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Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH


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Can You Escape in Time?

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 5:10 PM


Picture this: You are locked in a room with no windows and can't get out until you solve a series of challenging clues, riddles, or simple math problems. If you are starting to get very anxious by this imagery, then going to an escape room might be a good exposure for you.



When we are anxious, our natural fight or flight reaction kicks in gear. As we have learned before, this response changes our physiological experience. We may experience shallow breathing, faster heart rate, sweaty palms, or tingling in our arms or legs. Because these sensations are uncomfortable or just plain scary, we tend to avoid situations that trigger our anxiety. While this seems like a great idea since the feelings seems to go away or dissipate and we feel better. However, this is only a short-term temporary fix. The next time we are faced with the situation or something similar, we are likely to feel the same level or even increased anxiety. Then we avoid, feel better, then worse again. The cycle continues.



Once we assess the true danger of a situation, we can work towards no longer avoiding situations that trigger anxiety when they are in fact safe.



Recently, I was locked in that room I described earlier as part of an escape room game. We had 1 hour to complete a series of puzzles, challenges, and questions in order to get the keys to be let out of the room. The puzzles were harder than I expected. We didn’t get out in time! Does that mean I am writing this now in the corner of that very room since I have been trapped there for several weeks? No. We were not truly trapped. Once the hour was up, an employee came in and explained the remaining answers to us and let us go.



This experience, while anxiety provoking, is a fun way of exposing us to a fear and worry. There are many types and levels of rooms and challenges. The themes vary too- from light and fun (we did one where you are stuck in a bakery) to scary (themes from horror movies).



If you worry about being in closed spaces, consider an escape room exposure. Grab some friends, challenge yourself, and have some fun! I suspect that you will grow and you will be able to cope with being "trapped." Remember, we are rarely every truly trapped in any situation. Anxiety can make us feel that way. Let's test anxiety and see if it is telling the truth or not. Good luck!

Categories: anxiety

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5 Comments

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4:02 AM on August 30, 2018