Learning to manage fear and anxiety can positively impact your life.
Fear. That four letter word that can enter your life and stick around, even though you don’t want anything to do with it.
It doesn’t feel good to be anxious or scared. In fact, it feels the complete opposite of good. But, what can you do? How do you deal with fear when it creeps into your life? Managing fear is an important skill to have. Sooner or later, fear wiggles its way into everyone’s life. Maybe, even yours.
We all have things that trigger us. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel a little scared or anxious every now and then. But, the cause is different for all of us. What sets me off might not impact you, and vice versa. My husband Jon, has an aversion to snakes that you wouldn’t think a man as big and tall as he is would have. I grew up being scared of heights. I know people who are terrified of thunderstorms, spiders, bees, vomit and tornadoes. Then, there’s the fear of getting a serious disease, something happening to someone you love, or being in a terrorist attack. If you google phobias, you’ll see there’s a huge list with big words that describe having a fear of virtually everything. For example, amathophobia is the fear of dust. Seriously. But, who am I to judge?
With so much information and news, it isn’t hard to find something to worry about. Research indicates people are feeling incredibly anxious and fearful, even more so today than in the past. So, what do we do about it? How can we live our lives and not let fear get in the way? What can we do when we start to feel scared and afraid?
Here are 5 ways you can help yourself manage fear:
Identify what causes you to feel afraid.
You can’t work on overcoming something unless you know what it is that makes you feel scared. Once you determine what it is, you can then start working on how to deal with it. Acceptance of your fear will really help you. Being honest with yourself is the first step to overcoming your fear. Try not to be judgmental or put yourself down. This isn’t about making yourself feel worse. It’s about having the courage to identify what triggers feelings of fear or anxiety, and then learning how to help yourself move forward.
Decide you’re ready to manage your fear.
After you know what it is that causes you to feel fearful, you have to decide you want to work through it. Often, this involves facing your fear head on. You might even realize it isn’t as bad as you thought. For example, if you’re afraid of being in social situations, the only way you’re probably going to overcome this fear, is to have positive social experiences. Start slowly. You might allow yourself to go to a party, and face the fear head on, even if you only stay for five minutes. This will build your confidence. Celebrate your wins when you have them. It will take time, patience, and commitment, but you can learn to overcome your fears.
Fear doesn’t have to make sense. However, if you can step away and look at the big picture, it might make it easier to overcome. For example, are you worried about something that statistically isn’t very probable? Often, asking the question, “is this likely to happen to me?” or “what’s the worst that could happen?” will help you see that even if whatever it is you’re worried about occurs, everything is likely to be OK. Keeping perspective will help you manage your fear. When I went through breast cancer, over five years ago, I had a lot of fear. I had to work through it, think about all the scary thoughts I didn’t want to think about, and learn to release these fears. Focusing on what I could do to stay as healthy as possible really helped me move forward.
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You might outgrow your fear.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of heights. On a trip to Switzerland, up very high (we’re talking over 10,000 feet) I realized I wasn’t really afraid. I just assumed I would be scared because in the past I’ve been fearful of heights. But, I had outgrown my fear. Don’t carry around a fear just because it’s one you had when you were younger. As we get older, we grow and mature, and it’s very possible your fear is part of your past. Leave it there!
Journaling, talking to a friend or professional, exercising, and meditation are tools you can use to help manage your fears. Ask for help if you need it.
When you start to feel scared, instead of giving your fear power or thinking about whatever it is that’s causing you to feel afraid, (assuming you aren’t in any real danger) try to shift your focus and distract your mind by thinking about something else. Try to be patient with yourself.
Remember, we all have things we worry about that cause us to feel anxious and afraid. Don’t be too hard on yourself or judgmental. Instead, help yourself work through the fear, and look for ways to build yourself up.
You can thrive no matter what,