9 Ways To Identify & Tackle Your Fears
Fear in life can keep us stuck, it can create resistance to taking risks, it can self sabotage us and arise in the form of procrastination, avoidance, passing up opportunities, and more. The thing is that fear is a normal part of life but it doesn't have to consume us. In fact, confident and strong people have fear too; they just deal with it differently. This article is about learning how you can tackle fears so that you're not afraid of change, of taking risks, or moving forward in life.
Nothing is more dangerous to our sense of purpose, happiness, fulfillment than staying in our comfort zones when we know we're capable of more. Comfort zones can allow us to settle in the wrong job, be with the wrong people, and not level-up for more because we're afraid of the unknown. Not taking action when opportunities present themselves or not changing what doesn't make us happy can leave us with regret and emptiness.
Many times, we know we deserve more. And yet, fear gets to the best of us, whether it is fear of failure or even fear of fear. All of us have experienced fear at some point in our lives, and it can be a real stumbling block that holds us back from being truly successful. Sometimes, we're even fearful about getting the success we want because of the conseuqneces it could bring that we couldn't handle: like being seen, being judged, being taken advantage of, worrying we couldn't handle it.
"Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it."
— Veronica Roth (Divergent (Divergent, #1))
But fear doesn't need to hold you back forever, if you don’t let it. Change is not comfortable. Remember that personal growth is not always comfortable. But it's worth it.
Here are 9 ways to approach fear when it comes up:
1. UNDERSTAND WHAT IS REAL VERSUS YOUR PERCEPTION OF THE FEELING
Our perception creates the world as we see it and everything we perceive is our reality. However, we need to be aware of our biases, judgments, expectations and the way we see situations is not always based in evidence, but in our fears or what could happen. This could be based on experiences, times where we failed, issues of confidence, worry about what could go wrong instead of focusing on what could go right. Take a moment to journal and ask yourself what is really going on, locate the facts and place them over your feelings. What evidence do you have that it wouldn't work? What obstacles are real versus possibly exaggerated in your mind that could be hidden? Sometimes, we create excuses for why we shouldn't do things instead of finding reasons for why we should. If we go through life feeling like life happens to us instead of for us, then we have the constant feeling that what we do doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things because we have no control. While there are many circumstances that happen in the world, our perception and response to life is what allows us to be resilient and move forward despite setbacks and find the lesson or learning or opportunity in situations.
"The outer world is a reflection of the inner world. Other people’s perception of you is a reflection of them; your response to them is an awareness of you."
— Roy T. Bennett (The Light in the Heart)
2. TAKE A MOMENT TO UNDERSTAND THE TRIGGER
According to Healthline: "An emotional trigger is anything — including memories, experiences, or events — that sparks an intense emotional reaction, regardless of your current mood".
Understanding our triggers and how we can respond to them is the best way to take our power back. We can allow ourselves to feel our emotions and process them in a more healthy and beneficial way so that we don't need to react impulsively to them.
Take a moment when you feel an emotional trigger to sit with it and ask yourself: where does this come from? What past event caused me to feel like this and how am I projecting this emotion onto the current situation? Figure out what it is in a situation that triggers you. Get curious and ask yourself what the trigger is trying to tell you. If you can, remove yourself from the situation and take time to reflect on it. Learning to identify it will help you learn to combat it.
3. ASK YOURSELF WHERE THE FEAR IS IN YOUR BODY
A lot of times, fear takes over physically. It affects different people different ways. Some people start to get fear in their stomach, or maybe they develop a headache. Remember that your emotions always come out in your body when you're out of balance. EFT Tapping is a great way to manage emotions, especially when it comes to fear, overwhelm, and anxiety.
“Don't be afraid of your fears. They're not there to scare you. They're there to let you know that something is worth it.”
― C. JoyBell C.
Identify if/how it affects your physical body and do the work to take care of your body. Ex: if you hold stress in your back, you can learn stretches, foam rolling, etc. to avoid the pain. If you're an overthinker, try meditation to gain more control of your mind and your thoughts.
4. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Everyday, list out 1-3 things you are thankful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is, gratitude helps shift the mind into a positive light, which overtime, overcomes fear. Are you grateful for the people in your life? Your health? Your job? Your home? Safety? Sometimes it can be hard to find things to be grateful for if you're in a difficult spot, but I promise, you always have things to be grateful for. Many times, we take things for granted that other people don't have. Are you an able bodied person who's lying around on the couch all day even though there are people who had illness and can't leave their hospital bed, or maybe they had cancer and don't have all of their limbs and would give anything to go for a hike again? Remember that having your health is one of the biggest gifts that you have that we often take for granted every day that we feel well. Once you've recognized what you're grateful for, say those things. And then get into the feeling of the things you want to have more of in your life.
The more you're grateful for, the more you are open to receiving good things in your life. And it also puts you in a better place to confront your fears and be more emotionally stable. What I do is in the morning after my morning routine, I set 3 intentions for the day. I usually make 2 of them things that I want towards my day, but the third one is something that I want more long term. The key here is to be specific. Make sure you clearly state what you're grateful for and also mention 3 intentions you want to have in your life and focus on it every day.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE
Monitor your inner conversations. Often we say mean things to ourselves and tear ourselves down and beat ourselves up without realizing it. Would you criticize a friend for messing up or tell them they're going to eff it all up before an important challenge in their life? Or would you tell them: 'You've got this!'? When you find yourself doing this and going through all the WHAT IF'S that could happen and creating a horribly scary scenario, go through those thoughts and answer yourself with:
- WHAT IF I DO GET WHAT I WANT?
- WHAT IF I SUCCEED?
- WHAT IF I GET THE PROMOTION?
- WHAT IF HE OR SHE TALKS TO ME? ETC.
- WHAT If I ROCK THAT PRESENTATION/INTERVIEW/DIFFICULT CONVERSATION?
Remember; If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. What encouraging advice would you have for another person? Speak positively to yourself and remind yourself of your strengths. Remind yourself of all the times when you DID succeed instead of where you've failed?
Visualize yourself getting the outcome that you want instead of what you don't want.
"There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you--just listen to
The voice that speaks inside."
— Shel Silverstein
6. REPLACE WITH A NEW ASSOCIATION
When you start to feel fear in your body that is creating discomfort and anxiety, remind yourself that the feeling and the moment will pass. Instead of walking blindly into a stressful situation or one that could cause you to freeze up, try preparing in advance of situations you know might cause you fears or self-doubt. If it's a specific situation you know causes fear, or something where you anticipate the fear ahead of time in the examples of an important presentation, an interview, a difficult conversation, putting yourself out there and going on a date, asking for a promotion, etc. Sometimes simple things like making sure you're rested, making sure you have done your morning routine, and intentionally envisioning the outcome turning out positive can help. Instead of envisioning everything that could go wrong and sending yourself into a panic.
An article in Business Collective says: "Visioning allows you to envision what needs to change in order to get you where you want to go. It helps you to feel the sensation of reaching your goal even before you get there. Visioning your goal actually releases endorphins, which are the chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. That’s how real it can feel."
Over time, this practice not only creates a sense of hope and excitment for the situation, but it helps you to manage these fears in a more helpfiul way. It it not to say this is an easy thing to learn overnight. But like everything, practice makes perfect and growth is a slow process and a journey not a race.
Practice mindfulness with gratitude, meditation, EFT tapping or journaling to get out the thoughts and feelings associated with your specific fear. Focus on the positive outcome of the situation, rather than the scary in between. Affirmations may sound cheesy at first, but repeating a few in the morning can also help to feel more courageous.
- All my thoughts and efforts lead me to the success I desire.
- There is an opportunity in everything that presents itself to me.
- Obstacles and challenges strengthen me.
- Every day I’m more confident in myself.
- I visualize the results and benefits of my goals.
- I am free to create my OWN reality. I have choices in all situations. Nothing stands between me and my highest good.
- I overcome fears by following my dreams.
- My mistakes don't define me. I will trust the process and celebrate myself for my progress. I am putting forth a genuine effort and will recognize that that is enough.
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."
— Mark Twain
7. SHIFT TO A POSITIVE MINDSET INSTEAD OF DWELLING
Perception is a very powerful thing, and how you feel about your situation dictates how you respond. It's normal when we feel we mess up for us to go over it over and over in our heads. Maybe we beat ourselves up in our heads and scold ourselves for past mistakes, how we messed up. We've all probably done it - replaying something you feel like you effed up over and over thinking - How the HELL did I do that? What was I thinking? How could I have FORGOTTEN the last part of my speech?
One article by LifeHack says: "Dwelling on the past means reading the same chapter over and over again while expecting the ending to change. It’s reopening wounds and allowing opportunities for self-sabotage. Dwelling on the past is the biggest roadblock from moving forward, and life will move forward whether you’re on board with it or not."
Everything is a learning experience and we don't succeed by thinking we can get away with perfection. We all make mistakes. So think positively and you’ll give yourself a much better chance of success. This won’t happen overnight; practice with just one thought. What is one recurring negative/fearful thought you have? Work on reversing this one thought. Overtime, this will become a habit.
"Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change."
— Wayne W. Dyer
8. PRACTICE BREATHING EXERCISES & EFT TAPPING TO REBALANCE
Breathing helps center your body; when you stop breathing, your heart stops beating. You can do a grounding exercise, or even just take 5 deep, long breaths at any point to calm and center yourself. It is best to start your day with this, but feel free to practice all day long. Many people find box breathing helpful.
"Box breathing describes the pattern of inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. You inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and then repeat in four seconds -- making a square pattern."
Try the emotional freedom technique - EFT TAPPING- to quickly calm yourself and emotionally stabilize in a stressful situation. The Emotional Freedom Technique uses tapping on energy points (like acupuncture) to release negative blocks of emotion for limiting beliefs, stress, releasing negative emotions and blocks. Read more about the exact steps here in this article.
Benefits of EFT
EFT is said to be very effective in dealing with many daily issues. You can try it with Youtube videos by yourself to see if it's helpful and see how you do!
It is beneficial in the following ways:
- It is simple and easy to learn
- You can do it by yourself too
- It doesn’t consume much of your time
- It gives you the autonomy to deal with your stress at any time and a way to calm down.
- It helps in reducing distress and negative thoughts, thus giving you a calm and positive feeling.
9. CREATE A SAFE SPACE
When you feel safe and secure, there is no room for fear. Find somewhere safe you can retreat to when ill feelings begin- whether this is a real place such as your bedroom, or a place in your mind such as the beach. This sense of comfort will soothe you and allow you to face your fear. When you start feeling fearful or overwhelmed, you can retreat to do some thinking. It might with a friend, or maybe your safe space with your partner, maybe time with your dog or cat, or maybe you need a brisk walk in the park or in nature.
Take time to think of WHAT you need to feel better so you can do that when you need it.
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
— Eleanor Roosevelt (You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life)
Please keep in mind, this is only a simple list of 9 strategies, not everything works for everyone! But this is a place to start. Start implementing these techniques into your life and don’t let fear hold you back from reaching your goals and your highest potential this year!
If you're trying to figure out the areas in your life where you need more strategies dealing with your fears or with confidence, or you'd like to evaluate where you are in your life right now, try booking a free transformational life coaching discovery call with me and we can look at where you are and where you want to be.
Main photo credit: Jacqueline Fritz
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