You know what it’s like to be afraid of something, whether it be thunderstorms, a trip to the dentist, a stranger at your door, or losing someone dear to you. Fear is a normal reaction that warns our bodies to be careful. Anxiety is a type of fear, dealing more with worry and the future, rather than fearing something that is present.
When fear and anxiety become a pattern in our lives, they become a problem. If your plugged drain in the kitchen sink is a problem, do you ignore it? Of course not. You call a plumber or try to fix it yourself. When fearfulness causes harm to your physical and mental stability, and you find yourself avoiding things that might create more fear, don’t ignore it. When anxiety becomes a debilitating thing that leaves you cowering and sick, don’t try to push it away.
Learn how to overcome fear and anxiety.
The following 6 steps may be your ticket to getting rid of fear and anxiety disorders in your life.
Step 1: Learn More About Your Fear
This first step can be the hardest one, but it’s also absolutely necessary. You can’t overcome a fear that remains hidden in the dusty regions of your subconscious. You must face it. When you turn your face toward a person, you see that person and learn what he looks like and how he is acting. When you turn toward your fear (rather than away from it), you notice things about your fear that you didn’t know before. This awareness helps you overcome it.
To help yourself face your fears and anxiety, try keeping a journal over a period of two or three weeks. Record any patterns you notice. Do your hands turn clammy and your stomach clenches when you hear the doorbell? Do you experience more symptoms of anxiety in the morning or the evening? What do you tend to do when your fears arise? Jot down anything that seems significant. Transferring your fear patterns and symptoms into writing can help demystify them. They are no longer so big and insurmountable.
Most importantly, learning all about your fear gives you an idea of how to counter it.
Step 2: Use your Imagination in Positive Ways
An imagination is a wonderful thing. It gives you power, creativity, and the ability to think outside the box. Unfortunately, an active imagination can be a harmful tool when it causes you to think about negative things. Your imagination can magnify your fears, making your situation seem much worse than it actually is.
Instead of letting your imagination lead you down the dark corridors of fear, purposely use it for overcoming fear.
How do you do that? Pick a calm moment when you are relaxed and not anxious. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a situation that normally causes fear. For instance, if you are afraid of being lost in a crowded building, picture yourself in a busy airport. Now, imagine yourself handling the situation peacefully. You don’t freeze and begin to cry. Instead, you search for an information desk or a sign that will help you regain your sense of direction. You imagine yourself reaching the correct parking lot, unlocking your car door, and driving safely home without any bad incidents.
The peace you experienced in your imagined scenario can actually help you get through the actual ordeal more peacefully.
Step 3: Use Your Brain in a Different Way than Usual
Your fear and anxiety arise out of a certain part of your brain, and they allow emotion to overcome rational thought. When you feel your fearful symptoms coming forth, try to use a different part of your brain. Think about numbers, for instance. A nurse in the clinic might ask a patient to rate his pain on a scale of 1-10. Use this scale for your anxiety. How anxious are you when 1 is perfectly calm and 10 is your very worst symptom? Stop and analyze. Do you rate your fear at 7? Very good. You can work on lowering that to a 4 or a 3. Try using the next step to lower your fear rating.
Step 4: Focus on Your Breathing
Breathing is more important than you think. Usually, anxiety begins with short breaths. The short breaths cause a number of negative reactions in your body which quickly become an anxiety attack. The key to overcoming those fast outbreaks of anxiety is to control your breathing.
Fortunately, deep breathing is not complicated. Once you have recognized that you are becoming fearful, stop and focus on your breathing. Take a breath in, and then slowly let it out. Make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. This isn’t just some psychological trick; deep breathing forces your body to physically calm itself.
Step 5: Practice Mindfulness
You’ve heard about mindfulness, but what exactly is it? Mindfulness is a passive thinking activity that allows you to become more aware of your fear. As you learned in Step 1, awareness helps you overcome your fear and anxiety.
Practice these mindfulness tips during some of your less severe times of fear and anxiety. When you recognize your fear symptoms arising, sit down and think about what is happening to you. This is like making a mental journal entry. Observe the symptoms as they arise. Don’t do anything about it. Just sit and keep track of yourself as the moment continues. Being passive raises your self-awareness, and it prevents you from doing the typical things you do when you experience fear. It helps get you out of a rut.
Step 6: Use Nature as Your Therapist
Talking to a therapist is an excellent way to work through your fears and anxiety. However, you can’t always be at your therapist’s office. Try going for a walk outside instead! Natural beauty found in parks, backyards, or wherever something green is growing does help reduce symptoms of fear and anxiety. Nature calms people, reducing stress levels and changing moods from anxious to relaxed. Plus, the physical activity of walking or jogging outdoors requires us to use our brains differently, which can cause a switch from irrational fearful thoughts to clearer thinking that can help overcome the fear.