Fighting Your Fears

Don't Let Fear Hold You Back

All of us struggle with fear and worry from time to time. In fact, in many cases, fear is actually a good and healthy reaction to life's circumstances.

It causes us to wear seat belts and to try to eat healthy. It keeps us from doing things that will hurt us, like getting too close to a fire or jumping into a lion's cage at the zoo.

It is also natural to be concerned about our health, bank account, job status, children, and more. When something threatens on of those things, we take notice. We work hard to protect ourselves and those we love.

In some ways, fear is both a natural and helpful part of what it means to be human.

But if fear gets out of control, it can take over and prevent us from enjoying life. When we're consumed by fear, we can't be present for others or do the things we love. Overwhelming fear affects our health, saps our strength, makes it difficult to concentrate and robs us of sleep.

It also keeps us from taking any risks. If were afraid, we won't start new businesses, write books, or initiate relationships. We'll constantly play it safe, always trying to insulate ourselves from any negative consequences.

When we play it safe, we don't grow. We stagnate. We miss out on great opportunities.

We can't run from fear or simply hope it goes away. There will always be something to worry about.

If we are going to successfully navigate the often-difficult world in which we live, we need effective strategies for coping with worry and fear. We must be able to deal with out anxieties in health and productive ways.

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And while this isn't 100% true (there are real thing to fear, his point is well made.

Fear holds us back form living life to the fullest. We must learn how to overcome our fears, so we can move toward the things we desire.

In this ebook, you will discover proven strategies for facing and overcoming your fears. You'll learn effective, healthy strategies for handling worry and anxiety.

No, your fears won't suddenly vanish. But, you will be equipped to face them and deal with them.

What Exactly Is Fear?

Fear is a biological response to an internal or external stimulus.

Let's break this down. Fear is:

  • A biological response. When you're afraid, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode. Your heart rate goes up and your adrenaline increases. Your brain starts to race, and you may start to sweat. All these things together create the emotion of fear.
  • To an internal or external stimulus. Fear can arise from within or without. Thinking about losing your job (internal stimulus) causes fear. Coming face-to-face with a grizzly bear (external stimulus) also causes fear.

When dealing with your own struggles, it is important to understand the source of your fear. Is it arising internally or coming at you externally?

What you will probably discover is that most of your fears are internally created. very rately will you find yourself in an actual life-or-death situation. Most of the time, you are afraid because of what you think will happen rather than what is actually happening.

Put another way, the majority of fears simply aren't connected to reality. What you feel is real, but the circumstances you are imagining are not. The fundamental truth is that most fear is a response to an imagined reality.

For example, say you find a strange lump on your neck. Immediately, you begin to fear the worst, thinking you have a bad disease.

Are yu actually sick? You won't know until you see the doctor, but you are afraid, nonetheless. You are worrying in response to your imagination.

As the author Mark Twain said: "Ive had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happen."

When you understand the true nature of fear, it becomes easier to overcome.

You are able to closely examine your anxiety and determine if there is any substance to it. Some of your worries may have merit, but you will discover that most of them don't. And, even the ones that do have merit probably aren't nearly as bad as you imagine.

Change Your Biology

Before we talk about changing your fearful thoughts, let's talk about changing your fearful body. A we noted above, when you're afraid, it affects your body in many different ways.

When your body is ramped up, it can be very difficult to control your thinking. Thus, one of the most effective ways to deal with fear is to take control of you body. When you dispel the physical side effects of fear, it becomes easier to dispel the mental effects of fear.

So, how do you change your body?

Consider these strategies:

    1.    Exercise. Working out is nature’s anti-anxiety drug. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good. The tightness in your chest melts away, your mind slows, and you have more clarity. If you’re feeling worried, go for a brisk walk or hit the gym.

    2.    Do breathing exercises. When you’re anxious, you breathe rapidly, which raises your heart rate, increases muscle tension, causes dizziness, and creates other negative effects. To counteract, focus on changing your breathing patterns.

    •    Inhale slowly through your nose, hold the breath for several seconds, then slowly exhale. Repeat this pattern until you feel your anxiety beginning to dissipate.

    3.    Relax your muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique for releasing muscles that have been tensed due to anxiety. Start by flexing your toes for 10 seconds and then slowly releasing them for 10 seconds. Then do the same thing with your calves, thighs, and so on up your body.

    4.    Eat and sleep right. Your diet and the amount of sleep you get has a huge impact on the way you feel.

    •    As much as possible, try to eat healthy, nutritious foods and avoid processed ones. Fruits, vegetables, and meat that you obtain fresh or frozen are best. 
Processed foods, on the other hand, list many chemicals in their ingredients, which can wreak havoc with your health and mood.

    •    Stay away from mood-altering substances like alcohol and caffeine.

    •    Shoot for somewhere between seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

Consistently practicing these strategies will put you in a better position to tackle your fears, anxieties, and worries.

Identify Your Fears

Before you can overcome fear, you must be able to identify it. In other words, you must be able to specifically name the thing that you’re afraid of. If you’re not clear regarding the source of your anxiety, you’ll struggle to resolve it.

To identify your fears, ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • Why am I afraid of it?
  • What do I try not to think about?
  • When do I feel afraid?
  • What emotions do I feel?
  • What negative outcomes am I envisioning?
  • What pictures do I have in my head about this situation?

You may need to work a bit to get to the bottom of your fears. It’s common to have smaller fears stacked on top of a much larger one.

For example, say you’re afraid of losing your job. Is that the ultimate fear? Probably not. More likely, you’re afraid of not having enough money to pay the bills or losing the respect of your peers when being forced to restart your career.

When identifying your fears, keep pushing until you get to the root cause. Work to determine the root fear that is causing all your other anxieties. Keep asking yourself, “So what?”

For example:

  • So, what if I lose my job? I won’t make any money.
  • So, what if I don’t make any money? I can’t pay the bills.
  • So, what if I can’t pay the bills? I can’t provide for my family.

Dig until you determine what you’re ultimately afraid of.

Next, become aware of all the different ways your fear is affecting your life. Is it...

  • Causing you constant emotional distress?
  • Keeping you from doing things you want to do?
  • Hampering your relationships?  
  • Hurting your work performance?
  • Stealing your happiness?
  • Preventing you from enjoying the present?

The goal of this exercise is to bring you face-to-face with the consequences of your fear. When you see how worry and anxiety damage your life and hold you back, you become much more motivated to take action.

It may help you to write out your thoughts as you work through the above processes. Writing things down helps you think clearly and forces you to give voice to your anxious thoughts and feelings.

You can’t avoid your fear. The more you try to avoid it, the more it will grow. The only way forward is to look it in the eye.

Thich Nhat Hanh put it well when he said, “Every time your fear is invited up, every time you recognize it and smile at it, your fear will lose some of its strength.”

Confront your fears face-to-face and put a name to them. Then you can begin to dismantle them.

Practice Worst-Case Thinking

Considering the worst and best-case scenarios can dramatically alter your perspective and give you much-needed clarity about your fears.

When you feel afraid, think about the worst-case scenario. If everything went wrong, what is the worst that could happen? Now, what are the odds of that actually happening? Probably pretty low. The worst case very rarely happens.

For example, say you’re afraid of public speaking. The worst that could happen is you freeze up on stage, can’t say anything, and are completely embarrassed. But will that happen? Almost certainly not. And even if it did, would it actually be that bad? Sure, you’d be embarrassed, but that’s about it.

When you engage in worst-case thinking, you’ll often discover that the worst isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is. This enables you to move forward and overcome your fears.

After thinking through the worst-case, think through the best-case. If everything goes right, what awesome things will you experience?

Instead of freezing on stage, you totally knock it out of the park. You get a standing ovation, receive tons of compliments, and get invited to speak at other places. Your confidence goes through the roof.

When you envision the good things that will come your way, it motivates you to take action in the face of your fears. You are able to see what you will miss if you let your worries control you.

Will everything go perfectly? Probably not. But the reality is that things don’t have to go perfectly for you to reap the benefits of taking action.

Now, to be clear, there may be times when the worst-case scenario is very bad, like with a cancer diagnosis. In these scenarios, it can be especially helpful to think about the best case. If things go well, you’ll still have many years of life to enjoy with your family. Focusing on this can give you the strength you need to keep going forward.

Focus On What You Can Control

How much time and energy do you spend worrying about things you can't control? If you're like most people, probably a lot...a whole lot. After all, a huge portion of life is out of your control, and if you focus on those things, you'll be constantly worried.

For the most part, you can't control:

  • The actions and responses of others
  • Local and global events
  • Traffic
  • Weather
  • What others think
  • Aging
  • People's opinions of you
  • The past
  • The inevitability of death
  • And a whole lot more

Worrying about things you cannot control is a waste of time. It literally won't change a thing. And what's worse, it can divert your focus from the things you actually can control.

When you fear things outside of your control, you have less energy to use on the things where you can make a difference.

What can you control?

  • How you respond
  • What you think about
  • The ways you treat others
  • The information you consume
  • How you treat your body
  • Your self-talk
  • Your sleep habits
  • How consistent you are
  • And much more

When you focus on what you can control, your fears will significantly lessen, and your life will significantly improve.

Think of it in terms of American football. A defensive back can't control where the quarterback throws the football, but he can control his response to the throw. The more the defensive back focuses on how he will respond, the better he will play.

The same is true in life. You can’t control a significant portion of what happens, but you do have power over how you respond. The more you focus on your own actions and thoughts, the better things will go for you.

In his book Life, the Truth, and Being Free, Steve Maraboli said, “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.”

When you find yourself dealing with fear, stop and ask yourself, “What things are under my control?”

Once you identify those things, give all your time and energy to them. Avoid spinning your wheels over things where you have no control. Turn your fears into action.

Choose Gratitude

Fear is almost always rooted in a scarcity mentality. In other words, you are afraid that you won’t have something you want or desire.

You’re afraid that you’ll lack:

  • Love
  • Respect
  • Money
  • Health
  • Possessions
  • Or something else

Obviously, these are all good things and it’s not wrong to desire them. But it’s easy to become so fixated on them that you become fearful of not having them.

Gratitude completely shifts your perspective, fixing your gaze on the things you already have. It’s hard for gratitude and fear to coexist.

They’re like oil and water. In fact, a study of breast cancer patients showed that those who intentionally practiced gratitude were much less likely to experience anxiety.

When you feel fear beginning to rise in you, embrace gratitude. Look for ways to be grateful that are specifically related to your anxiety.

Are you worried about a medical condition? Express gratefulness for the health care available to you. Are you concerned about losing your job? Express gratitude for the chance to find something even better.

Are you worried about a medical condition? Express gratefulness for the health care available to you. Are you concerned about losing your job? Express gratitude for the chance to find something even better.

Every morning, Tony Robbins focuses on gratitude. He says:

"I focus on three moments in my life that I’m grateful for, because gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up. You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously.

So, gratitude is the solution to both anger and fear, and instead of just acting grateful, I think of specific situations that I’m grateful for, little ones and big ones. I do it every single day, and I step into those moments and I feel the gratitude and the aliveness."

When you’re consistently grateful, it’s hard to be fearful. You’re more aware of the good things you have.

Some simple ways to practice gratitude include:

  • Keep a daily gratitude journal.
  • Send a weekly text message of gratefulness to a friend.
  • Send out handwritten note cards once a month.
  • Tell your loved ones why you love them.
  • Embrace every challenge as an opportunity to grow.
  • Post about gratefulness on social media.

Practice Mindfulness And Meditation

Fear consistently takes you out of the present. Instead of focusing on the here and now, you are constantly worried about what could happen in the future. Worrying about bad things that might happen prevent you from enjoying good things that actually are happening.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation keeps you firmly rooted in the present. All of your energy and focus is given to the current moment. Simply put, you are able to be fully present in the present.

Now, to be clear, there is a difference between mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness, generally speaking, simply means being aware of and savoring the present moment without thought of anything else. Any activity can be done mindfully.

When you eat mindfully, you savor every bit, absorbing all the rich flavors you are experiencing. When you jog mindfully, you feel the burn in your muscles and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Mindfulness is a way of life.

Meditation is a specific practice that helps you grow in mindfulness. Although there are many different forms of meditation, they all involve focusing on the present for a set period of time. Some meditations help you clear your mind, while others promote positive feelings like peace, love, or compassion.

If you’ve never practiced meditation, there are numerous tools available that provide expert guidance:

  • Headspace has a huge number of guided meditations, sleep sounds, mini-meditations, and more.

  • Hallow is a faith-based app that helps you find peace and grow in your spiritual journey.

  • Calm offers numerous meditations of varying lengths, breathing exercises, nature sounds, sleep stories, and much more.

  • Aura offers personalized meditations, music, stories, and coaching based on your mood. 

  • Glo combines yoga and meditation, allowing you to strengthen body and mind simultaneously.

Mother Theresa said, “Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

The more you meditate and practice mindfulness, the less anxiety you’ll experience. Instead of being preoccupied with the future, you’ll savor the present.

Schedule Your Worries

One of the big challenges in dealing with fear is that it’s always present. At any moment, worries can crowd into your mind, disrupting your day, stealing your energy, and making it difficult to be present.

On top of this, many people find it difficult to turn their brains off. Once anxiety has wormed its way into their minds, they can’t stop thinking about it.

As a result, the same fears circle in their brains again and again. It’s a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.

One technique recommended by psychologists is actually scheduling a time when you will think about the things that worry you.

It works like this:

  • Set aside 15-30 minutes per day.
  • During that time, write down everything that worries you. You don’t have to create solutions. You just need to get things down on paper. 

  • If you start to worry about something at any other point in the day, tell yourself that you will think about it during your “worry time”.

In the beginning, you may find it challenging to put off your worries, but over time it will become easier. Your control over your mind will increase and you’ll find it less difficult to clamp down on your swirling mind.

An additional benefit of planned worry is that it increases your sense of control over your life.

Though you may not be able to control the circumstances that are causing your fears, you can decide exactly when you want to think about them.

Get Support

Dealing with fear is a lonely battle, often waged just in your mind. Most of the people around you have no idea what you’re dealing with, especially if you’re able to maintain external appearances.

What’s more, it can be difficult to know if your fears are reasonable or simply the product of your imagination. This is why getting support from others is crucial if you regularly deal with worry.

When you tell others what you’re thinking, you’ll get to look at your worries from a different perspective. You can receive encouragement and clarity. You’ll find that they can often shine light into the darkness of your fears.

Some ways to get needed support are:

1. Talk to a friend. Unburden yourself to someone that you know well and can trust. This person should be completely accepting and not think that your fears are silly, no matter how small. 

2.Join an online support group. There are a number of online organizations specifically designed to help you cope with anxiety, including:

  • Turn2Me
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  • 7 Cups of Tea
  • Daily Strength

3. Join a local support group. Depending on where you live, there may be in-person anxiety support groups which you can join.

Don’t be embarrassed if you struggle mightily with fear. Every person has their own share of worries and anxieties. You’re not any different. Talking to others about your struggles can go a long way in helping you make progress. It can lighten the load you’re carrying.

Author Maya Angelou said:

"Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike."

When you get support from others, you feel empathy and understanding. This can give  you the strength you need to keep fighting.

Talk With A Therapist Or Coach

If you struggle with significant amounts of fear on a regular basis, consider talking with a therapist. Therapists or coaches can help you identify what you’re afraid of and then guide you forward.

Using both their extensive training and experience, they can give you specific exercises that will help you overcome your fears.

Therapists can be especially helpful if you struggle with phobias, like fear of flying or dogs. Equipped with proven techniques like exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, they can help you overcome issues that have hampered you for years.

How do you know if you should go to a therapist? The American Psychological Association poses these questions:

  • Do you or someone close to you spend some amount of time every week thinking about the problem?
  • Is the problem embarrassing, to the point that you want to hide from others?
  • Over the past few months, has the problem reduced your quality of life?
  • Does the problem take up considerable time (e.g., more than an hour per day)?
  • Have you curtailed your work or educational ambitions because of the problem?
  • Are you rearranging your lifestyle to accommodate the problem?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you would probably benefit from seeing a therapist.

When it comes to finding a therapist or coach, you have several options. First, you can find one locally. If you don’t know of a good local therapist, Psychology Today has a searchable directory and the International Coaching Federation has a coach finder.

There are also numerous online therapy options available. Most of these online options offer both video sessions and text chat options. They will also try to work with your insurance provider.

Be sure to do your due diligence. Check out the reviews.

  • Betterhelp
  • Talkspace
  • Amwell
  • DoctorOnDemand
  • MDLive

Unfortunately, there can be a stigma surrounding therapy or coaching. A person who sees a therapist is considered weak somehow, like they weren’t strong enough to deal with their challenges.

Don’t buy into this idea. Many of the strongest, most successful people in the world go to therapy. CEOs, professional athletes, and military leaders have therapists or coaches. If they can benefit, you can too.

Have Self-Compassion

It’s essential to remember that you’re not defective if you regularly experience fear and anxiety. There are many factors that contribute to fear, including:

  • Biology
  • Genetics
  • Experience
  • Environment
  • Current circumstances
  • Family history

Any one of these things can cause you to feel afraid. It’s not as though you’re choosing to be afraid because you like it.

In light of this, be compassionate toward yourself. Don’t try to deny the existence of your fears or act like you have it all together. Accept and love yourself, fears and all.

If you’re unwilling to accept yourself until you completely overcome your fears, you’ll be perpetually unhappy. The reality is that fear will never be completely absent from your life. Even the most courageous people in the world feel anxiety from time to time.

If you want to overcome fear, you must have the courage to first accept yourself as you are. Sociologist Brene Brown said, “I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Own your story. Own the factors that cause fear to rise in you and own the actions necessary to still those fears.

Courage In The Face Of Fear

Courage is not the absence of fear. A Person who never feels fear isn't courageous, they're crazy. The world can be a pretty scary place and there are lots of reasons to feel afraid.

Courage is feeling afraid and acting anyway. Courageous people acknowledge their fears and then move forward to overcome them.

Nelson Mandela said it this way:

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

It’s okay to feel fear or worry but avoid letting them get the best of you. Don’t let anxiety keep you from living the life of your dreams.

We’ve talked about a number of different ways to deal with fear and worry:

  • Change your biology
  • Identify your fears
  • Practice worst-case and best-case thinking
  • Focus on what you can control
  • Choose gratitude
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Schedule your worries
  • Get support
  • Talk to a therapist
  • Have self-compassion

These techniques won’t eliminate fear from your life, but they will make it easier for you to cope with it.

Make no mistake, it’s not easy to overcome fear. It takes consistent work. You must have the courage to come face-to-face with the things that truly frighten you. You have to expend energy to get your thoughts under control.

But the work is worth it. As a result, you experience freedom, peace, and confidence. You aren’t easily rattled by circumstances. You know that you can handle whatever comes your way.

Author Judy Blume said, “Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”

A wonderful, adventurous future awaits you. You just need to step forward and take it.

Go to the March Ebook on Flow State

Go to the April Ebook a Self-Care System

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