Monday, 30 March 2020

It's time to put on a brave face: 10 ways to cope with fear in life

Trees in the mist
Image by Anna Urlapova from Pexels

Fear is a natural experience, it is in our nature to be afraid. That said, sometimes fear can limit our potential and stop us from doing the things that would be beneficial, due to the limitations that we put on ourselves.

When you are afraid, you can find it difficult to carry on with day to day life. Sleeping, eating, socializing can turn into the impossible. Fear can ruin your life.

Origin of fear can stem from various sources, for instance, your childhood - through modeling your parents and how they act in certain situations or negative experiences in general. 

Fighting fear is not a walk in the park, it takes time and practice. I thought I would put together a little guide to help you navigate life even if you are afraid. In this post, I will share 10 ways to cope with fear in life.

What is fear? 

Fear is an emotion to perceived danger or threat, causing a physiological response in your body - sweating, heart palpitations, shaking and so on. 

There are plenty of fear types. Far too many to list. You may be afraid of a specific thing like clowns or spiders. It could even be that you are afraid of social situations or being perceived as a failure. You can also be scared of the inevitable, death. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. It is an individual thing. To make it even more confusing we can have:

Fear  -  Emotion to perceived danger or threat
Phobia -  Intense irrational fear of something
Anxiety - A feeling of worry, nervousness, uneasiness or apprehension in relation to something

For the purpose of this post, I'm grouping everything under one label of 'fear'.

Fear is often referred to as the 'fight or flight' response, in which amygdala (amygdala is this tiny part in your brain, involved in decision making and emotional responses - namely fear, anxiety and aggression) releases adrenaline in our body when we are faced with threatening stimuli. 

Adrenaline gives us the energy required to escape the danger. As much as this response has been beneficial in the past, helping our ancestors to escape from predators and survive, nowadays fear can be a nuisance. Unfortunately, it is impossible to become fearless due to the biological nature of fear. Nevertheless, we can change our perspective and learn to slowly adapt. 

How to cope with fear in life? 

1. Take some time to understand your fear 

The first step to ease your fear is to understand it. Take a moment to be with your fear, be mindful of it. What is exactly that you are afraid of? Can you think of any reasons why you may be afraid of it? Understanding your fear will give you some clarity. 

2. Reward yourself for trying your best 

Stop being such a perfectionist! Reward yourself even if your progress is tiny. Reward yourself when you do something outside your comfort zone. After all, our behaviour is easily conditioned when we are given rewards. Rewards can balance out the seemingly negative nature of your fear, it can give you a positive to look forward to.

3. Practice relaxation techniques 

Relaxation is overly repeated advice for coping with fear, but I just have to mention it. Try to engage in something that works for you, whether it's breathing, visualization or simple counting. Relaxation will distract you from fear. As I have mentioned, fear causes a physical response in the body, relaxation techniques will calm these physical sensations and it will help you feel more at ease. 

4. Remember to start small 

Try to follow the principle of the most common psychological technique for helping people with fear called desensitization. This technique involves gradual exposure to the threat stimulus. For example if someone is afraid of spiders they would first look at pictures of spiders, then videos, then look at a real spider up close and then eventually touch the spider. You get the gist. 

When it comes to fear, always start small. You can't run a marathon or climb a mountain straightaway, same with fear. Start small and don't stress yourself out by attempting to expose yourself to the extreme. 

5. Observe others for inspiration 

How do other people cope with the things that you are afraid of? Most importantly, if they have been scared in the past of the same thing that you are afraid of now, what coping methods have they used? As much as fear is an individual experience, you can look at others for inspiration.

6. Never punish yourself for so-called 'failures' 

Coping with fear is not a walk in the park, setbacks are just part of the journey. You may be tempted to feel negative about yourself when you feel like you have failed. Remember that setbacks are natural. Be kind to yourself!

7. Step out of your comfort zone 

In my experience, one of the most effective things that you can do if you are struggling with fear is stepping out of your comfort zone. Put on a brave face, after all, practice makes perfect. Avoidance is fear's best friend so instead of avoiding fearful things, try to embrace them as much as you can. 

8. Fake it till you make it 

Try to imagine yourself as someone who is not afraid. Act as someone that you would like to be in the future. Try to fake it till you make it. It sounds silly, but it works. 

9. Try not to see fear as your enemy 

Fear is a natural response, we have been evolved to have fear because the flight or fight response aids survival. Fear is not your enemy, so try not to see it as a negative. Your fear is part of you, don't hate it, don't shun it. It's okay to be afraid. Treat your fearful side like a vulnerable child who needs protection and love. Be compassionate, not hateful. This change in perspective will help you to feel cope with fear. 

10. Remember to track your progress 

Keep track of your progress related to coping with your fear, it will act as a reminder of how far you have come. You could possibly have a notebook that expresses not just general progress but also your feelings and emotions related to your fear experience.

Here you have it, 10 ways to help you cope with fear. Remember that fear is an individual experience, what works for some, may not work for you and that's okay.

The most important thing is knowing who you are and the nature of your fear. Be engaged in this 'self-analysis'. If you have enjoyed this post, check out my other posts and consider sharing or following the blog. It's much appreciated! 

Take care of yourself, and try your best not to stress too much during these crazy times! 

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  1. This is a very appropriate post right now. And great tips. Relaxation techniques are so helpful and finding your own healthy coping mechanisms x

  2. Fear is the emotion that allowed people to survive since ancient times, because it is a protective function of our body and you need to be able to work with it.

  3. If you are afraid of something, you need to find any possible way to cope with your fears. It is important. Write a resume for accounting assistant as per your needs as well.


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