotage: How Running Away Can Bite You in the Behind in Psychology Source

“Although understanding the causes of your anxiety is important for overcoming it, the most important aspect is to focus on is how you respond to your fears. In fact, the ways that we respond to fear can often feed that fear and make it worse!”

Yes, that’s right, when we want to run or even ignore our problems, in one form or another, we are feeling caught or trapped. We are afraid of something.

We may think that running away from problems will allow us to leave all those problems behind.

But you know deep down that this is truly not the caseright?

We are actually in the grips of fearand as human beings, when we get scared or cornered, we feel like running away.

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Now, let’s dig into our fears a little deeper.

  • We’re afraid of actually dealing with the problems head-on.
  • We’re afraid of the outcome that confronting a problem might mean.
  • We’re afraid of losing something we think we need or want.

This last point is critical. If the problem or problems get resolved, and you were no longer concerned about them, would you want to run? Probably not.

Probably not.

So, the main issue with problems is finding or creating a solution to them.

However, most of the time, we are afraid of going through what it would take to solve the problem.

Generally speaking, faced with the fear of loss. Loss of a job, a relationship or friendship, etc. etc.

When we get to a point like this in life, we can become incapable of dealing with our problems in an appropriately thoughtful and mature way, so we feel like simply running away.

This avoidance is self-sabotage. Think about it, have you ever walked away from an important goal because it was just too hard to face your fears? I know I have. Edward A. Selby Ph.D. Source

Now it’s important to note here that running away doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a bus, plane, or in our car and heading out of town and not looking back.

It may just mean running, leaving, or ignoring a problematic situation instead of dealing with whatever the problem or actual fear is.

Example: Separating from your spouse or partner or quitting your job. These are stressful and very frightening moves to make in life.

Whether it’s running away from a job, a home, a city or a relationship, or just running away from the whole mess we’ve found ourselves caught up in.

We want out, and running away seems like it may be the only thing we can do.

The underlying reason that we feel like running away from problems, people, places, and life is that the stress and anxiety of the situation have gotten too intense. 

Our minds (our mental state) and our bodies (our hormones) make us think and feel like we need to run.

What’s happening, because we are freaking out inside, is that our natural internal human response system is kicking in big time, commonly known as the fight or flight response.

Perhaps this would be just fine when confronted with a stranger on a dark alley, but not so good when the bills start to pile up, the kids are driving us nuts, the boss is putting to much pressure on us and your partner in life is staying out all night.

It’s all happening at the same time, this is no way to live and we just want out. Who could blame us for wanting to run away, right?

More factual details on this fight or flight response syndrome later.

You are not alone.

When we find ourselves in a situation like this, we all want to try to run.

And avoid that which seemingly has us totally cornered. You see, you are not alone. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

However, in reality, what is happening to us is that we are just afraid. 

We’re too scared to confront the actual problems we’re faced with, and we can’t or don’t want to deal with it.

Unfortunately, this can lead a person to think that running away seems like a great idea, but it isn’t.

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Why we shouldn’t run away from problems.

The truth is, and we all know this deep down in our hearts and minds, that really, we can’t run away from anything.

We can’t run from the police, the wrong relationship, the parents, the coworker or boss we dislike, the job we hate, the bills we have, and so on and so on.

No matter where we might try to run or hide, our problems are still going to be right there with us. They will follow us.

Until we deal with the internal catalyst, the fuel that creates this behavioral pattern, things will never change.

Every problem we create will catch up to us, no matter where we go. And, we will keep repeating the same problems again and again until we actively decide to fix it.

Running away will not solve these problems, it will undoubtedly make them worse, and hiding and running all the time is no way to live.

If you’re currently thinking about skipping town because of the disaster that you’ve made of your life, don’t.

Stop and take a breath.

Everyone needs to take full responsibility for their lives and learn to deal with the problems that they create for themselves in a responsible and adult manner.

It’s better to do it sooner rather than later. Now is an excellent time to start.

When we learn to deal with problems as they arise, responsibly, and as quickly as we can, we’ll keep them from getting out of hand and we won’t get to the point that we will feel like running away.

When you can work through each of the scary parts of each of your problems, it will allow you to clear your head and then make a mature, rational and thoughtful decision about moving to Mexico or wherever it is that you think you might be able to hide out or start over.

Just to be on the safe side…

YES, if you feel like you are going to be physically harmed in some way or there is any hostile and dangerous situation that you’re caught up in, and you think you can safely get away, then by all means RUN

Then call the police. Now if it is the police,  just stop, listen, respond truthfully and do what they tell you to do.  Right? OK? Moving on… 

running away brain

What’s actually happening to us.

The mental stress and anxiety coupled with the body’s physiological response to that stress are what make us feel like running.

Over time, we’re actually melting down or reaching our boiling point from all the fatigue created by the stress and anxiety.

The vast majority of people have never really learned to control stress and anxiety very well, if at all, and as with most people it builds on itself instead of dissipating.

When someone gets to the point of feeling like running away, several things are going on inside their body.

The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts mostly unconsciously, regulating bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal.

This internal system is the primary mechanism that is in control of the fight-or-flight response, also known as the sympathetic nervous system. The hormones that increase under stress and anxiety are

  •    Adrenalin

  •    Cortisol

  •    Aldosterone

These are the nervous system responses that we all experience when our internal fight or flight response kicks in.

It’s our adrenal glands and the cortisol and aldosterone that send us running from a scary person, an attacker, or that black bear we just ran into while we were casually eating our power bar while hiking out in the woods.

Modern life can throw a ton of stuff on top of us.

If we can’t learn to just say no to things we don’t really want or need, it’s all going to come to a head at some point.

This is when our stress hormones flood our systems and overwhelm us and we feel the need to run away.

It’s no wonder that so many people we know or have known suffer from chronic stress and anxiety.

We know this stress can cause significant health problems like cardiovascular disease and several different types of mental health issues.

Also, in his article “Avoidance of Anxiety as Self-Sabotage,” Edward A. Selby Ph.D. describes this:

“One of the most common experiences in life is feeling uneasy about a situation, and the most common reaction to anxiety is to avoid the situation. This avoidance is self-sabotage.”

Staying put and dealing with fixing the key issues and underlying causes of the problems that we’ve created that are making us contemplate running away is the only fix. Period.

When you Work through all of your problems and resolving all of the critical difficulties that are making you want to run away when you are really ready to leave town you’ll be starting your new life off with a clean slate.

That’s a much better way to go.

working out your problems

What we can do.

The first step to dealing with the problems in your life that are making you want to run is just to stop.

Get off the internal hamster wheel.

Take a breath, sit down relax, and start methodically write down one by one each of the significant issues you are dealing with that are making your mind and body freak out. 

You need to find a way to calm down. Pray, meditate, breathe, let it all go and then start to think clearly. 

Come up with some specific things that you think that you might be able to do to address them head-on, peacefully and thoughtfully.

I love this quote from some totally unknown author: “Confrontation needs to occur when it’s in my best interest, no matter what the outcome” Okay, well, it’s actually a quote from me. 🤓

I say this to myself when there is something or someone that I don’t want to talk to or there is a problem I don’t want to deal with.

It makes me stop, take a deep breathe and gain the courage to just talk to them or deal with it and get it out of the way and over with. BECAUSE I know that it will just be over and done with. 

In other words, if you can’t live with a situation that does not work for you, you need to fix the problem as soon as possible by confronting the situation head-on and dealing with the critical person or people that are involved.

Here is the key:

No matter what happens when you do whatever it is (peacefully) that you need to do, you must do whatever (without any verbal or physical harm to others) that is required to resolve the problem it will be the best thing for you.

When you remember this, you win and so does everyone else too.

Whether they stay or leave, or you decide to stay or go, or you or they decide to end a bad situation or relationship of any kind, it’s the best thing possible for everyone.

Because all of the stress and the anxiety will be over and done with. 

We’ve got a great post on how being alone and being happy can go hand in hand. 

Even if someone feels they’ve come out of the situation with the end result being more emotionally impacting for them than you, this is now just a problem and that have and that they need to learn from and not yours.

You can only hope that they can.

You were strong enough not to run away from the problem and make the change you needed to make.

In most cases, it’s a wonderful thing to just check back with someone that has been hurt in some way with some form of a relationship that you’ve been a party in.

There can be a tremendous amount of growth for everyone in allowing the past relationship to become something that is better and more healthy for everyone.

Some people will have a hard time with a separation or changes and it’s normal. That’s the very reason for this section of the post.

Not recognizing and excepting that someone that is unhappy isn’t someone that anyone can benefit from in a relationship or working environment for very long. The situation is most likely to get worse.

Everyone should want everyone to be as happy and healthy as possible in the end, right? If someone doesn’t want you to be satisfied and tries to keep you in a bad situation, then they should not be in your life.

Quite often, the result of facing or confronting the problem or situation head-on will be very different from the potential outcome that made us so afraid that we felt like running in the first place.

Quite often, everyone understands each other’s point of view, and everyone simply makes a bit of adjustment, and the problem is resolved. Life moves on and everyone can breathe and smile again.

Finally, everyone will have a chance to change the situation in some way that will enable all of you to live in peace and move forward. Most often, they can and will make a change to accommodate you. You are more important than you think. 

If they can’t, and it won’t work, it’s time for you to look for another job or another relationship, friend, lover, and just accept that that particular job or those people and relationships are obviously not what’s best for you and your life.

You have a life where you are, and there isn’t any job or any one person or group of people that is worth displacing or losing all the other terrific things you have in your life now that you can continue to enjoy by staying put right where you are.

Here are some of the best tools you can use to get a handle on your life, lower your stress and anxiety levels and create a happier, healthier, and more balanced, vibrant life.

  • Meditation
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Working with a therapist


We could write an entire article on meditation, so let’s just touch on it a bit here.

Meditation is a powerful tool that will help you slow down and find a better perspective.

It also provides real physical benefits, as slowing one’s breathing helps lower stress hormones.

You can learn more about meditation here in the calm mind, healthy body meditation guide.

This guide can show you how you can ease the stress and anxiety in your life.

This will allow you to more clearly see how to work through the problems and tough situations that you are confronted with.

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Cognitive therapy

When we get into the rut of avoidance, instead of dealing with our problems thoughtfully, some straightforward and safe yet groundbreaking cognitive therapy practices can be unbelievably effective.

The groundbreaking research in Cognitive Therapy (CT) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was pioneered by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s, while he was a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Having studied and practiced psychoanalysis, Dr. Beck designed and carried out several experiments to test psychoanalytic concepts of depression.

The best-selling book by David D. Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, is a great go-to book to maintain a happy mental balance.

There are many great exercises in the book that will be easy to do and easy to grasp.

Here is an excerpt from a general question that Dr. Burns answers in his book that really helps to understand cognitive therapy:

Question: “Doesn’t cognitive therapy just lead to intellectual change without changing how a person really feels on a gut level?”

Answer: “No. The purpose of cognitive therapy is to transform your emotions and your perceptions of yourself and your life. Providing rationalizations or intellectual excuses for things is not a part of cognitive therapy. The purpose of the treatment is to develop profound feelings of joy and happiness.”

You may also learn more about cognitive therapy if you decide to see a therapist to help you get a little more perspective on why your life is at a point where you are feeling like running away from your problems in one way or another.

Hiring a Therapist

Getting help and working with a therapist is always a good idea.

There is absolutely no negative stigma that will be tied to you at any point if you decide to go talk to a therapist when you feel like things are spinning out of control.

If there is any stigma, it’s most likely in your own mind and a great first topic for you and your new therapist to discuss.

Here are some resources for finding a good Therapist:

The first thing you can do is look in your local yellow pages or online for a Therapist in your area. The second thing you can do is ask friends or family for suggestions on who to see.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 


Running away from your problems is never the right answer.

Dealing with those difficult circumstances in our lives head-on is always the best answer to seemingly overwhelming stress, anxiety and the fear that would make us contemplate running away from our as well ignoring problems.

There are many good reasons that we can find to stay put and just work through any issues we might be facing.

Gratitude is not a topic we directly covered in this post, but it is part of the internal dialog that we need to have when we’re trying to work through a tough time or tough situation.

When we consider all those beautiful things we will have to leave behind if we run away, we can find the strength to stay and face our problems or our fears instead of running away.

We often touch upon the gratitude we have for the good things in our lives without actually really appreciating them.

Writing down a list of things we are grateful for is something we should or could probably do every day. 

So when you feel like running away from what seems like overwhelming problems, stop, look inside your heart and your soul.

Decide what it is that you need, and then confront the problem and your fear head-on.

Make an appointment to talk the situation over with those involved, and make known the things that you need to have in place to move forward.

Do this in an appropriate, thoughtful, and peaceful way to make the necessary changes so that you get those things you need in place no matter the outcome.

Remember, no matter what the result is when you confront and communicate your needs in any situation if you stay or go or they stay or go, it will be to your advantage to get it resolved and put to rest.

Better things await you right where you are without the need to run away.

The grass, as they say, is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

A good thing to do before any meeting that is going to be stressful for you and others is to hope and pray that everyone involved will come out of the meeting happier and more at peace when it’s all said and done.

Make the changes that are needed. You can do it!

Find peace…relax as this too shall pass.