Take the right steps to move past fear
You have a fear that is holding you back.
You’re not alone. Everyone experiences some level of fear or anxiety. The specifics may vary, but everyone is paralyzed – at one point or another – by the insidious voice of fear. Although it may not seem like it, at least not when fear’s grip is strongest, you can conquer your fears. People do it every day and it is more attainable than you might expect.
Looking to break free from the fear that’s holding you back? Give the following seven steps a try:
1. Acknowledge Fear’s Hold on You
This first step is deceptively simple. If you’re seeking to conquer your fear, you obviously know that it is controlling your every thought and action, right?
Our fears warp the way we perceive the world and the way we see ourselves. They skew our thoughts and put a gag on rational thought. Fears, insecurities and anxieties can be hard to overcome because their roots are sunk deep into our subconscious.
For example, Gregory Berns, M.D., Ph.D. found that “when our brains sense pain, or anticipate loss, we tend to hold onto what we have.” In layman’s terms, people will often pick the pain they know or the misery they’re familiar rather than risk the mere possibility of unknown pain or loss in the future. “The most concrete thing that neuroscience tells us” says Berns, “is that when the fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and risk-taking are turned off.”
If you want to conquer your fear, the first step has to be acknowledging that your fear is controlling you.
2. Identify the Root of the Fear
Remember those deep roots? They often look quite different from what’s on the surface. That’s because surface-level fear is often inspired by a deeper, more emotional anxiety.
Afraid to start your own business? You could call it a fear of failure; but that fear is connected to anxiety about looking foolish which in turn ties back to a desire for respect. Fear of failure may come from financial worries, which can be motivated by a desire to provide for family or loved ones.
Simply saying “I’m afraid of failure” will not get you to the root of your fear and the seat of its power. You have to identify the underlying emotional needs in order to truly understand – and defeat – your fear.
3. Create a Stress Management System
When your body is constantly trapped in fight-or-flight mode, it can affect more than just your emotional well-being. An extended fight-or-flight response throws your hormones out of whack. That imbalance can negatively impact anything from your heart to your weight to fertility.
Even after you’ve identified your fears, it’s important to have stress-relief techniques in place as you work to conquer them. It won’t happen overnight. Try proven stress-busting methods like yoga, meditation or a stress-relief tea.
4. Set Goals
Conquering your fear does not mean it disappears. Instead, fear is conquered when you are able not only to recognize when fear is dictating your thoughts, but also to regain control and take risks. Setting goals can help you take control back from fear.
“I will no longer worry about what others think of me” sounds good, but the truth is there will always be times you feel insecure. Instead, set more tangible goals, like: “I will not let fear stop me from asking for help on big projects at work.”
By setting a goal when your mind is clear, you are arming yourself for those moments when fear tries to take over.
5. Create Manageable Steps or Tasks
You know that old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Take the same approach to tackling your fears: one bite at a time.
Those with very specific phobias – like arachnophobia – often benefit from exposure therapy. Exposure therapy involves the creation of a program of steadily escalating steps or challenges. Arachnophobes don’t jump straight from fearing spiders to cuddling with a dozen tarantulas. They take small steps to strengthen their nonphobic response.
Take the goal from No. 4. If you’re afraid that asking for help will make you look weak or incompetent – common anxieties for those who refuse to ask for help – chances are you tend to say no when help is freely offered. A good first step might be to say yes when a coworker offers to help on a small task, such as cleaning up a spill in the break room or taking over a small errand.
6. Create Deadlines
If you fear deadlines, this step may not be for you. However, for many people, deadlines can be a form of motivation. Mark them on your calendar, place a bright Post-It on your monitor, set an alarm on your phone. Provide a realistic deadline and work to meet it.
Need to talk to your boss about a raise? A small step might be sending an email to request a meeting. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll email her today,” set a deadline of emailing before your lunch break. By setting a time to complete the task, it becomes more tangible.
7. Create an Accountability and Support Network
Take a page from addiction recovery and find a support network. Fear can be addicting, so surround yourself with friends and family who will encourage you as well as hold you accountable.
It’s easier to back out of a goal or ignore a deadline if you’re the only one who knows about it. By sharing it with a friend, you now have someone to hold you accountable. When fear begins to undermine your resolve, you can turn to your support network to put you back on the right track.
With a little honesty, a plan and a support network, you can conquer any fear.