Fear is a common emotion. Caused by a release of adrenaline from the nervous system, fear energizes our bodies with both positive and negative results. It can aid in our fight-or-flight self-defense mechanism, protecting us from threatening situations. However, fear can also paralyze us, preventing us from living normal, balanced lives.
If you or someone you love is experiencing persistent fear, you can take steps to alleviate or diminish the effects. The following information includes tips on coping with and preventing fear. Keep in mind that if you are experiencing prolonged, heightened levels of fear, you should contact a therapist or call your Primary Care Doctor. In this discussion we will learn about:
• Putting Fear in Perspective
• Dealing with Fear
• Preventing Fear
• Helping Others Cope with Fear
Putting Fear in Perspective
One of the first steps to overcoming your fears is to put them in perspective. Try the following exercise:
1. Recall the most traumatic event in your life. Verbalize it or write it down, in detail.
2. What were your feelings? Record your feelings as the event happened and log how they progressed over time.
3. Next, recall the dire predictions you made in the aftermath of the event.
4. Finally, detail what really happened after the event and how your life changed, if applicable.
In going through this process, you may realize that your initial reactions and predictions never actually happened. This is due in part to human nature: we tend to predict a worse-case scenario in times when we are unable to control an event. Thankfully, most times the worst usually does not occur.
Dealing with Fear
This one is hard but try to consider the following tips for how to cope with fear:
1. Validate it. Fear is normal. Everyone experiences fear. By understanding that you are not alone in your feelings, you may be able to better accept it and move on.
2. Share your fear. Confronting your fears is difficult enough; doing it alone can be overwhelming. Build a support system by telling those close to you how you feel. They may be able to help you get through rough situations.
3. Create a safe environment. Certain tasks, events or settings may be triggering your fear. Stick to familiar, safe places and faces until you are ready to face fear-provoking situations.
4. Do research. Find others who feel the same way and find out how they overcame their fears. Is a fear of flying preventing you from traveling? Research the statistics so you can understand the probabilities. Try to understand the reality of a situation or the likelihood of an event; this can help to keep fear within an acceptable range.
5. Understand your level of control. No one has control over every aspect of his or her life. Focus on what you do have control over and the strengths you possess. Then, use some of that strength when confronting your fears.
6. Be patient. Fear does not leave as suddenly as it appears. Give yourself time to cope, and work on overcoming your fear every day, little by little.
While you cannot totally avoid fear, you can take steps to keep your body and mind healthy and balanced. Because stress can aggravate fear, the key is to keep your stress levels low by:
1. Getting enough rest.
2. Exercising regularly.
3. Eating healthy meals on a regular schedule.
4. Avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine.
5. Avoiding depressant’s, such as alcohol or tranquilizers.
6. Staying organized.
7. Avoiding taking on too many projects, commitments and engagements.
8. Doing relaxing exercises, such as breathing, yoga, meditation and muscle-relaxation techniques.
Helping Others Cope with Fear
If a loved one is experiencing fear, here are a few simple steps you can take to help lessen his or her stress and anxiety levels:
1. Be aware of typical fear reactions. Sleep disturbances or nightmares, social withdrawal, reverting to childlike behaviors and a lack of focus on work or school can be indicators of fear. If these symptoms are present, you may want to talk with your loved one.
2. Listen. Be available when he or she wants to talk. Refrain from offering too much advice; instead, try to be understanding.
3. Be patient. Fear can be limiting; it can be especially difficult to understand if you cannot comprehend the basis of the fear. Try to remember that everyone has different fears and levels of fear.
4. Suggest that your loved one seek professional help. Patience and understanding can only go so far. A therapist can help your loved one identify the root of the problem and determine how to best deal with the fear. So let’s kick Fear in the @##$$ and take back our Lives!!!!
• American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org
• National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
• Anxiety and Depression Association of America: http://www.adaa.org