How to Deal with Fear

No one wants to live in constant fear but there is nothing like an occasional dose of fear to put things into perspective. Instead of dreading or avoiding fear, develop a new appreciation for how fear can help you in your life.

There are physiological processes that take place when we feel fear. When we’re frightened, the brain releases chemicals that keep us from feeling pain and give us a rush of energy and clarity when we need it most. The adrenaline rush generated by fear enables people to take extreme measures in order to survive in life-threatening situations.

Evolutionary theorists believe that fear was important in allowing us to sense danger and respond appropriately. They believe that humans developed fear as a mechanism to identify not only actual, but also perceived, threats. Today, that fear mechanism continues to work for us although our threats are more often of a psychological than a physical nature.

When the fear response is stimulated for psychological reasons, it is important for us to listen to our fear without acting mindlessly or becoming paralyzed by it. When we allow fear to overcome our rational thought, it can lead to inaction or actions that may be illogical and against our best interest. We may over-respond to a perceived threat with a quick, impulsive reaction rather than thoughtful, measured, and considered action.

The art of fear management, like stress management, is not about trying to control or avoid the fear we experience but rather about determining what to do with fear when we are faced with it. The objective is to find the middle ground between being held back by anxiety and moving ahead too recklessly.

When faced with fear, reduce your stress by reminding yourself that fear is normal, healthy, and adaptive. Acknowledge and own your fear. Appreciate that it can keep you cautious rather than reckless. Explore your personal triggers and what is likely to make you lose perspective or panic. Consider if you are letting fear paralyze you.

If fear is paralyzing you, reassess your assumptions and any catastrophizing that you may be doing. Put your fear into perspective when you find yourself out of balance. Consider what your life would be like if you did not let fear hold you back. While acknowledging what you are feeling, consider your situation in a more positive light. Reframing and challenging initial reactions is a key part of managing fear and anxiety.

An encounter with fear is often a wake-up call and the new perspective that one receives can be the upside to a very uncomfortable experience. A new appreciation for life, an increased clarity of purpose, and a deeper happiness can come after an intense encounter with fear. Embrace your fear and let it enrich your life.

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