Dealing With Fear
Many of fear something at some point. In this blog I’ll look at what fear actually is and give some tips on how to conquer it.
What Is Fear?
Fear is caused when we expect “danger”. When we feel there is a threat of harm, real or imagined, we get fearful. There is physical fear which could be something that could cause bodily harm such as wasps or needles. Then there’s psychological fear which can be triggered by enclosed spaces or public speaking (for example). Finally, there’s emotional fear which are solid feelings based around rejection, embarrassment, or abandonment.
The interesting thing is though that we are actually born with only two innate fears. The fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear is learnt, through experience or sometimes just the idea of something. Fearing something can actually cause issues with your brain’s hippocampus which is responsible for memory and putting emotion in context. Experiencing extreme fear interrupts your brain’s ability to process information ,regulate emotions, and think before reacting. Sadly, fear can also be a contributing factor to long-term issues such as anxiety and depression.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Fear will also trigger your fight or flight response, which is how our ancestors survived against predatory beings. As a result our body still responds to these situations (fears) with heightened awareness in all the senses. This reaction helps to keep you safe in the face of real danger.
A phobia is an irrational fear. It is an excessive or unrealistic fear of something. A phobia can be triggered by a traumatic event. For example I have a massive phobia of wasps. I mean let’s be honest, no sane person would perhaps like a wasp and want to keep one as a pet…but for me I freeze on the spot and pray to all known deities that the little bugger will bugger off quickly. This phobia was caused by an incident in my childhood where I fell off my bike into a wasps nest!
There are other extremes of phobia whereby just an image of something will trigger an undesirable response. I knew someone who had an irrational fear of spiders. If they saw one in their living room they’d get the vacuum cleaner out and suck it up…leaving the cleaner running for several minutes to make sure the spider couldn’t come back. However, they’d also freeze if they were watching a programme and a spider appeared on screen.
Dealing With Fear
Here are ten ways of dealing with fear.
Stare Fear In The Face: Fear is never going to go away, especially if you only “deal” with it when you feel fearful. Understanding what is causing your fear is the first step in dealing with it. Take some time to reflect on the specific situations or triggers that make you feel afraid. Knowing the root cause can help you address it more effectively.
Accept Your Fear: It's important to acknowledge that fear is a natural human emotion. It's okay to feel afraid, and you're not alone in experiencing it. Embrace your fear and avoid judging yourself for having those feelings.
Educate Yourself: Sometimes, fear arises from a lack of understanding or knowledge about a particular situation or thing. Gathering information and learning more about what you fear can help you gain a sense of control and reduce anxiety.
Challenge Negative Thoughts: Fear often comes with negative thoughts and catastrophic thinking. Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on evidence or just assumptions. Try to replace them with more rational and positive thoughts.
Practice Relaxation Techniques: Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety when facing fear-inducing situations.
Seek Support: Don't hesitate to talk to someone you trust about your fears. Whether it's a friend, family member, or a professional counsellor, sharing your feelings can be therapeutic and provide valuable insights.
Expose Yourself Gradually: If possible, face your fear in small doses rather than avoiding it altogether. Gradual exposure can desensitise you to the fear and help you build resilience.
Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself during this process. Understand that overcoming fear takes time and effort, and it's okay to have setbacks. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer to a friend going through a difficult time.
Focus on the Present Moment: Fear often arises from worrying about the future or dwelling on past negative experiences. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay grounded in the present and reduce unnecessary anxiety.
Celebrate Your Progress: Recognise and celebrate the steps you've taken to confront your fear. Celebrating your progress will reinforce positive behaviour and motivate you to keep moving forward.
Breathing Exercise To Relax
Close your eyes.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth a few times.
Now breathe in through your nose for a count of four.
Breathe out through your mouth for a count of six.
Do this several times until you start feeling relaxed.
When you feel relaxed, let your breathing return to its natural way.
Open your eyes.