It’s a familiar scenario. A worrisome thought (i.e. did I offend my boss?) pops into your head, and a rush of adrenaline causes your heart to flutter, making your stomach swirl.
Your mind starts racing as you replay your anxiety-ridden thoughts, trying to find a mental escape from this troubling maze.
This is the physiological response to fear; the emotion that alerts us to potential danger.
According to psychologist, Karl Albrecht, Ph.D. “Fear is basically information that offers us knowledge and understanding of our psychobiological status.”
How Fear Impacts Us
Even though it’s a universal emotion like sadness, happiness, and anger, fear can spiral out of control. When this happens, our emotional health is impacted, too. For example, if our minds are riddled with worries, we may avoid taking risks and trying new things. As a result, we may forego applying for a new job, fail to seek out new relationships, or postpone beginning a new hobby. And when the wave of fear becomes a tsunami, it may morph into a more serious mental health concern, like anxiety.
As a matter of fact, research from the American Psychological Association states that 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. And 75% of people with this health concern experience an anxious episode during their early twenties. This psychological malady manifests when fear starts dictating how we live. Whether or not we’re avoiding certain social situations, dating or conflict, we often develop these concerns because we’re afraid of loss.
While we may not be able to control what happens in our daily lives, we can face our fears by learning some self-help tools that can guide us along the way.
Below are four tips and tricks to tackle your fears, which can help you to transform this prickly emotion into an ally.
1. Write it down.
One of the best ways to face your fears is to write them down.
Write out each of your worries on a separate piece of paper. As you do this exercise, pay attention to any bodily sensations, thoughts or emotions that arise. How does it feel as you write down your fears?
After you complete the exercise, place your worries in a contained space like a glass jar or a wooden box. What’s it like to leave your worries there?
2. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst case scenario?”
We’re often afraid because we don’t believe that we’ll survive our fears. But often, we can.
Let’s say you’re afraid of flying. Even though you know the plane isn’t likely to crash, you panic at the thought of boarding a plane, which prevents you from taking your dream vacation to Europe.
To examine this fear, ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that might happen if you got on the plane? Is there anyone who could help you to avoid this scenario? If so, you can you make a plan?
And, if the worst-case scenario were to become a reality, could you live with it?
3. Take a leap of faith.
Sometimes we can distil our fears through exposure therapy.
For example, let’s say you struggle with social anxiety, and this anxiety causes you to avoid large parties. You might face your fear by taking a leap of faith.
Plan to attend a large social gathering with a friend for a specified amount of time. While you’re there, pay attention to your surroundings and how you feel. What are you afraid of? Are you fearful of large crowds? Do you worry that you can’t make small talk with strangers? By immersing yourself in the fearful environment, collect some data that can help you to focus more closely on the origin of your worries.
If anxiety arises while you’re there, take a few deep breaths and talk to your friend about your experience.
4. Challenge the Fear.
Talk to the fear and give is a funny name. Every time the fear rears its ugly head, you can say, “There’s so-and-so again.” You may also pretend to give a friend advice who’s struggling with the same worries. What would you tell this friend?
You might even write out a script, a dialogue between you and your worries. Each time the words “can’t” and “won’t” pop up, challenge them by asking “why?”
By asking this question, you might find some clarity as you realize that the fears inside of your head are often larger than they need to be.