Do fear and anxiety keep you from bravely facing the inescapable situations and people? Then these proven tips will help you overcome that jarring pattern of your response.
What Is A Fear Response
The feeling of fear is well known by everyone. Fear has an adaptive function and it has helped our ancestors survive and stay safe. If you are fearful, it might be a signal your brain and body are trying to send you about a lurking danger.
A fear response asks you to prepare for confrontation (fight) or escape (flight) from the danger.
However, even when your fear response is helpful in most situations, it can also be irrational.
You might fear to speak in public, go to a party, or make a phone reservation. Any of these can make you agitated and anxious.
We need to understand our negative emotions have a purpose, and are good, not bad. It’s a disservice to human potential to stigmatize negative emotions and encourage us to avoid them.
Taking away from yourself the chance to feel those negative emotions might be worse than to experience them. You avoid them now, but they will come back later stronger than ever.
Fear and anxiety are two of the universally experienced negative emotions. Everyone has their fears and anxieties, even though some might overlap.
But when they are intense or frequent, one must check with an expert if it’s a clinical problem that needs special help.
Are Fear And Anxiety Different
Even though they might seem kind of the same, but they are different.
Fear is a reaction triggered by a specific stimulus which is a clear and present danger.
For example, while you are hiking through the woods, you might encounter a wild bison. What you feel in this situation is fear. The bison, which represents a danger, is here, now and in front of you. And it has huge size, ferocity, and horns.
The fear will trigger a release of adrenaline in your body and a fight-or-flight response.
Anxiety, is a different type of fear. It is not triggered by immediate and observable danger, but by a hypothetical one. Anxiety is best represented by a series of What if… questions.
Let’s continue the example above. When you plan your hiking trip, you might see yourself drawn back by questions as:
- What if I won’t be able to finish the hiking trail?
- What if I encounter a wild bison?
- What if I fall off a high cliff?
While taking more precautions is one way to address some of those fears, still a few may stay on the back of your mind. And they will prevent you from enjoying your trip.
They will urge your brain to overwork on possible solutions for future dangers.
So, fear is some kind of anxiety attached to an immediate and observable danger. They can prevent you from enjoying your life and appreciating the little moments of joy in your life.
In some cases, they become so intense that they transform into a phobia. And that then has an abnormal and harmful effect on your quality of life.
How To Face Your Fears Head On
But fear and anxiety, if not of too intense, can be easy to control and handle by almost everyone.
Here are some tips that will help face your fears and start living:
1. Accept Your Fears
The people in our society mostly share their positive stories. And this might trick you into believing everyone has a happy life.
You might go on thinking their lives are without stress, anxieties, and fears. But this would be plain wrong.
Negative experiences, as well as failures and fears, are part of everyone’s life. They help you keep moving and teach you a lot of lessons. Even though people around you might tell you to always try to avoid failures and fears, this is wrong advice.
Acknowledge and accept your fears.
Keep in mind every person on this earth has fears about something.
Are you afraid of changing your job? Are you afraid of being in a romantic relationship because you might end up disappointed? Are you afraid to go on a hike to unknown lands?
You might be afraid of other situations as well, but the best thing you can do is to accept your fears and anxieties.
Unaware, you keep avoiding the situations that make those fears and anxieties surface. This means they prevent you from living your life at its fullest and enjoying every moment of it.
2. Face Your Fears
Your fears make you avoid situations and stimuli that might act as a trigger.
You might avoid traveling because you fear something wrong might happen. You might avoid proposing a toast at your best friend’s wedding because you fear to speak in public.
You might avoid doing a presentation at work that might get you a bonus for the same reason.
While fear can have an adaptive function, as we laid out, it can prevent you from being happy too. After you become more aware of your fears, especially the stimuli that trigger them, your way of coping with them becomes easier.
Bit by bit, you begin to shift from running away from those stimuli to stepping up to them. Even though you might feel your fear is too strong and you can’t overcome it, you usually can. You need to have more faith in yourself.
Propose that toast, do that presentation, and take the risks.
Fear can prevent you from developing yourself and improving your life. Allow yourself to learn from your fears and anxieties and to be proud of yourself. Little by little, you will improve your life quality, and make your life happier.
Keep in mind. if your fear is too intense and frequent and you cannot overcome it, you might need specialized help. And seeing a therapist might help you change your perspective and find new ways of coping.
3. Learn To Relax
The process of becoming aware of what triggers your fears might be challenging, yet not impossible.
As you expose yourself to those stimuli and situations, you might feel at first how your fears and anxieties are crushing you. One useful way out of that overwhelming feeling is learning to relax.
Science has shown relaxation is an efficient way to cope with anxiety. The thing is, when you are fearful and anxious, your brain is alert. Your alert brain tends to fixate on clues in the environment that could make the situation worse.
The authors of this study concluded:
Results indicate that relaxation training is effective in reducing anxiety in any kind of participants, male or female, young of old, affected or not by physical or psychological disorders.
In conclusion, relaxation training proved to be a valid treatment option for many anxiety-related disorders and thus should be suggested to all people with anxiety-related complaints.
Learning to relax is a process that takes time. Some techniques can help you become more aware of your thoughts, as mindfulness meditation. Here’s out easy-to-grasp, printable, post on Mindfulness In 7 Steps.
Mindfulness or guided meditation can help you overcome your anxieties and fears.
Meditation, remember, needs consistent practice to have effects on your mind and behavior. You can find online lots of guided meditation courses and videos to start with.
The same goes for prayer. When you pray, you organize your internal concerns and put them in order. This makes it easier to comprehend them. Plus you have a conviction now that some greater force above is now also aware of your problems.
These techniques help you stabilize your thoughts and meet your fears in a more positive way.
Besides meditation or prayer, there are breathing techniques everyone can learn. Through these breathing techniques, you train your brain to relax. You can practice them especially when you are fearful and anxious.
For example, keep one of your hands on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Then, inhale deep for 5 counts, hold for 6, and then exhale for 6.
You can utter a positive affirmation while breathing in to give you hope and strength. Doing this for even 5 minutes a day, your brain will learn to relax, and then it will become a great coping technique. And facing your fears will be easier than before.
4. Exercise Your Dread Away
For some, exercising is a way of relaxing. For others, it’s a way to shift their attention from overwhelming thoughts and fears.
The truth is, exercising has many benefits for those who practice it. It can be running at a spot, playing with a handball, taking jump shots alone, or practicing yoga.
Exercising triggers the release of endorphins, which make you feel good. It also helps you stabilize your mood and decrease your overall level of tension.
It helps you be calmer, and it improves your mood and self-esteem. And these are necessary when you want to face your fears.
Do you want to know how can exercise make you happier?
5. Avoid The Addictions
Even though some behaviors might seem helpful in fearful and anxious situations, they can make it worse. We all have some habits and behaviors that affect us in a negative way and prevent us from facing our fears.
For example, your eating habits can work against you. Sugar is addictive and, why not admit it, tasty. Yet, most people’s diet is full of sugar and fat.
Even though sugar is not the sole cause of anxiety, it can worsen your anxiety symptoms. Sugar weakens your body’s ability to cope with stress, and makes your fears and anxiety more intense, and harder to overcome.
The same goes for caffeine. Some people drink it because they need to keep awake, others because they like it. But there are many others who have made it a habit.
However, caffeine is a stimulant and can trip your body’s fight-or-flight response. This means that for someone with high levels of fear and anxiety, it can make everything worse. because it tricks your brain into entering an alert state.
Alcohol should be on this list here too. Usually people drink alcohol to release anxiety. But it can lead to increased stress and anxiety later on, on the rebound.
Alcohol might brace you up to face some daunting situations, but it can also have negative effects when it wears off. Always avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Choose a healthy lifestyle, without too much sugar, fat, caffeine, and alcohol, and full of fruits and vegetables.
And now, watch Kendra Wright, the creator of The Year Of Fear Project, sharing the best of what she learned after 850 comfort zone challenges:
Facing your fears is always challenge, but it’s not impossible. Acknowledge and accept them. They are natural part of human existence and every one has their own fears and anxieties.
Face them and find ways of coping by learning how to relax. Avoid having an unbalanced diet and lifestyle and exercise.
And if you feel that you cannot do this by yourself, you should seek a therapist’s help. Facing your fears is a necessary step you need to take to be happier, but give yourself the time and space you need.
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Author Bio: Leon Collier is a freelance essay writer from the UK, who loves to share his insights on positive psychology topics: wellbeing, happiness, optimism, flow. He enjoys reading and playing tabletop games. Follow him on Twitter.
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