Did you know that fear is one of the most powerful emotions? Its effect on your mind and body is extremely powerful, which is beneficial in actual fight-or-flight scenarios when you need to act fast for your safety or the safety of others.
But fear can arise in many events, not just life-threatening ones. The events can even be “perceived” as dangerous!
- Public speaking
- Social gatherings
- A new job
Often, fear comes and goes. But, sometimes, the fear can last much longer and get “stuck,” making it hard to complete daily activities, enjoy life, or even leave the house. When fear becomes too overwhelming, avoidance might be your first go-to in an attempt to avoid the scary thing altogether. But this can lead to a harmful cycle that puts your fear in control.
Instead, there are healthy ways to gently and effectively overcome your fears so you can live a full and happy life. Read on to learn how!
Step 1: Understand Your Fear
Start by asking yourself: “What makes me afraid?”
Make a list of all the things you’re afraid of. Then go down the list and write a couple of sentences about how that fear has helped or hindered you in life. For example, if you fear failure, that fear may have helped motivate you to excel in school. It may also have prevented you from making bold decisions in life for fear of failing.
Knowing what makes you afraid and why is a necessary first step toward overcoming fear.
When fear is persistent over time, it is often called “anxiety.” Anxiety is commonly rooted in the future rather than the now. So, a fear of failure can cause anxiety because it’s a nagging, persistent fear of something in the future.
Step 2: Feel Your Fear
What does fear look and feel like?
The body and mind present fear in a variety of ways:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Fast breathing
- Weak or tense muscles
- Excessive perspiration
- Stomachache/weak bowels
- Difficulty concentrating on anything else
- Frozen in place
- No appetite
- Dry mouth
This “fight-or-flight” response is your body’s survival mechanism so you can survive the perceived threat. Blood goes to your muscles, and your mind focuses only on the threat. If it’s an actual life-or-death emergency, this is a genius system. However, if it isn’t, or if the perceived threat is consistent, the fight-or-flight response in overdrive causes other systems to fail over time.
Symptoms of long-term fear and anxiety include:
- Irritability and mood swings
- Sleep issues
- Digestive issues
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of libido
- Loss of self-confidence
Step 3: Face Your Fear (If You Can)
If you always avoid situations because of fear, you may stop doing things you want or need to do. If you avoid the situation altogether, you won’t get the chance to see if it was that bad at all. By facing your fears, you allow yourself to manage your fear response and reduce your anxiety. By working that muscle, you avoid the habit of avoidance and become stronger with each exposure to the fear.
Step 4: Know Yourself
Be curious about your fear. Keep a journal where you log your worries and how you experience them. Learn more about what happens in the brain and body when you are afraid. Come up with a game plan for facing your fears composed of small, manageable steps that feel doable and exciting. Know what helps regulate you when you’re afraid or anxious, whether it’s a song, meditation, visualization, or affirmation. Explore the beliefs and stories that lie beneath your fears.
Step 5: Eat Healthily
Eat a well-rounded diet filled with whole foods, vegetables, and fruits. Avoid too much sugar and caffeine, as blood sugar spikes and stimulants can trigger anxious feelings.
Step 6: Exercise & Meditate
Exercise and meditation are great ways to get your mind off your fear and anxiety while strengthening your ability to be resilient and powerful in the face of the unknown.
Your meditation practice doesn’t have to be long and complicated; the Less Stress Now book and course offer plenty of 5-minute (or less!) techniques to help you build a personalized mental health practice that works with your lifestyle.
Want to talk about your relationship with fear and get customized solutions? Let’s connect!