Fear is strong biological to a real or perceived danger in the environment. It is focused on a specific threat or danger that is present or imminent.
Fear is not worry or anxiety, which are emotional responses to imagined, future events that do not pose immediate danger.
Meanwhile, a phobia is an excessive and irrational fear or anxiety related to specific objects or situations that are out of proportion to the actual danger they present. Like autophobia or trypophobia (holes-in-hand phobia).
Facing your fears is always a challenge, but it’s not impossible. They are a natural part of human existence and everyone has their own fears and anxieties.
Do fear and anxiety stop you from facing situations and people? Then follow these tips to overcome that pattern.
5 Proven Ways To Face Your Fears Head On
The main issue with handling fear is that fear involuntarily triggers our fight-or-flight response.
But if we look close, most of our fears in modern life are not life-threatening enough to trigger us into fighting back or running for our life.
Here are some tips that will help face your fears and start living:
1. Understand And Accept Your Fear Triggers
Fear is a natural part of being human.
Fear is something we all experience, mostly related to a change in familiar patterns and exposure to the unknown, like new people, new relationships, or new places.
Understanding and Accepting Fear
- Recognize Your Fears: Are you afraid of changing jobs? Scared of entering a new relationship? Fearful of trying new things? It’s normal to have these fears, and recognizing them is the first step to facing them.
- Learn from Fear: Negative experiences, failures, and fears aren’t bad. They’re part of life and can teach you valuable lessons. Don’t let others tell you to avoid failure or fear; instead, learn from them.
- Accept Your Fears: Acceptance is key. By acknowledging and accepting your fears, you can start to overcome them. Avoiding situations that trigger fear only holds you back from living life to the fullest.
- Embrace the Unknown: Fear often stems from the unknown. Embrace it, and see it as an opportunity for growth and exploration.
By accepting your fears and understanding that they are a natural part of life, you can begin to face them head-on.
This is the first step in a journey that will allow you to live more freely and enjoy every moment.
2. Look In The Face What Makes You Afraid
Fear often makes us avoid situations. Whether it’s avoiding travel, public speaking, or taking risks at work.
You avoid traveling because you fear you may lose your passport. You avoid proposing a toast at your best friend’s wedding because you fear public-speaking. You avoid giving a presentation at work because a criticism might risk your chances of getting a bonus.
Exposure therapy is a psychological treatment that gradually and repeatedly exposes a person to the fearful situation until their response lessens in intensity to the feared objects, activities, or situations.
Facing Your Fears Through Exposure
- Understand Your Triggers: Make a list of all your fears and bogeys. Recognize what scares you. Is it speaking in public? Traveling? Taking risks at work? Understanding your triggers is the first step in facing them.
- Create a Fear Ladder: List your fears and rank them from least to most scary.
- Start Small: Expose yourself to the least fearful situation for a very small amount of time.
- Practice Regularly: Work your way up to the next level of fear, and keep exposing yourself to greater fears over time
- Reward Yourself: Reward yourself for your courageous behavior. Celebrate your courage and progress.
- Build Confidence: Over time, exposure helps build courage and confidence. What once caused anxiety may even bring joy.
Looking the fearful thing in the eye is a gradual process.
Like, if you’re afraid of traveling out of your city, just sit on a train or a bus, go to the nearest city, have something to eat there, and ride back home.
Next week, spend more time and explore more in that new place. Then, go farther, gradually. Always keep your safety levels intact.
Fear can prevent you from being happy and prevent you from improving your life.
Seek Professional Help if Needed: If your fear is too intense and you can’t overcome it on your own, you might need specialized help. Seeing a therapist might help you change your perspective and find new ways of coping.
Take little risks out of your comfort zone. Don’t let fear hold you back from proposing that toast, doing that presentation, and venturing out.
Watch Kendra Wright, the creator of The Year Of Fear Project, share the best of what she learned after 850 comfort zone challenges:
3. Learn To Relax While Confronting Your Fearful Object
As you expose yourself to fear-triggering situations, you might feel how your thoughts and emotions are crushing you.
Also, your brain becomes highly alert. This heightened state can make you focus on negative aspects of your environment.
One way out of that overwhelming feeling is by intentional relaxation.
Learning to relax helps you overcome this fixation and approach fears more positively.
Techniques to Relax and Face Fears
- Mindfulness and Guided Meditation: Mindfulness or guided meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. With consistent practice, these techniques can overcome anxieties and fears. There are many online guided meditation courses and videos to help you start.
- Prayer: Organizing your internal concerns through prayer helps you comprehend them. It also gives you a conviction that a higher power is aware of your problems, providing support and understanding.
- Breathing Techniques: Simple exercises like placing one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, inhaling for 5 counts, holding for 6, and exhaling for 6, can train your brain to relax. Uttering positive affirmations during this process adds hope and strength.
- Consistent Practice: Whether it’s meditation, prayer, or breathing, practicing these techniques daily, even for just 5 minutes, teaches your brain to relax. This becomes a powerful coping technique, making facing fears easier over time.
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.
Get this printable post on Mindfulness In 7 Steps.
4. Exercise To Build Resistance To Your Fear
Physical activity is an effective and cost-free way to conquer fear.
Exercise is more than just a physical activity; it’s a multi-pronged tool to manage and overcome fears.
From letting you relax, to shifting your focus from overwhelming thoughts, to reducing anxiety and boosting mood, to building confidence, exercise offers a range of benefits.
The Power of Exercise in Facing Fears
- Versatility: Exercise doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as simple as running in place, playing with a handball, taking jump shots alone, or practicing yoga. Find what works for you and make it a part of your routine.
- Release of Endorphins: Engaging in physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, known as “feel-good” hormones. These natural chemicals help stabilize your mood and decrease tension, making you feel more positive.
- Mood Enhancement: Regular exercise can lead to a calmer mind and improved self-esteem. These mental benefits are essential when facing fears, as they provide the confidence and mental clarity needed to confront challenges.
- A Healthy Distraction: For some, exercise serves as a distraction from overwhelming thoughts and fears. By focusing on physical activity, you can shift your attention away from what’s troubling you.
- Building Resilience: Consistent exercise builds physical and mental resilience, equipping you with the strength to face your fears head-on.
Find out how you can exercise to make yourself happier?
5. Avoid Addictions To Build Resilience To Fears
Facing fears is a complex process, and certain habits or addictions can hinder your progress. While some behaviors might seem helpful, they can actually exacerbate anxiety and fear.
Removing The Addictions That Increase Your Fear
- Sugar: Sugar is addictive and is often a staple in countless ready-to-eat foods. It can weaken your body’s ability to cope with stress, making fears and anxiety more intense. Reducing sugar intake can be a step towards facing fears more effectively.
- Caffeine: While some people rely on caffeine to stay awake or simply enjoy it, it can be a habit that triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. For those with high levels of fear and anxiety, caffeine can worsen the situation by putting the brain into an alert state.
- Alcohol: Though some use alcohol to ease anxiety, it can lead to increased stress later on. While it might provide temporary courage, the negative effects when it wears off can be detrimental. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is key to managing fears.
- Choose a Healthy Lifestyle: Embracing a lifestyle without excessive sugar, fat, caffeine, and alcohol, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables, can support your journey in facing fears. Healthy eating habits promote overall well-being, making it easier to cope with anxiety and fear.
Making mindful choices about what you eat can allow you to choose a healthier lifestyle, empowering you to confront and overcome fears with greater resilience and clarity.
Fear vs. Anxiety
Even though they might seem kind of the same, they are different.
- Fear is a reaction triggered by a specific stimulus which is a clear and present (immediate and observable) danger.
- Anxiety is a different type of fear that is triggered by a hypothetical danger, and is best represented by one or more “What if…” questions.
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 a huge size, ferocity, and horns.
The fear will trigger a release of adrenaline in your body and a fight-or-flight response.
Let’s continue with the example above. When you plan your hiking trip, you might see yourself drawn back by questions such 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 in the back of your mind. And they will prevent you from enjoying your trip.
They will urge your brain to overwork 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.
What is a fear response?
A fear response is a natural and adaptive reaction that has evolved to help humans recognize and respond to potential dangers. It triggers a “fight-or-flight” response, preparing the body for confrontation or escape.
Some fears that are quite common are fear of public speaking, attending parties, or making phone reservations, which can lead to agitation and anxiety.
We must recognize that negative emotions like fear and anxiety have a purpose and are not inherently bad. Stigmatizing or avoiding these emotions can be harmful, as they may return later, stronger than ever.
Though fear and anxiety are common, when they become intense or frequent, it may indicate a clinical problem requiring professional help.
So, a fear response is a complex reaction that serves both protective and potentially irrational roles. Understanding and embracing it, rather than avoiding it, allows for healthier coping and potential growth.
How can I identify what truly scares me?
Identifying fears often requires self-reflection and honesty. Journaling, talking with a trusted friend, or seeking professional guidance can help you uncover underlying fears. Sometimes, fears are linked to past experiences or deep-seated beliefs, so exploring these areas can reveal what truly scares you.
Is it normal to feel overwhelmed when trying to face fears?
Yes, feeling overwhelmed when trying to face fears is a normal reaction. It’s a process that takes time and effort. Starting small, setting realistic goals, and celebrating progress can make the process more manageable. If the feeling persists, seeking professional help is a wise step.
Can technology or apps help me face my fears?
Yes, they can. There are various apps and online platforms designed to help individuals face their fears. From guided meditation apps to virtual reality exposure therapy, technology offers innovative ways to confront and overcome fears. Always ensure to choose reputable sources and consult with professionals if needed.
What’s the difference between a rational and an irrational fear?
Rational fears are based on real and immediate threats or dangers. They are often logical responses to situations that could cause harm. For example, fear of touching a hot stove is a rational fear, as it can cause physical injury. On the other hand, irrational fears are fears that are exaggerated or not connected to any real danger. They may stem from personal anxieties or past experiences and often don’t have a clear basis in reality. An example might be an intense fear of harmless insects.
Why is it important to face fears rather than avoid them?
Avoiding fears can create a cycle where fear grows, limiting opportunities and personal growth. Facing fears head-on builds resilience and confidence, allowing for a more fulfilling life. It fosters a mindset of courage rather than limitations, opening doors to new experiences and achievements. Understanding that fears are natural helps in normalizing them, removing shame, and encouraging self-discovery. In essence, facing fears is essential for personal development and a satisfying life, while avoidance can lead to restriction and increased anxiety.
Acknowledge and accept them. 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 Bios: Leon Collier, a freelance writer, wrote a short, early version of it. Extensively rewritten, expanded, researched, and edited by Sandip Roy.
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