How to overcome fear
Recognize when fears become overwhelming
It’s normal to have fears. You may experience fear when you ride a bike for the first time or when you start a new job. However, when fears begin to take over your life and affect your functioning, they become a problem. If your fears feel overwhelming, the distress from the fear can interfere with your ability to function and you may experience intense anxiety or nervousness. Reflect on your fears and notice how much they affect your life. Are your fears keeping you from moving forward with what you want in your life? The following are some considerations:
Your fear causes intense anxiety or panic.
You recognize that your fear is not rational.
You avoid specific places or situations.
Avoidance of the fear causes distress and interferes with your functioning.
The fear has persisted 6 months or more.
Understand symptoms of fear.
Fears often manifest as phobias, which can include situations (fear of public speaking or raising your hand), animals (fear of snakes or spiders), blood, injections, etc. When you experience fear, physiological, mental, and emotional reactions occur, which can include:
Overwhelming anxiety, panic
Needing to escape
Feeling like you may faint or die
Feeling powerless to your fear, even if you know it’s irrational
2.Interacting With Your Fear
Question the power the fear holds over you. Does your fear cause you to stay in bed instead of getting up and going to a class you’re afraid of failing? Do you avoid visiting your family in another state because you don’t want to get on a plane? Figure out exactly what power your fear has over your mind and behavior.
Imagine the outcome you desire. Now that you better understand your fear, think about what exactly you want to change. Think about yourself experiencing life without your fear. How do you feel? For example:
If your fear is commitment, imagine yourself happily with a partner.
If your fear is heights, imagine yourself conquering a tough hike. Connect with the feeling of accomplishment.
If your fear is spiders, imagine yourself seeing a spider and feeling neutral.
3.Facing Your Fears
Identify false beliefs. Many fears are based in false beliefs or catastrophic thinking. When you see a spider, you may immediately have a belief that says that the spider willharm you, and that you will die. Identify these patterns of thinking, and start to question them. Do some online research and understand your actual risk versus perceived risk.
When your fear arises, pause and reflect on your actual risk. Talk back to your negative thoughts or false beliefs and say, “I recognize that some dogs are vicious, but the vast majority of dogs are gentle. It is unlikely I will get bitten.”
Learn relaxation techniques.
Try deep breathing exercises. Focus on your breath, and start counting each breath: four seconds inhale, then four seconds exhale. Once this is comfortable, elongate your breath to six seconds.
If you notice your muscles tensing, be conscious to relax them. One way to do this is to clench all the muscles in your body for three seconds, then relax them. Do this two or three times to melt stress throughout your body.