“Fear is a sneaky thief, stealing away precious moments of your life.” – Elizabeth Lesser
Everyone is afraid at some point. If we’re in touch with our inner selves, we know right away when that negative emotion starts clutching at our hearts. It’s a feeling of coldness, one that sneaks up and grabs hold.
You can try to shrug it off, but that’s not always easy, and it rarely works. You can tell yourself, “this too shall pass,” yet not really believe it. The truth about fear, however, is that it can be conquered. Here are some ways to do just that.
Acknowledge that the emotion you feel is fear
The first step to overcoming fear is to acknowledge the emotion you feel. You must be able to recognize fear for what it is so that it cannot claim power over you, shutting down your ability to live a normal, happy, and productive life. Fear is different from sadness or anger or disappointment. Called the fight-or-flight response, fear prepares the body to cope with danger. Fear produces distinct physiological symptoms, including increased breathing, heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, dry mouth, trembling and shaking, and butterflies in the stomach, among others.
Keep a list of effective coping strategies handy
To do something to combat fear, it’s helpful to have a list of strategies and techniques that have worked well for you in the past. The time to figure out what to do isn’t when you’re in the grip of fear. That’s when you’re least likely to think rationally and the decisions you make may not be the best. It’s wise to keep your coping strategies and techniques on a written list so that they’re always available.
Remember that fear only controls you if you allow it
This might be tough to keep top-of-mind, but you are the one in control. You make the decisions. Decide now that fear has no place in your power structure. Only you have the power. It’s up to you to exercise it.
Constantly revise your list of goals
When you have activities that you look forward to and have a plan how to get started, you’re much less likely to succumb to fear. It is, however, normal to be a little apprehensive when starting something new, and referring to your list of goals is a good way to reinforce your commitment to them. The goal list helps motivate you to overcome all hurdles you may encounter, including fear.
Seek support from your network
You’re not the only person who’s ever experienced the kind of paralysis and indecision that fear can produce. Talk with those you know and trust in your network to see how they handle fear. Just having their support and encouragement can go a long way toward you being able to move past fear and keep it from stealing your life.
Acknowledge you’re not perfect
Perfectionism can really get in the way of pursuing goals. When you feel like you’re falling short and don’t see how to make it perfect, this can prompt feelings of fear. By acknowledging that you’re not perfect, you take the wind out of fear’s sails. This gives you the breathing room you need to continue, without letting fear control you or reduce your dreams and goals to dust.
Have faith to get through today
Most of what causes fear doesn’t last indefinitely. Things generally look different 24 hours later. When you rely on your faith, believe in your ability to make it through today, you’re doing more than buying time. Your subconscious mind is working on ways to overcome the fear, find a solution or workaround, and reminding you that you have hidden strengths to draw on.
If the fear continues unabated, however, it might be time to seek professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologist, a social worker, or other mental health professional. There is no reason for you to go on suffering the negative and life-stealing effects of fear or anxiety when psychotherapy can help you overcome this profoundly debilitating emotion.