Almost everyone has experienced fear at one time or another. For some people, the fear is based on a real threat—their campground is invaded by a bear, or they just received a diagnosis of a life-threatening disease. For other people, however, the fear is imagined—think of the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. These types of fears can stem from mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders or phobias. They can also prevent people from living their best life. Here are some ways to help people learn how to overcome their fear:
- Identify what the fear is all about. This could mean writing about it or verbalizing it with a counselor or trusted confidante. Determining the trigger behind the fear goes a long way towards finding solutions to overcome it.
- Practice positivity. Fear is rooted in negative emotions and thoughts, so practice replacing them with positive ones. This can include keeping a gratitude journal, listing all the blessings in life, or adopting positive, motivational mantras or affirmations. It shifts the focus from the cloud to the silver lining and can prevent fear from gaining a foothold in the mind.
- Take a moment to relax. Anxiety and fearful thoughts can trigger physical symptoms, such as an elevated heart rate or rapid, shallow breathing. Practicing some yoga poses, doing deep breathing during meditation or decompressing during a walk outdoors calms the body and the mind, providing a clearer focus. They’re effective methods of how to deal with fear.
- Look at the facts. Is the fear grounded in reality, or is it simply a misperception? Take a hard look at the facts. Once a situation is assessed, it often becomes evident that the fear is baseless. There’s no real chance of the worst-case scenario actually happening.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about fear. A counselor can help work through the fears and provide valuable coping tools. Developing a network of trusted friends to confide in is also helpful. Bringing a fear into the light by talking about it can rob the fear of its power.
- Face your fears. The typical response to fear is to run away from its source—a technique called avoidance. While that may bring short-term relief, it only reinforces the idea that there is something to be scared of and the fear doesn’t go away. Instead, make habituation the goal. This decrease in anxiety occurs when a fearful situation is faced head on. It’s usually not as bad as anticipated, so the fear becomes more manageable. This is called exposure therapy. It can be done under the guidance of a counselor if needed.
- Give yourself grace. Working through fears can take time. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t worry. You’re working on the necessary steps to learn how to conquer fear. On the flip side, celebrate your achievements when you do reach a goal related to overcoming your fears.
Facing Your Fears in Life
Fear is a basic human response that’s universal to everyone. It prepares us to fight off danger and keeps us safe. Fear can turn into a phobia when there’s no risk or threat.
This kind of fear can be triggered by past trauma or the possibility of losing control. It can also be rooted in mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, or agoraphobia. The issues need to be addressed to understand how to overcome fear in life.
There are several types of common fears. These can include fear of failure (or success), abandonment, particular things (animals, spiders), activities (flying, being in crowds), or threats to personal safety.
For instance, Julianna had a head lice and bed bug phobia when she was a teenager. She was diagnosed with anxiety at age 13 and had a few panic attacks. Her fear of head lice and bed bugs prevented her from enjoying normal activities, such as participating in gym class or going to the movies, where she imagined coming into contact with the pests.
Alban, a graduate student clinician, observed that Julianna practiced avoidance in response to her fear. In those situations, Julianna could have tried cognitive restructuring or retraining her thoughts: What would be the chances of her realistically getting lice from a movie theater? Alban also advocates exposure therapy in these circumstances.
One thing that helped Julianna was sharing her fears with others who listened to her and empathized with her. That kind of understanding and acceptance is at the foundation of TAG. This streaming service hosts a library of videos featuring real people sharing their mental health journeys, as well as clinicians providing professional insight. It’s an innovation in healing, providing information and support so that patients and their loved ones can better cope with mental health challenges. See what TAG has to offer; watch Julianna’s story about how to overcome fear.