How to Manage Fears
The Meaning of Fear
Fear is defined in the dictionary as: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”
For many of us how to manage our fears is an ongoing problem.
The first decision is to decide which fears you need to try and conquer and which ones you don’t.
What Causes Fear
Fear is a basic survival mechanism we are born with. It helps us protect ourselves from danger and so keeps us alive.
If we didn’t have fear we could suffer some serious consequences. Imagine if we never learned to run away from wild animals or not to jump off cliffs. We would not have survived as a species.
Even as babies we have inherent fears – loud noises scare us as does the fear of falling. As we grow older most of us move on to lives that we can manage without too many pressing fears keeping us from reaching our desired goals.
Most Common Life Fears
Some of the most common life fears most people experience are:
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of loneliness
- Fear of failure
- Fear of uncertainty
- Fear of change
Extreme fears are grouped into what psychologists call phobias. Most people have no fear associated with these, but for others, it causes great distress.
Some of the most common phobias are:
- Acrophobia- fear of heights
- Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces
- Claustrophobia – fear of small spaces
- Xenophobia -fear of the unknown or, especially referring to other people
- People also have fears of snakes, spiders dogs, thunderstorms, and many other things. (All with corresponding phobia names too long to mention)
What is important to notice is that these fears all exist EVEN IN THE ABSENCE of the stressor.
Thinking about or talking about snakes and spiders has a lot of peoples’ skin crawling. The thought of being close to reptiles is never going to happen for some!
But what to do when some of the abovementioned “life fears” run our lives?
Remember that these fears exist often without any real cause.
We don’t know why we fear them and the thing we fear has not happened yet! (As in the definition it is an impending emotion) So, how do we take charge of our emotions when these feelings arise?
Best Ways to Manage Fears
If you have extreme fear or a phobia that is debilitating to the extent that you cannot function in life, it is best to seek professional advice.
There are various therapies such as Desensitization therapy or Exposure therapy that are made use of in these instances.
Find a list of different therapies HERE.
How to Manage Your Fears in 7 Steps
If your fear is not as aggressive and you are still able to function in general but would like to conquer it then use the following steps:
1. Write down what is scaring you
Grab a pen and a notebook and start writing down what it is that is causing you concern. Just let it flow.
Do not sensor your writing to stop to think about it. Don’t try to make excuses like but or what if?
Make sure to include all the emotions it brings up i.e. anger, sadness, frustration, etc.
Include how this “fear” is stopping you from doing something you want to do or try in life.
As an example, asking for an increase at work is terrifying. Talking about money makes you feel uncomfortable or unworthy. This might mean you will never get to buy a car.
2. Decide on the worst possible outcome
Now write down the worst possible thing that could happen should your fear come true. What would the consequences be and how would it change your life?
Think deep here and get it all down on paper.
Also, decide that if the worst did happen what would the impact be on your life in general?
In our example, if you never got the courage to ask for an increase you would feel stuck in the same job for 20 years. Destined to be poor?
Be resentful of your boss?
And feel like a failure in life?
In this specific case- scenario it would have a huge impact on most of your life (career, financial, self-esteem) and make for a very bleak future.
3. Decide on a plan of action
Now it is time to decide what you would do if your worst fear did happen( I never got the courage to go ask for an increase).
Would you accept the bleak, broke future or is there something else you would rather try?
Now, think of different ways you could navigate your life without ever confronting the actual fear (never asking for the increase).
4. Make a choice
Here you can decide that if living with the consequences of your fears is acceptable then you can just make peace with it.
Maybe get a second job?
If not, then think of ways to make those changes to escape the negative consequences.
Back to the above example – I do not want to feel resentful and angry for the next 20 years so I will go and ask for an increase (and possibly be refused an increase) no matter how terrified I feel.
5. Imagine if a decision was forced onto you
Now even though you have a plan with action steps written down, imagine instead that your fear “happened” with or without your input.
In this example, imagine you got fired or the company went bankrupt before you could even go ask for an increase. What would your options look like then? (You would be forced to go and look for another job).
This can be applied to any situation – you lose your job, a girl you like rejects you, your spouse leaves you, or your best friend betrays you.
Try and imagine what you would feel at that moment and what you would need to do in each of those “worst-case” scenarios.
6. Way up the consequences of not acting
Now look at your fear or list of fears and write down how they are stopping you from living the life you want to be living.
Realize that an “impending ” feeling is what is stopping you from doing things. You don’t know if the “frightening thing” will ever happen. You might get the increase or you might be fired. Either way, you will need to adapt and change.
At this point, you have considered all the “worst” possible outcomes of the situation.
The emotionally intelligent thing to learn is that despite our fears there are things in life we cannot control.
So take that step.
There is no right time.
There is only now!
7. Conquer your mind and manage your fear
From the above 6 steps, we can see that at each step of the way the “fear” is in the mind.
It is the monster in your faulty thinking that is creating the fear. It also keeps that fear in place.
The fear exists in your mind ONLY AND NOWHERE outside of your mind.
In essence then fear is just a set of negative intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that keep you stuck in self-doubt and a position you want to break out of.
So, conquering fear is learning to conquer the negative thoughts in your head first.
Taken a step further, fear is just a lack of belief or faith. Faith in yourself and in that the universe has your back.
The steps above help you realize how your mind is in charge.
But changing it in an instant is unrealistic.
There are a few ways you can manage fears step-by-step.
4 Practical Tips for Managing Your Fears
1. Chunk it down into baby steps
No matter what your fears are, from public speaking to mountain climbing, you don’t have to do it all in one go.
Work out what you want to achieve and take baby steps.
Each small success will increase your confidence and shrink down that fear.
2. Ask for support
No one said you had to hide your fear or overcome it all by yourself.
As discussed above fear is a part of the human condition.
Rather build up a support network of family, friends, and colleagues who’ll have your back and help you manage your fear.
You could also get professional advice from a coach or mentor or find a relevant support group on the internet.
3. Look for the positive
A positive mindset will go a long way to help dispel fears and worries.
A negativity spiral makes things worse, increasing your paralysis and helplessness.
Look around you and actively identify what’s going right in your life.
Change your mindset and expectations to focus on abundance and success.
Half the battle is learning to accept that you deserve success, you deserve to win. You can focus your energy on getting there.
4. Take control of your story
Rewriting your narrative can shift fears into possibilities.
If you can see yourself as a competent, successful person, those niggles of self-doubt and negative self-talk will be chipped away.
Great ways of doing this are by using affirmations, and meditations, and getting life coaching or mentoring.
Take control of your story – decide to be brave, confident, and successful.
Write down all the negative things that go round and round in your head.
Make a list, and for every bad thing write a positive one. Create affirmations around the positive ones.
Squash self-doubt by writing down your skills, your strengths, and your good points.
Using tools such as affirmations will help to cement positive beliefs in your brain.
You’ll see how the positives outnumber the negatives, and consequently, you’ll be back in control of your own success story.
Deep down everyone is afraid of something.
The big difference between you and all those people you can see who are successful is that they confronted their fears. They worked through their issues to get ahead or went ahead despite them.
If you don’t face your fears, you’re likely to miss out on a lot in life. Someone once said that one of the saddest ways to sum up life is with could have, might have, and should have.
Don’t let that happen to you.
You have a choice between controlling or being controlled by your fears.
Quotes on How to Manage Fears
- “Courage is knowing what not to fear” -Plato
- “Be so busy loving your life that you have no time for hate, regret or fear” -Karen Salmansohn
- “Never trust your fears, they don’t know your strength” –Athena Singh
- “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” -Suzy Kassem
- “May your choices reflect your hopes. Not your fears” –Nelson Mandela
- “Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up” –Veronica Roth
- “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear-not absence of fear”–Mark Twain
- “Fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind” -Dale Carnegie
- “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step”–Martin Luther King Jr
- “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom” -Marilyn Ferguson
- “Everything you want is on the other side of fear” –Jack Canfield
- “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live” -Dorothy Thompson
- “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you” –Bethany Hamilton
- “The beautiful thing about fear is, when you run to it, it runs away” –Robin Sharma
- “You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so”–Dale Carnegie
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