Fear is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Overcoming those feelings can feel really challenging. In fact, many people avoid facing their fears as a way of coping with them.
However, if you can be strong enough to face down fear it can be a hugely positive experience. If you manage to achieve that, you will come through it a stronger person.
This can be true with all-consuming anxieties as well as those smaller, niggling aversions. And taking on lesser fears can be a way of dealing with bigger challenges in life. Although, when it comes to fears, individual differences are always at play.
Perhaps you don’t like the idea of speaking in public but have a presentation to make at work. Or maybe you are totally terrified of the dental check-up in your diary and it's giving you sleepless nights. Some people’s fears can feel trivial to others - like a fear of spiders or an intense dislike of people chewing food. That’s the thing about fear; it affects different people in different ways.
However, whatever you’re afraid of, there are many different coping strategies for dealing with and overcoming fears. Here are just a few tips on how to cope with what gives you goosebumps, in a bad way.
Challenging your fears
1. Study the evidence
You might be afraid to swim in the sea because you’ve heard about recent shark attacks. Maybe you developed a fear of flying because of the chance of a mechanical breakdown.
With these kinds of fears, if you look at the statistics - the evidence of how rarely things actually go wrong - you can use your common sense to reduce your anxiety.
The truth is that with most physically-based fears, you’re more likely to get injured on the road than anywhere else. If you spent your life avoiding potentially dangerous situations, you wouldn’t have much of a life left at all.
2. Put yourself to the test
The longer you avoid the things that you fear, the greater your anxiety will become. Whether you are afraid of going in an elevator or have a fear of flying, you need to gradually challenge yourself to try these things.
Would using an elevator or an aeroplane make you far too panicky for you own good? Remember that there are ways to build up to this - including therapies such as hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Other coping methods use virtual reality (VR) simulation - where you can experience the thing you fear, without jumping straight into the reality of it. When you’ve built up a coping strategy and managed to deal with the VR version of what you fear, you can challenge yourself to move to the next level.
3. Use the ‘what if’ technique
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you faced your biggest fear? If you had to speak in front of fifty people and you stammered your way through it, would the world come to an end? No. Instead, you’d feel a sense of satisfaction that you’d stood up and done it. Even though you honestly didn’t want to. The next time, it would be so much easier; you might even start to enjoy public speaking if you did enough of it.
Addressing the symptoms of fear
1. Take a breath
When we’re anxious about something, our heart rate increases and we begin to hyperventilate. In this situation, do all that you can to remain calm. One easy way to get over a sense of panic is to focus on your breathing.
Stand still. Take in slow, deep breaths. Focus on the passage of each one. This will enable you to become calmer as you forget the focus of your fear and concentrate on the action of breathing. Once the sense of panic has diminished, you’ll be able to approach your trigger more rationally.
2. Use visualisation
Another way to counter anxiety or fear is to use visualisation techniques to think about somewhere you would feel relaxed and calm. Or a 'safe space' as it's commonly referred to.
It might be your bedroom at home or a beautiful scene from somewhere you’ve been on holiday. Allow the visualisation to dominate your thoughts for five whole minutes and the positive vibes will enable you to relax.
3. Talk it through
By sharing your fears, you can reduce the power they have over you. Talk to a friend or family member about what causes your anxiety. You’ll find that they may be able to help you look at your fears more rationally.
We can’t escape having certain things that cause us anxiety or fear - we wouldn’t be human if we could. But what each of us can do is take a proactive approach and embrace the challenge of facing down fears rather than burying our head in the sand.
Thanks for reading!