Ruth E. Renkel
Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.
This is the second of a two part series about fear:
What to do When Struck by Fear
Okay, so the moment seemed unavoidable. Being unable to control your conditioned automatic responses, you are now struck by sudden fear and it seems as though all is lost. How will you ever dig yourself out of this situation?
This is however no time to panic. Because there are certain things you can do immediately that will help you to ease your fears and lay down the groundwork for positive action moving forward. Let’s look at some of these options in a little detail:
Change Your Physiology
The moment you are struck by fear, it’s absolutely paramount that you take immediate control of yourself. Don’t worry about the situation. Concern yourself only about your response to the situation.
Notice how you are moving and positioning your body. When in a state of fear or panic, the body moves differently then when calm, cool and collected. Ask yourself:
What is my body doing at this very moment?
How is my body moving?
Where am I feeling tension?
Is all this helping me relax, or is it magnifying my fear?
What could I do about this? How must I change things?
Your physiology is intricately tied to your emotions. In fact, your physiology is the external reflection and manifestation of your emotions. By looking at your physiology or anyone else’s physiology for that matter, you can often tell how they are feeling inside. It is therefore very important that you first of all become aware of the changes in your body, and secondly that you take control of your physiological responses to help ease the tension you are experiencing.
Here’s an example to give you a little more detail:
Think about how your body responds to fear. It’s probably often very tense, your breathing is quick and erratic, and your body is probably moving quickly and jerking uncontrollably. Now think about how your body is when it is calm. During these calm moments it is probably breathing deeply, fully and slowly. Also the movement of your body is graceful and relaxed. It’s absolutely critical that you remember how your body feels during these moments so that you can consciously calm yourself during times of fear.
Change Your Language
Take notice of the language you are using while experiencing fear. Your language, self-talk, or in other words, your thoughts are probably at this very moment quite pessimistic and out of control. Ask yourself:
What am I saying to myself?
How am I saying these things?
What negative thoughts am I currently indulging in?
Is all this helping me to stay calm, or is it magnifying my fear?
What could I do about this? How must I change things?
When you’re words are of a pessimistic nature directed at what it is you fear, you will undoubtedly magnify your fears. You must therefore consciously take control of these words and flip on the optimistic switch. This will help you to immediately shift your perspective about your circumstances. To help you with this, ask yourself:
What would be a more helpful way to think about this?
If all else fails, then simply look yourself straight in the mirror and give yourself a motivational pep-talk. There’s tremendous power in the act of looking straight in your eyes and literally telling yourself what to do. The reason why this is powerful is because you are no longer keeping things in your head, but rather externalizing them. This external manifestation of your words, and the fact that you are looking back at yourself is an extremely powerful combination that can literally work miracles when it comes to raising your levels of motivation.
Change Your Focus
Take into account what it is you are focusing on. Wherever you direct your focus will determine the resources and opportunities you have access to at that very moment. If you are focused on all the negatives of the situation and on your limiting response to fear, then you will have your blinders on to all the resources and opportunities that you could potentially take advantage of. Ask yourself:
What am I focusing on?
How am I focusing on things?
Is all this helping me find a solution, or is it magnifying my fear?
What could I do about this? How must I change the way I focus on things?
Quit focusing on your fear, and instead begin focusing on the resources you have at your disposal to get through this situation successfully. Also focus on the potential opportunities that exist as a result of this fearful experience. Ask yourself:
What resources do I have access to that could help me better handle this fear?
How could I best utilize these resources to help me conquer this fear?
What opportunities does this fear present me with?
How could I take advantage of the opportunities presented before me?
Now consider the things you are grateful for in this situation, or if that doesn’t work for you then have a think about the humorous side of the situation. It might not initially be easy to think this way, however these two methods can help you to redirect your mind away from the fear and in a more positive direction. Ask yourself:
What is there to be grateful for about this situation?
What’s actually funny about this that I hadn’t noticed?
Alternatively, to immediately calm yourself you can begin focusing on the present moment. Actually take the time to internalize this moment by focusing on your breath. As you focus on your breath within the present moment, there is no fear. There is just calmness and serenity. And this might be all you need to settle yourself down.
Finally, you can try focusing on your vision of the future. You obviously have some kind of vision of how you would like things to be in the future. Use this to help motivate and inspire you in the present moment to help you conquer this fear successfully.
Shift Your Perspective
Sometimes all it takes to get a hold of your fear is to simply change your perspective about the fear. Therefore instead of seeing fear as fear, replace it with other more resourceful emotions such as faith, hope, passion, courage, and self-confidence.
What if instead of fearing things you were excited. Ask yourself:
What is it about this that gets me excited?
What if instead of fearing things you were optimistic and you believed in yourself that you could get through this. Ask yourself:
What is there to be optimistic about?
What if instead of fearing things you were curious. Ask yourself:
What’s interesting about this situation?
These are just a few examples. However, you can replace fear with literally any positive emotion. And this shift of perspective might be the starting point to help you conquer this fear successfully.
Alternatively, you can discuss your fear with someone else and gain their valuable feedback and perspective. Just maybe this other person will question your fear and wonder what it is exactly you’re scared of. Maybe they can even provide you with a different perspective — a different way of viewing the fear. And maybe this is all you need to help change your mind about the situation you are trying to work through.
Take Full Responsibility
It’s important that you always take full responsibility for your fears. Don’t deny that you have no fear, when in fact you do. Your denial will only hinder your progress. Also don’t complain or lay blame on other people or circumstances. There’s nobody to blame for this fear. This is your fear and your responsibility. It’s only when you fully accept this responsibility that you will find the answers you need within yourself to conquer this fear successfully.
Another advantage of taking responsibility is the fact that you now have the power in your hands to change your circumstances on purpose. You’re not blaming anyone for this, and therefore you’re not relying on other people to help you fix things. Simply trust yourself that you have all you need within yourself to get through this experience. You are resourceful, and you will find a way to conquer this fear.
Get Active: Exercise
At times fear becomes so overwhelming that you literally can’t control your physiological responses. In such instances you just simply need to get your body moving to help you release the adrenalin that’s building up inside. And the best way to do this is to go for a run or swim or for a cycle. Add to this some powerful music and you have for yourself a perfect recipe. The act of moving your body with purpose can be exactly what you need to help you think with a little more clarity.
Take Just One Small Step Forward
At times you experience fear because you simply don’t know what to do. However, often all it takes is just one small step to help you get the ball rolling. You can therefore either take the time to lay down a plan of action moving forward, which could very well be the catalyst that will give you the confidence you need to conquer this fear. Or, don’t even worry about what you will or won’t do. Just take one small positive step forward into the unknown — stepping into your fear. Sometimes this is all it takes to get things going. Just one small step with a commitment towards a desired outcome can help you to build the momentum you need to get through this fear.
Build Your Fear Muscle
There are certain things you can do on a daily basis that will help strengthen you — literally building your fear muscle.
Your fear muscle is just like any other muscle within your body. The more often you work it out, the stronger it will become, and the heavier weights/fears it will be able to lift. Here are some suggestions that will help you to build your fear muscle:
Gain the Necessary Knowledge and Experience
Often you fear things because you simply lack the knowledge, understanding and experience that could help you to overcome this fear successfully.
You must therefore first of all learn all you possibly can about the circumstances you are facing. However, of course don’t spend all your time just gaining knowledge. Once you have some knowledge you must then go out there and gain some experience, even just a little bit of experience to help desensitize you to the fear. Overtime as your knowledge improves and you gain wisdom through experience, your confidence will likewise improve, and before you even know it, the thing you were fearing will no longer have any significance over your decisions and actions.
Transform Fearful Stories
Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are literally telling yourself frightening stories on a daily basis about what you shouldn’t be doing because it might cause you pain, embarrassment, rejection or failure.
There’s nothing wrong with telling yourself stories. Stories can actually be used to help empower you to take positive proactive action towards the attainment of your desired outcomes. However, it’s the stories about the things you are wanting to avoid at all costs that are currently robbing you of the life you want to live. Ask yourself:
What stories am I telling myself about the things I fear?
How are these stories hurting me?
How could I change these stories to help me overcome my fear?
Stories are usually built upon past memories that you often would like to forget. These stories about fear are not helping you in the present moment. Therefore if you experienced events in the past that led to this fear, then it’s time today for you to literally go back and change these stories/memories. Give your stories a positive spin and make them work for you rather than against you.
Face Your Fears Creatively
Many times facing your fear head-on is the best thing to do. Just jump in there and take one small step forward, or even a giant leap forward that will put you in the deep-end of the pool and force you to swim for your life. In fact, let’s look at your fear as ice-cold water in a bathtub.
You glance at the water and it looks cold and icy. You think to yourself that it must be all those ice-cubes floating around. You then dip your tippy-toes in the water, and you realize it is really… really cold. And now you’re scared because you are thinking about the consequences of dipping your entire body into this freezing cold water. However, thinking this way will not help you. It will actually hurt you and you will likely just turn away from the bathtub and instead enjoy a hot, comfortable and steamy shower. However, to achieve your desired outcome, you still need to jump into that ice-cold bathtub.
Instead of dipping your tippy-toes into the bathtub, just commit fully to the experience and jump in — covering yourself neck deep in ice-cold water. Of course your body will receive a sudden shock, and you may very well jump out after a few seconds, but you took the plunge. And by taking the plunge you gained some valuable experience that guarantees the next time you take the plunge, that it won’t be as bad, because you know what to expect. And so, on the very next attempt you soak in the ice-cold water a little longer, then a little longer still the very next day, until eventually you begin feeling somewhat comfortable — or at least somewhat tolerant of the experience.
Having read the above metaphoric example, what did you just do? You used your creative imagination to help you overcome this fear. Of course this isn’t the only way to use your imagination. You can also literally just think about yourself overcoming your fear within your mind. This actually works very well because the brain cannot tell the difference between real life and an imagined experience. Therefore the more time you spend overcoming your fear within your imagination, the more comfortable you will feel dealing with this fear in the real world. It all just takes a little bit of practice, and a lot of imagination.
Another creative way to conquer your fear is to sketch it out on paper. Yes, physically take out a sheet of paper and sketch out what it is you fear. Don’t concern yourself with your drawing skills. Your artistic skills are not important here. What’s important is that you get this fear down on paper. Once it’s there, sketch out how you will overcome your fear. Use your creativity and express yourself in a playful and humorous way. The physical act of undertaking this exercise could be all you need to create the momentum that will help you overcome your fear.
Extinguish Your Assumptions and Excuses
When you fear something, often your brain blows things out of proportion. In fact, many times you might even jump to conclusions and make quick assumptions about the situation you are dealing with. You don’t even know whether or not these assumptions are true, and yet you accept them as fact. Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. Question all the assumptions you are making about this fear. In fact, unless you have hard proven facts about a situation, consider that it is only an assumption until proven otherwise. Who knows, maybe the thing you fear isn’t nearly as bad as you imagine it to be.
As with assumptions, excuses can also get in your way. Don’t get caught up making excuses about why you shouldn’t do something. Excuses appear to be rational, however many times they are often emotional responses to things that we just don’t feel comfortable dealing with. Throw your excuses out the window. Let there be no excuse why you shouldn’t do something. Facing your problems without excuses can provide you with the momentum you need to overcome your fears.
Help People Overcome their Fears
Sometimes the best way to gain proper perspective on your own fears is to help another person overcome their fears.
Ask one of your friends or colleagues what it is that they fear. Then help them work through this fear step-by-step. You essentially become their coach, cheerleader and supporter along this journey. Who knows, maybe after you have helped them, they can also help you to overcome your fear.
Retrain Your Brain
The fear response is natural, however many of your fears are not natural and have been conditioned into your psyche from a young age. At the time your brain and nervous system was conditioned to respond in a certain way to specific events and circumstances. These responses have been ingrained so deeply into your nervous system that today they are literally automatic. They have become habits, and you no longer think about what it is you do, instead your body responds in fear and there seems to be very little you can do about it in the present moment.
There are however things you can do that will help you to retrain your brain, and therefore potentially weaken these childhood fear responses. Here are some suggestions:
Surround Yourself with Fearless People
One of the best ways to weaken your fear responses is to surround yourself with fearless and adventurous people. These are the kinds of people who will take crazy risks and chances in life. These are the people that go on wild adventures. They literally have no fears and a crazy adventurous spirit.
The more time you are able to spend with these people and observe them in action, the greater comfort you will feel about doing things that you might previously have been afraid to do. These people will literally give you a different perspective of fear that you may never have considered before. Maybe fear is not “fear”. Maybe fear is nothing more than an exciting adventure stepping into the unknown. Just think about how wonderful life would be if you interpreted your fears in this way.
See Fear Differently
Quit seeing fear as something that you run away from. Instead wouldn’t it be better to perceive fear as a challenge or maybe even as a problem that you must solve.
Problems have solutions, they are often not tinged with uncontrollable emotions, and they are not something that people fear. People might of course not like their problems, but problems are things you can control and work through. On the other hand overcoming fear requires a little bit more emotional self-control.
Another way you can view fear is to see it as a fuel for motivation and proactive action. Whenever you are confronted by fear, envision it as a kind of fuel that your body needs to help boost your levels of motivation and spring you into action.
All these suggestions are a form of reframing your fears. When you reframe your fears you are twisting them in a way that is helpful for you moving forward. Reframing is something that you must get into the habit of doing consistently if you desire to conquer your fears successfully.
Find Evidence to Disprove Your Fears
View your fears as a Detective would — how about Sherlock Holmes? Everything might look scary on the surface, however there is a little bit of mystery that could point to evidence that might dismantle your fear for good. Look for this evidence; search for this evidence, and find the proof you need that will help you to undermine and weaken this fear. Ask yourself:
What evidence is there that proves this fear is real?
What evidence is there that proves otherwise?
Develop New Habits and Beliefs
Spend time developing new habits that will help you to combat your fears. For instance the habit of consistently trying new things, taking risks and stepping outside your comfort zone can help to desensitize you to your fears. Or the habit of asking solution focused questions can help you to find potential opportunities that you might be able to take advantage of that will help you to overcome your fears. Ask yourself:
What new habits could I develop that will help desensitize me to fear?
Likewise, spend time developing new empowering beliefs that will help strengthen your confidence while working through your fears. Ask yourself:
What must I believe to overcome this fear successfully?
What must I believe to live fearlessly?
Be Willing to Take Risks
To conquer your fears might often mean that you will need to take a few risks and chances. In fact, you will probably need to step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. You may even make mistakes, fail repeatedly and embarrass yourself along the way. You will of course feel nervous, tense and fearful throughout this journey. However, all this is perfectly okay, as long as you are willing to spend some time in a state of discomfort. Discomfort is a good thing. It’s a signal that you are learning, growing and moving forward in life. Don’t fight it. Embrace it!
Being willing to risk does however mean that you must be open to change, new experiences and perspectives. Often conquering your fear requires that you change; that your circumstances change, and that you do something that you might never have done before. By being open to the possibilities, you are laying down the groundwork that will help you to retrain your brain and conquer your fears.
There are certain things you can do long-term that will help you to manage your future fears far more effectively. Here are a few suggestions:
Learn from Failure and Mistakes
While working through your fears, one thing is certain: You will make mistakes, and you may even fail at times. But that’s perfectly okay as long as you are willing and ready to learn from these mistakes and failed attempts. By learning from them and adjusting your approach accordingly will help you to better understand yourself as well as your circumstances moving forward. This will provide you with unique understandings and perspectives that will bless you with the feedback you need to do things differently the next time around.
It is however important that you never become obsessed with making too many mistakes. It really doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, as long as you’re growing from the experience. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and move on. As the saying goes, “there is no point in crying over spilt milk”. Whatever happens, happens. Forgive yourself, deal with it in your own way and just keep moving forward by making another attempt. Overcoming fear is simply a learning experience.
Develop a Plan of Action
Develop a plan of action that will help you to confront your fears as often as possible. In fact, draw up a plan to challenge yourself daily in a way that will help you develop the momentum and motivation you need to break through any barriers that are still confining you to your comfort zone.
Two Things to Avoid Doing
When it comes to conquering your fears, it’s important that you never obsess about your fears. Your fears are just a natural part of life. They are just another experience that you must learn and grow from.
It’s also critical that you don’t delay your decisions. Your fears strengthen the moment you hesitate to take positive proactive action to overcome them. Don’t delay. Take action today.
Avoid Using Fear as an Excuse
It’s absolutely paramount you avoid using your fears as an excuse to worry excessively; as an excuse to neglect your goals, and as an excuse to procrastinate. There are never any good excuses when it comes to your fears. Throw your excuses out the window and accept full responsibility for your life, decisions and actions.
If your excuses are keeping you within the security of your comfort zone, or making you doubt yourself and your abilities, then you’re doing it all wrong. This is no way to overcome fear. And the longer you persist with this strategy the more difficult it will be to conquer your fears in the future.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Would you like to keep these concepts at the forefront of your mind? If so, then you might like to download the accompanying mind map reference poster to your iPad, tablet or computer. The map presents you with a quick overview of this article. It’s designed specifically to help improve your memory and recall of this information so that you can better integrate these concepts into your daily thoughts, habits and actions. Your purchase will also go a long way towards supporting the further development of these maps.
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Irrational Responses to Fear that Keep You from Thriving @ Shake off the Grind
- 33 Powerful Ways of Overcoming Fear… Right Now @ Wake Up Cloud
- 53 of the Best Quotes on Fear @ The Bold Life
- 75 Ways to Remain Fearless and Live the Bold Life @ The Bold Life
- Fear and How to Beat it @ Think Simple Now
- Fear is Good @ Scott H. Young
- How to Handle Fear @ Thought Wrestling
- How to Take Charge of Your Fears @ Junble Of Life
- Taking Small Steps to do the Thing that Scares You @ Tiny Buddha