August 18, 2017

15 Powerful Techniques To Face Your Fears + Conquer Them

How To Overcome Your Fears

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” 

- Eleanor Roosevelt

In this column, you will learn simple but powerful tips on how to overcome your fears from a wide range of experts. 

Clicking on the expert names below will take you to their individual blurb on facing your fears and overcoming them successfully.

# Just do it

In 1988, the slogan, "Just Do It" considerably increased sales, and apparently saved Nike from going broke, when they introduced it to their advertising campaign. The origin of the slogan was born as a result of a killer, Gary Gilmore, sentenced to death for murder; he had reportedly said "let's do this" when he faced his imminent death.

Unlike Gary Gilmore, who experienced his physical death, when you experience a fear and 'just do it,' you will experience the death of your 'story,' not your life!

How many times have you procrastinated and not done what you wanted to do?

I know I procrastinated writing this post. So why the procrastination, after all, it is only an article right? Well, I do not want to write a bad post. I want to get it right. I want you to like me. Ultimately, like a lot of people, I fear failure, which holds me back from doing what I need to, and want to, do!

Behind every procrastination, there is fear. Fear is the ultimate killer in our ability to move forward and achieve what we want and deserve in life.

What do you want to do but afraid too? Do you want to ask that person out on a date but fear rejection? Do you want to start your own business but afraid of failure? Whatever it is that you want to do but are not because of your fears, you are stopping your progress.

Fear is not reality.

Fear is 'False Evidence Appearing Real.'

Ben Rice said "Fear is not real; it is an illusion." Fear is our mind telling us what we believe will happen next based on our stories. We fear what we don't know, and it is easier to be stagnant, and remain in the old story.

For example, if you are in a job you dislike, your mind will focus on the loss of that job if you left. It does not see the endless possibilities and opportunities that will open up for you if you walk away from the job you hate.

My question is: "if you have not lived in the future, how do you know what is going to happen?"

When you take a leap of faith, you are changing your behavior and creating endless opportunities that will unfold for you as a result. You cannot see the new relationships that will show up or job opportunities that will gain as you align with what you want. When you align with what you want, the world opens up for you, and you will be amazed what the universe has to offer. So, what is holding you back?

Just Do It!

- Next time you find yourself procrastinating from doing something that you want or need to do, ask yourself "what do I fear?" Susan Jeffers says, "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway."

- Learn - Yes, there are things that you do that will fail. You will learn far more, and progress much further in life when you have learned from experiences that have not worked out as planned.

- Plan - Write a plan of at least three things you can do differently next time (that's the part where you have learned from your past experiences).

- Re-evaluate - If that plan does not work, write another one.

- "Don't worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try." Jack Canfield.

- Act interested in what you do. According to Richard Wisman, physical actions quickly changes how you think and feel. If you lack confidence, stand tall and proud, if you feel sad, smile, etc.

- Just Do It - Start whatever it is you need to do; even if it is only for a few minutes. When you have begun, you will think and feel much better.

What do you want to show up in your life when you Just Do It?

Sharon Craig, Relationship Coach – www.coach2connect.co

# Think positive

“A negative mind will never give you a positive life”- Ziad K. Abdelnour

We all have what we perceive to be negative events that occur throughout our life, but what if I told you that it is our thoughts surrounding the event that make it seem negative, not the event itself. It is not an easy concept to just wake up and understand. It takes practice and patience to see how changing our thoughts can actually change our life.

Events in life are neither positive nor negative, it is our own thoughts and meanings we attach to those events that make them appear one way or the other. Let’s take a closer look at that. Say during a storm a tree falls on my house and destroys my roof and siding. The events are that I have a tree that fell down, I have a hole in my roof, and my siding was ripped off of my house. Now I can view this one of two ways.

1. The negative thought pattern– OMG!

A tree fell on my house, I loved that tree and the shade it provided and now it is gone. It will take forever for a new tree to grow that big again. I am going to have to get a new roof and siding. I can’t afford a new roof or siding! Where am I going to stay until the repairs are made? How much will that cost me? Why do bad things always happen to me? I can’t believe I have to deal with this on top of everything else that is going on!!!

2. The positive thought pattern – OMG!

A tree fell on my house. I guess I get to spend some time at a hotel while they are making the repairs. This is going to be so cool, my kids can swim in the pool every night before bed. They always wanted a pool anyway. I am so glad our insurance will cover this. OMG, I get to pick out new siding and change the color just like I wanted to. I get to get a new roof which is sure to last me until I sell the house. Also, I will have enough firewood to last me all next winter. I can’t believe how lucky I am!!!

Now can you see, or more accurately feel the difference in these two thought patterns?

One leaves us feeling stressed and worried, while the other has us feeling excited. In both scenarios the event is exactly the same. The only change is in our thoughts surrounding the event. So how exactly do we learn to do this?

When you find yourself feeling negative, pause and take a big breath.

Feeling negative about an event or situation can literally be felt in the body. It can be a tensing of muscles, upset in the stomach, headaches, anxiety, or tiredness. When we have these feelings throughout our body it is a sure sign that we are focusing on the negatives instead of the positives. So first take a few big, deep breaths. Center yourself and see if you can pinpoint what exactly is making you feel tense.

Ask yourself, “How else can I view this?”

This is the single best question because there are unlimited ways to view every situation and every event that occurs throughout our day. Once we have several options for how we can view something, we are now empowered to be able to choose which option will best serve us and the outcome we desire. Let’s use the coworker example from above. You walk up and ask a simple question and she seemingly snaps at you and suddenly you are feeling stupid for asking and scared to ask her anything else. What are different ways you can view this?

Express Gratitude

Another great way to develop positive thinking is to focus on being grateful. No matter what events are happening in your life we all have things to be grateful for. If you are reading this, you woke up today, you are alive, and you have access to the internet. You have either a cell phone or computer that you are able to read this on.

Tracking what you are grateful for creates much more positive thoughts than focusing on what you don’t have, or what you want.

Make it a point to write down at least 10 things a day that you are grateful for. My best practice is to do 5 when you wake up and then 5 more just before drifting off to sleep. This allows you to start and end every day feeling grateful and it’s impossible to feel negative and grateful at the same time.

Learning how to control our thinking instead of our thinking controlling us is simple, but it’s not easy.

It takes time, patience, and practice each and every day. Once it clicks and you truly understand that you have full control over how you think and feel, you will be completely free to choose positive thoughts any time you want. Finally, remember negative thoughts are not good or bad and it is ok and normal to have them too. It’s not important to remove all your negative thinking, it’s only important to learn that you get to control the way you feel by the way you think and choose whatever thoughts will serve you best!

Kimberly Speer, CLC, ELIMP - www.destinybydesignlifecoaching.com

# Focus on abundance

Facing your fears can be as easy as shifting your mindset to abundance

Abundance can be defined as the energy you have that is already working for your highest good.

It doesn't have to be material things or wealth, but of course, can be included. When you focus on gratitude, or giving thanks for what you do have, you instantly shift to a higher vibration.

When you recognize what is working and positive in your life, in the present moment, your fears instantly fall away. It can be focusing on the abundance of sunlight on your skin, a sunset, the food you are eating or anything else happening in the current moment. This little shift, feeling gratitude in the moment for what is bountiful and positive, instantly takes you out of the fear mindset. And with this little spark, you then are able to move into a positive light.

Facing your fears doesn't have to be scary or done with force.

It is allowing the appreciation what you have in the present moment to be your anchor in the stormy sea of life.

Here's how you do it:

1. Close your eyes.

2. Take five deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

3. Bring your awareness to something in the present moment, through your senses, which you can see, smell, taste or hear which is bringing you pleasure that you are grateful for.

4. Continue with four more things that you have in the present moment. You can stay with what your senses are perceiving OR you can think of others in your life.

5. Place your hands over your heart and say aloud, 'I am grateful for the abundance in my life. I welcome more with gratitude. And so it is.'

When you focus on abundance, the universe brings you more!

Marci Baron, Energy Clearing Expert – www.marcibaronclears.com

# Don’t try to be perfect

In today’s culture, we are sold false images of success, and it often looks like perfection.

In order to work through our fears, we first need to identify with what Dr. Brene Brown calls our shame triggers.

What brings you into a shame spiral?

Is it your appearance, body-image, parenting, work, family members, spouse or partner, media, or even yourself?

We often feel shame when we fear how the outside world perceives us.

What sends us into a shame spiral is the high level of perfection and unrealistic expectations we place ourselves, our children, our partners and spouses, and everyone around us.

I call this epidemic “incongruence.”

Incongruence occurs when our internal values, beliefs, intentions, and goals fail to match our external reality.

Facing our fears is about shifting our focus towards seeking congruence within our lives.

This is when our internal life and values mirror our external reality.

To push through our fears in order to reach a state of congruence in our lives, we must let go of perfection.

Perfectionism is a trap. It keeps us stuck. It keeps us disconnected from others. It keeps us deeply unhappy.

Facing our fears takes courage. It takes stepping outside our comfort zone. It takes not being perfect or being right.

In my work, I often see adults and youth struggle with trying to achieve some unrealistic level of perfectionism, believing it is only then that they will be loved, accepted, happy, and successful.

In reality, accepting our authentic selves, full of struggle, mistakes, and doubts, and challenges helps us to face our fears.

Our resilience helps us face our fears. It’s in our grit that helps us rise up. It’s in our willingness to be imperfect that we fully and deeply push past our fears.


Brooke Campbell, MA, LCAT - www.creativekinections.com

# Remember your past successes

I sometimes still dismiss my successes as “Oh it’s no big deal”.

I honestly believe it at a cellular level.Like the time I got on Forbes and Glamour. I simply told myself “When you get to a certain phase in your career, it happens. When you know the right people, it happens”.

And then I made a commitment to acknowledge it. To celebrate my successes.

I was shocked by how others celebrated along with me.

You see, when we fail to remember our past successes, we’ll always be stuck in an “I can’t do it” mindset that permeates every fibre of our being.

But when we are able to look back at everything we’ve done, we feel that sense of achievement. That familiarity. It’s that “I’ve leapt from mountains and nailed it despite feeling my guts turn inside me” feeling.

In essence, that sense of pride and gratitude.

So your next fear will be leaping from another mountain. It’s simply another height, of another terrain or another climate. That’s okay.

You have to:—

1. Give yourself permission to acknowledge and celebrate your past successes.

Don’t do it begrudgingly, because someone says you have to. Do it because you want to, like the way you proudly pin up the messy finger paintings of a child who’s gifted them to you. Or the way you go ‘awwww’ at the dead mouse ‘present’ your cat has offered to you with her Puss in Boots eyes.

2. Write down your successes— so you can keep track.

Often I forget what I’ve done, when people ask me “What’s new” I go “nothing”. Until it hits me, “A lot”. So journal every night in bullet points. Schedule in check-ins every fortnight and quarter.

3. Do not label your successes as ‘big’, ‘small’ or ‘stupid’.

A success is a success is a success.

4. Know that every single personal breakthrough matters.

It’s about how you’ve faced your fears, come to a personal epiphany, processed something difficult, released what’s held you back. Not acknowledging them is akin to rejecting a gift— and of course it won’t come back to you again.

5. Remember the people who believed in you.

Especially during the times you forget to believe in yourself. When you’re plagued by fear, it’s paralysing.

Remember this, you’ve done this before.

And you can do it again.

Because, #DoingIsBelieving.

Dr Perpetua Neo - www.perpetuaneo.com

# Visualize

Ellen stood at the podium, looking out at the group of people in front of her. She could feel her heart pounding and her mouth and throat went dry. Her hands shook and her mind went blank. This was the worst moment of her life.

Everybody, like Ellen, has something that they are afraid of. Fear is a painful emotion that can sabotage our happiness and hold us back throughout our lives. Fear keeps us from taking action and activates the “flight-flight-or-freeze” response in the brain.

Public speaking is a number one fear that can interfere with your advancement in your career or business. Fear of a scary diagnosis or medical procedure can keep you from seeking the medical help you need. Fear of blowing the job interview can actually cause you to be so nervous you do just that. When we fear something we actually create the very thing we fear.

Dale Carnegie famously said, “Fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.”

Visualization is a powerful tool to help you face and overcome your fears. You can train your brain for actual performance through “mental rehearsal.” Brain studies show that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions, and it is a technique used widely by top athletes.

Visualization is a great way to communicate to your subconscious mind. When you mentally rehearse performing with calm, confidence, courage and competence, your visual image will, with practice, be received by your subconscious mind as your new reality and be expressed outwardly in your life.

When you are fearing something, you are already visualizing it, but you are visualizing what you don’t want—the worst possible outcome. So, practice visualizing the opposite of that—the best possible outcome.

If you want to overcome a fear, it’s good to regularly imagine yourself as a success. Your self-image will be be changed in a positive direction when you feed your mind mental pictures of yourself performing at your best with ease.

Here are the steps to visualizing:

1. Find a quiet place, free from distractions and interruptions. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. You want to make sure you aren’t distracted by aches or pains. You may want to play soft music or light a candle to create a relaxing atmosphere. 10 to 15 minutes before bed is a good time to practice visualization, but any time that works for you is fine.

2. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and steadily as you begin to imagine your success.

3. Be realistic with your visualization.

You want to visualize your success in a way it could actually happen. For example, if you are visualizing yourself speaking before a group, see yourself speaking clearly and with confidence. “Feel” your heart rate remaining stable and calm.

See yourself answering questions easily. Imagine at the end of your talk, you receive lots of applause and many people come up to you later and say what they liked about your talk. See yourself thanking them with grace and appreciation. Feel how glad you are that your talk helped them in some way.

If you imagine yourself giving the talk of the century with a wild standing ovation and cheering crowds, that is less likely to happen and your process can backfire on you by causing frustration and disappointment.

4. You may need to visualize the steps to your success.

If you feel overwhelmed with fear involving a big task or health challenge, you can break it down into steps. Make a plan of what needs to happen, step by step to reach your goal. Then, visualize yourself easily and confidently accomplishing the first step. Take action on that step. When it’s done, go back and repeat the process for the next step, and so on. That way you get positive experiences all along the way, which is very reinforcing.

5. Include what you want to feel and hear in your visualization to make it vivid.

6. It can help to write down the picture you want to visualize before you practice it to get all the juicy details clear.

Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach– www.americaslifepurposecoach.com

# Be vulnerable

Why do we see vulnerability as a weakness?

I grew up feeling that I needed to be tough – to shoulder the burden for everyone. I was the responsible older sister, the ‘peacemaker’ of the family, the marriage guidance counsellor for my parents, the ‘rock’, the ‘rescuer’, the one who could quietly be relied upon to get good grades and a good job, the one who behaved well and took care of others. For me, mental toughness just came with the territory. I was always hard on myself and was always keen to prove that I could do things for myself – as per one of the first sentences I spoke as a child: “me moo it” (roughly translated as “I’ll do it”!)

I always showed physical strength too. I was a tomboy when I was younger. (Well, still am really!) I was always playing with (and trying to compete with) the boys – climbing trees and doing tough sports. Even now, as an adult (supposedly!), I do martial arts, lift weights and climb up rock faces. I focus, it seems, on both mental and physical toughness.

Dropping the masks we wear allows us true connection with others

Kindness, understanding and being there for the people I care about has always been massively important to me, but – somewhere along the line – I forgot that I also need caring about. (There, I said it!) Even as I write this, it feels like a weakness. But, allowing yourself to face your fears, drop the mask and show others your vulnerability is actually a hugely brave thing to do. It requires courage, trust and authenticity.

As Brené Brown says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen”.

Hiding your true self in the hope that people will like the projection you choose to put out there is the coward’s way out. It is also selfish, as you don’t allow people to really know you. You think you have to put on an act for people to like you (for me, that’s about strength and cheerfulness), but those who REALLY care about you will love you for EVERYTHING you are – flaws and all.

“Being vulnerable is the only way to allow yourself to feel true pleasure” – Robert Nesta Marley.

Opening up to others gives them permission to do the same – it brings us closer together

A couple of years ago, I admitted to a room full people that I am vulnerable and sometimes need caring for. (There, I said it again!) It was at my yoga teacher training course, where we were doing some sharing and self-inquiry work. Ironically, I had wanted to go first to be strong and help others in the group to feel they could share too.

When I got up there, I realised it was going to be harder than I thought. Difficult though it was, I know it was an important thing for me to do. It also helped me to connect with others. That’s another wonderful thing about vulnerability; it means letting people see your softer side, to see that you are human, that you share the same struggles as them and then they can relate to you.

A number of people came up to me at the end of the session that day who could relate to feeling that they had to be tough. Because I had shown that mostly well-hidden side of me, it united us and I know I have developed these friendships further as a result of having the ‘balls’ to be vulnerable.

It happens with my blog too: Whilst I often worry what people will think of my writing, many friends have approached me with stories of their own as a result of reading my blog. I hear from them things that connect us and that I would never have known if I hadn’t gone first, despite my fears, and put myself out there.

Far from being ‘unprofessional’, vulnerability in the workplace is a tool to build rapport

Now when I feel vulnerable, instead of trying to hide it, I am practicing trying to show it and accept it as part of me. I know there is also a place for this at work too. For example, a few years ago, I delivered a workshop on the use of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in the workplace to a group of scientists.

When I was worrying myself about how this topic would be received by a somewhat cynical audience, it was hard to write with authenticity. Then, when I realised that I could make a joke about my pre-presentation nerves as part of the session, suddenly the creativity flowed again.

When I made the decision not to hide who I am out of fear of how I would be perceived, I was able to write and give a better presentation. I realised that, far from criticising my nerves, people would be able to relate to me more and would get more out of what I was saying if they knew I was just like them. Many people contacted me after the event to say that they felt the same way and was glad I had been open about it.

Chances are, if you are feeling a certain way at work, others are feeling the same and, by opening up, you may well get to see that you have more in common with others than you realised. You are likely to build relationships as a result that support and unite you with others, rather than allowing your fear that you are somehow different to keep an illusion of separateness.

Expressing your vulnerability allows you to receive support

I’m also now practicing vulnerability in my relationships. Rather than solely focusing on taking care of a guy’s needs, and therefore attracting guys with a lot of needs, I want to develop a relationship where I get to be cared for as much as my partner.

Don’t get me wrong; I will never look to someone else to provide my happiness, as I know we can only do that for ourselves. I am not going to go completely the other way and become a soft and delicate flower who needs constant protection. However, I will now only accept a relationship where, in addition to supporting my partner, I let myself receive equal support back. (As I read this through, I realise that is just common sense. Why didn’t I realise this before?!)

Whilst I’ve always taken a stand for equal rights for both genders, I don’t think I am setting feminism back hundreds of years if I admit that sometimes I need a little TLC for myself, as much as the next person. Yes, I can be tough, but I’m also human. “The only way to genuinely feel loved is to take the risk of being your true self and then find out that you’re accepted and cherished for who you really are” – Doreen Virtue

Men have additional pressure to be tough and “man up”

I think many of us are encouraged to be tough all of the time and it’s just not healthy. Whilst women are expected to be care givers (whether they have children or not) and to not give a thought for their own needs, the pressure on men is even more palpable and I suspect contributes significantly to the increasing rates of young male suicide.

Men are often seen by society as needing to be strong, broad-shouldered and not appear emotional. The concept of expecting men to “man up” and not express their emotions is downright damaging and thankfully there are organizations out there trying to put an end to this bravado.

Far less men than women seek support through coaching or therapy and they are encouraged by friends not to show perceived weakness, so they have no support system or outlet for their feelings. However, society has this all wrong and, far from being a weakness, showing vulnerability is one of the bravest things we can do and will get us much further in life than hiding our true selves away.

Vulnerability is courage, strength and the way of the warrior – it’s what connect us all

We are all under the misconception that it is ‘all or nothing’ – that we have to be 100% tough 100% of the time and that vulnerability is weakness. We are taught to deny the duality in all of us – that we can be both strong and soft, courageous and sensitive. We need to recognise the strength and bravery that it takes to show vulnerability and to be our authentic selves. Instead of shutting each other out and creating distance between us, maybe the world would be a better place if we could all admit we need a bit of help sometimes and not be afraid to ask for it.

In the words of Nick Nolte’s character, “Socrates”, from the film “Peaceful Warrior”; “A warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. He’s about absolute vulnerability. That is the only true courage”.

Jo Ritchie, Personal and Business Coach– www.joritchie.com

# Acknowledge and reframe your fears

Anybody can get bad news regarding their health, marriage, work, kids, etc. No one is immune. But there is some wisdom you can live by to overcome the fears that are associated with any devastating news.

The key is to get in touch with your fears and then eliminate them.

This will enable you to function with greater control and with more trust in yourself. Here are some steps you can take.

First you want to separate yourself from your thoughts and the situation.

If you can know that you WILL be alright, you will be. Things will work out in the end and you will persevere, if you realize that relaxing and not giving in to the fears is the way to go. Fear stagnates you, keeps you from performing and prevents you from thinking clearly. Getting yourself centered and at a place where things appear to be OK will enable your mind and body to flow towards just that - creating favorable results.

Instead of rehearing the worst scenario of a situation, visualize the best and celebrate it.

Keep your focus on what you want, rather than on the way it appears. Not only does that reduce some of your fears, but it also sets you up for more positive outcomes.

You are stronger than you think. Everyday your body is revitalizing and rejuvenating itself, which means that you are becoming stronger and stronger with each moment of each day. Take control of your life through added knowledge and support and you will feel stronger and capable of handling anything that comes your way.

Pray. I know this comes easier for some than for others, but prayers are answered. Wake up each morning, expecting something wonderful to happen and you'll be surprised at how many gloriously, wonderful things will come your way.

Even with your fears, you can still be happy.

Resolve to find joy, love and pleasure somewhere at all cost, because it's that important. Uncertainty can be very damaging. But remember, that anything is possible. Miracles happen all the time. Why not be one of them!!

You were not put on this earth to suffer or be miserable so don't give in to it.

Pledge to be more mindful of the magnificence of the universe. Dreams do come true, situations do turn themselves around, and you can become the cause of your renewed, happiness and peace.

What is fear? Fear is Flow, Expectation, Amazement and Renewal.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

# What’s the worst that can happen

Fear is a powerful emotion that can stand in the way of our own happiness and satisfaction. A tool that can help one better manage fear is asking, “What's the worse that can happen?”

More often than not, it turns out we are worrying unnecessarily. Most of the time, the worst-case scenario that we are fearing is not as bad as we let ourselves think and is not even likely to occur. Asking yourself this question will help you start to understand that. Rather than just trusting our assumptions, we need to challenge them. That way we can nip anxiety and worry in the bud. Let’s look at this in practice:

Common worst-case scenarios people fear

· Fear of Failure: We need to check in with what that means and why it’s such a big deal. A lot of times, people put so much pressure on themselves that what they see as failure is not viewed the same way from an objective perspective. Failure generally comes with disappointment, but remember your strengths and the fact that you can move on from disappointment.

Think about if it is really better to never try even if the outcome is not as you hoped. Many people fear that if they fail, it means they are not good enough or that they are inadequate. It's important to realize that this is not true and that it's okay to not be perfect. After all, who is?

· Fear of Rejection or Being Judged: Being rejected or judged is difficult to deal with because we assume other people’s opinions and views are the truth and that they know better. Therefore, people often interpret rejection and judgment as if it means something real about them as a person.

If, instead, you think about it in a way that recognizes that those who judge or reject you are not people that will add value and satisfaction to your life, then it is not the disaster that it seems. Additionally, when a person is so consumed with anxiety and worry about this, they look for proof. This leads to perceiving something as rejection and/or judgment even when that is not actually the case.

· Fear of Change/Unknown: Change is definitely scary because it is hard to predict what will happen. When facing change, we question whether we will regret our decision and not be happy with the change. We also worry over the stress that might come with the transition.

Change is an inevitable part of life; you can choose to embrace it or let it negatively impact you. So why not try the change, and if it doesn't work out, move on to something else? Worst-case scenario, a change doesn't work out. Remember you can take action to rectify that.

When you experience fear, asking yourself “what’s the worst that can happen,” will help you keep all of the above in perspective.

Remember, letting fear be in control may lead you to miss out on some great opportunities or live your life in a semi-constant state of distress. Many times, if we don't try, we end up regretting it and that leads to other negative emotions. For example, not pursuing relationships out of fear will likely lead to loneliness and sadness. You might have to encounter short-term distress in life, but isn't that worth it to ultimately find happiness and satisfaction?

The bottom line is that, generally, things turn out better than we think. Even when they don't, experiencing all the anxiety beforehand does not help or change anything. Instead of letting fear rule your life, start to challenge your worst-case scenarios.

Alyssa Mairanz, LMHC - www.alyssamairanztherapy.com

# Feel the fear in your body

There are many types of fears, something they all have in common is they create a physical reaction in your body.

You know how someone says if you smile it can improve your mood? Or if you get upset to count to 10 or practice slow breathing? That is because you have physical reactions to emotions.

If you learn to control your physical reactions then you can ultimately control your emotions.

Does that mean you will never “feel” anything? No, not at all. What it does mean is you can control how you react. That’s right, no more outbursts at your ex’s new person or panic attacks on that next speech.

Fear is a natural response to our environment, healthy. If you feel your fear is taking over and getting in the way then it is counterproductive. For instance, a fear of spiders may not be bad unless you work with spiders for a living. A fear of heights may not be bad unless you can’t cross a bridge. The determining factor is if it is causing distress in your life.

Now that you have made the determination to face this fear, you want to experience it to observe how your body responds.

Yes, that is right, experience it. I know it is horrible but that does not mean you must be in the same situation again. For instance, if you were attacked creating a fear of going out at night, that is normal. You don’t want to be attacked again to experience it. You can think of the event or merely the idea of going outside but not focusing on the event this time, focus on your body reactions.

Close your eyes, in a quiet place and imagine. Observe your body on how it responds. Your breathing, eye movement, fidgeting, pacing, head, arm or leg movement, sweating, heart pounding, hair on the back of your neck, etc. Yes, there are similarities among people but it is specific to you and that is what you need to know.

Once you know how your body responds, then find things that slow it down. Fidget spinners, deep breathing, yoga, progressive relaxation, building model planes or ships, walking slowly outside, sitting on a bench outside, listening to calming music, standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open, etc. As long as you are not doing something illegal or harming yourself or others, try it.

My favorite is blowing bubbles. You must control your lungs and diaphragm to get the bubble and then it is just funny so you get a happy moment as well. Now that you found your happy thing, practice it for at least a month 2 or 3 times a day. This will get your body in the habit of releasing stress and you in the habit of learning how to control the release. Now gradually think of the fear and practice your relaxation. Observe how your body responds and respond back with a way to control it. Take control of the fear by not letting your body react to it in the same way.

Now that you have faced your fear with you in the driver’s seat and not the fear, you are ready for a brand-new day! This is tough and rewarding, you can do it!

Katherine Woodworth, LPC, CRC – www.fairwaycounseling.com

# Expose yourself to what you fear

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” —Napoleon Hill

Have you ever given any real thought to why you haven’t quit smoking cigarettes? Or why you haven’t gone on that diet or been successful on one? Or how about why you haven’t started that business you’re always talking about?

Everyone has fears. I do, you do, everyone does!

The only difference between you and the successful people you admire is that they are willing to expose themselves and work through what it is that causes them fear in order to get where they want to go.

Fear has this ridiculously amusing way of waging a war in our own minds and dreams.

In order to understand why we fear what we do, the fear of change can be broken down into three mental challenges.

1. Cost vs. Benefit

All of the things we fear we might lose, cause us to make safer more comfortable decisions. I’m too afraid to try because I might have more to lose. I might lose a benefit, my spouse, my job, my house, security, predictability. Those who smoke may be afraid that they will lose that smoke break, stress-reliever, or ironically that fresh air.

Potential dieters may fear that they are going to lose those comfort foods that allow them to feel good when they are happy, sad, mad or bored. Instead of focusing on what we have to lose, imagine if we focused on all that we have to gain and benefit from by facing our fears and embracing change.

In our fearful minds, it asks us “what if” then proceeds to pester us with another negative idea such as “what if… this happens” which tricks us into thinking change isn’t such a good idea.

2. The Course of Action

Starting a new business sounds really difficult. We’re not sure how it will go, we will probably have to work really hard, we may not know the first thing about starting a new business, is it worth leaving the comfort and security of the job I already have?

The whole process sounds pretty scary so we don’t change and are not willing to try.

Same for the person who is wanting to give up smoking, they aren’t thinking of being able to go on that run, save the extra money, and live healthier lives, they are fearing the process of quitting the addiction, the withdrawals and the fear of being without. Same with the dieter, OMG I’m going to have to exercise (insert crying emoji), I’m going to have to eat healthy foods, and I’m going to have to cook! However, if we can begin to see change in the form of gains, accepting these challenges will allow us to develop character and growth.

3. What If The Grass Isn’t Greener?

“What if” we do all this work, go through all this stress, withdrawal, and frustration, only to find out the outcome is no better? This is the classic scenario of fear of failure. What if we did all of this work for nothing? We don’t lose the weight, or we give up quitting and start smoking more than before?

Thinking this way will never allow us to change.

When we begin to focus our energy on all the things that could go right instead of all the things that could go wrong, imagine how wonderful and magnificent our lives might be?

Smokers can start to think “I’m going to feel healthier, I will no longer feel like a slave to my addiction or generate disease in my body.

Dieters can start to think “I’m going to feel fit and healthier, I’m going to enjoy going out with people again, I’m going to enjoy learning new recipes, and I’m going to enjoy shopping again.”

It is only when we realize that we create the illusion of our own fears, that we can destroy those same fears that hold us back from achieving our true potential.

So, what is it you really want in your life? What fears hold you back from achieving your goals?

Megan Harley, MS, LPCC - www.counselingandfitness.com

# Plan challenges

Think about how wonderful life would be without some of your fears.

You might find love or a successful career, travel or settle down. The sad truth is that if you don’t have a plan to challenge and manage your fears, it’s likely that you may have some of them for your whole life. By understanding the purpose of fear and distinguishing between those that benefit you and those that don’t, you can begin to manage them more effectively.

Step #1 Understand the purpose of fear

The purpose of fear, hard-wired into our DNA, is to prevent us from perceived harm to mind or body. The limbic system in our brain evolved to keep us safe and the signal for a threat to safety is the emotion fear. We all have fears and many are common—fear of the dark, of strangers, of heights or of the unknown.

What isn’t built in, is learned from our particular culture and from our upbringing. I have had clients who grew up in very insular families, for example, with parents who had few, if any, friends and the household mantra was “family is everything.” These clients, not surprisingly, grew up being uneasy about making friends and being vulnerable around other people.

Step #2 Recognize whether a fear is genuine or not

Too many of us believe that if we fear something that it must be a valid threat, which is absolutely untrue. Merely because we are afraid doesn’t mean that something or someone will actually do us harm. So, whenever we have a fear, we must examine its veracity by asking ourselves if a threat is real or due to some other dynamic.

That other dynamic is that once upon a time that threat was real and we are reacting to the memory of earlier danger which is no longer dangerous. For example, if you were bitten by a dog when you were seven, playing in the park with your friends, you may be afraid of dogs as an adult. You may walk past a yard with a dog, hear it bark, and feel frightened. But you are not in harm’s way. You would know this by using the rest of your brain which sees that the dog is tied up securely and in a yard that has a sturdy fence around it. Ah, your brain might say, this dog can’t hurt me. This is what I mean by distinguishing real from perceived threats.

Step #3 Ignore invalid threats

Invalid threats abound. We feel fear when we are in a similar situation to one that put us in danger earlier in our lives. When we feel fear that is intense and not appropriate, that is, out of proportion, to a current situation, I call that being in recall.

When our frontal lobes, the executive branch of our brain, which thinks rationally, tells us that it’s okay not to, say, fear the dog in the above example, we can relax. We can feel calm and secure because we know that we are safe and there is no need for alarm. We can recall the feeling of being afraid when we were seven and bitten by the dog, but can now ignore that frightened feeling—no matter how intense—in our current situation.

Step #4 Assess what to do about real threats

Once we’ve verified via our frontal lobes that a threat is actually real, we then can determine how best to lessen or alleviate it. For example, if your boss is a bully—which you know because your co-workers and friends agree that he or she has all the traits of one—you can figure out whether you wish to stay in your job and gather your colleagues to complain to your human relations department or start seeking another job.

Or, if you’ve been hurt by many abusive lovers, you can explore how better to spot and avoid this type of person by reading self-help books, talking with friends, or meeting with a psychotherapist.

Step #5 Know your “recall” triggers

I suggest to clients who tend to be fearful because they’re easily triggered by recall and often mistake it for reality, that they make a list of memories which are likely to trigger their fears. Again, we know we’re in recall and not in reality when an intense memory is out of proportion to a situation. Here are some examples: fear of intimate relationships because no one can be trusted, fear of failure because you were shamed a great deal when you made mistakes as a child, fear of confronting people because you were punished when you spoke up in childhood, or fear of going to the gym as a high-weight person because you were teased by your classmates about being fat.

The better you understand your “recall” triggers, the more easily you can ignore memory-induced invalid threats and concentrate on problem-solving bona fide threats. You don’t want to waste your time tilting at windmills when there are real fears you could be staring down and overcoming. Remember, not all fears are equal.

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com

# Practice courageous acts

Where in your life are you playing small?

Are there things you’re afraid of saying to your partner? Opportunities you’re shying away from at work? Or hidden talents or desires that you don’t dare show the world? As human beings, we’re very good at talking ourselves out of things. We doubt ourselves, question our abilities, underestimate our chances of success, and spend a whole lot of time worrying about all the things that could go wrong.

So naturally we shy away from opportunities, avoiding challenges, procrastinate on making big decisions, and make excuses about why we feel so stuck.

We say things like “I’ll do it when I’m ready”, “I just need more time to think about it”. We all do this.

Why? Because when we’re faced with something new or challenging we feel fear. There’s no way around this. Fear is our natural reaction to anything that we haven’t done before and the fastest way to get rid of that feeling is to run, hide, shy away or make excuses. Which is exactly what we tend to do.

The problem is that when we run away, we get stuck in our comfort zones because we stop taking healthy risks with our lives. It’s worth asking yourself – when have you grown, or expanded most in your life?

The answer is probably when you were faced with a challenge and chose to dive in despite feeling afraid.

It’s this simple decision to lean into rather than away from challenge that determines the limits of our lives.

Think about the times in your life when you’ve done something that you’ve feared, and pulled it off? What was the outcome? Was it all of the horrible things you had worried might happen before taking the leap? Or did this experience lead to new and exciting opportunities?

When we act despite our fear and self-doubt we are acting with courage. And acting courageously is how we grow into the vast possibility of our lives.

“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”. Nelson Mandela

One of the reasons that we avoid facing our fears is that we overestimate what it will take to act with courage.

The good news is that acting courageously is probably easier than you think. It isn’t a long, arduous, drawn out process. Most of the time, the things that we do that require courage, don’t take longer than 10 - 20 seconds. The act of standing up to walk on a stage, speaking up in a meeting, saying “yes” to an opportunity, or hitting send on an email, only takes 10 - 20 seconds.

Consider what you have been avoiding, procrastinating on or making excuses for. Where has fear been getting in your way of growth? Perhaps it’s leaving your job, ending a destructive relationship or asking someone on a date.

Now ask yourself, “What is the smallest step that I can take towards changing this in my life?” All we need to overcome fear is a moment, a single moment of courage.

To help you to show up for that moment of courage, here is an easy way to help you to act despite the fear. Remember, I just need to BE BOLD.

Battle: Feel the battle between fear and growth. Notice when you want to pull back, retract or avoid, and also notice the desire to grow, learn and challenge yourself.

Exhale: Disengage the fear system by taking a deep breath in, and breathing all the way out. Connecting with our breath helps us to down regulate our fear system and think more clearly.

Beliefs: Ask yourself, what beliefs are holding me back? For example, “I’m not good enough”, “It won’t work”, and “I can’t cope”. Ask yourself if these are really true? If not, maybe it’s time to stop playing slave to them.

Open body: Research has shown that approaching a challenge with an open body posture increases your likelihood of success. So, make sure you’re standing tall, your shoulders are back and your chest is open.

Leap: Go for it! Remember, a single act of courage only takes a moment!

Delight: Take a moment to delight and bask in your courage. This will help to and make it easier for you to act courageously next time.

We hope that this acronym will help you to step outside of your comfort zone and take life into your hands.

May you be bold with your life.

Dr. Kass Sarll, Psychologlist – www.happinessinsight.com

# Journal your fears

There is a real push to encourage each other to think positively.

Flipping our situations and circumstances to make them work to our advantage…and that is very good advice. Personally, I do this often to reduce my own stress level and it’s what I emphasize in my work with others. Reframing challenges into opportunities for amazing growth feels awesome. However, retraining ourselves to think positively after habitually focusing on the obstacles and excuses in our way rarely comes easily.

There is a conscious practice that comes with it to strengthen our abilities to create a new habit of thinking that has us living our lives filled with freedom and awesomeness.

Most of what we struggle with comes from our fears. Fear of the unknown stemming from fears of rejection, abandonment, pain, failure, dependence, loss…and the list goes on. In order to face these fears it’s to our advantage to look at them, feel them, understand them and work with them to move through them.

Because we have so many thoughts going throughout the day, it can be hard to keep track of what it is we are really afraid of when the sinking feeling hits that stops us dead in our tracks.

An extremely helpful technique to work with our fears is to write them down.

It doesn’t matter if you write them in a journal, on the computer, in your phone, on a napkin, or the back of piece of junk mail and then burn them…the key is to get the thoughts out of your head.

You can list them situationally or in general. Write your fears and where they come from. You can rank them in priority status or by which ones are strongest. It doesn’t actually matter as long as you get them out.

After you write them out, question them further.

Is there a solution? Can you problem solve? If not, what would it be like to let it go and release the need for control? What would it feel like to trust that it will resolve itself?

Write out the worst case scenarios.

How will they change your life? Will you still have your family? Your friends? Your dignity? What could you possibly lose that you can’t gain back?

Write out the “what if” fears as well as their opposite. What if I fail? What if I’m successful? What if I get rejected? What if I am embraced and loved? What if I get hurt? What if I’m protected and safe? What if I’m wrong? What if I’m right? What if I lose my mind? What if I gain my freedom? What if they judge me negatively? What if they accept me? What will my life look like if I’m the happiest I’ve ever been?

Keep going…get them out.

And after you’ve written out your fears and what if’s, ask the question “what will I gain if I face these fears? How will my life change? Identify the rewards that will come with managing what makes you so uncomfortable.

The benefit of writing this all out is to see the feelings and thoughts for what they are.

To take out the question marks and add in the periods. The process of looking at them lets you feel even more in control of what is really happening. Our fears are thoughts of what we think may hurt us, so it’s important to recognize that they are just thoughts and not actually happening.

There is a sensory benefit of seeing them written out as well.

In black and white you can work with them. In your mind as thoughts, there is a lot of grey that shades their true validity. Even the process of using your hands to get them out is part of processing them. Talk to text can work too.

It lets us sort through the jumbled-ness and organize our thoughts in a way that structures them and makes them able to be worked with more easily.

The practice of acknowledging them and working with them also decreases their strength and levity.

And the more you look at them in their naked truth, the more you will see how much power you actually have over them. You don’t have to give any of it away.

Next time you’re finding the fear filled thoughts take over, get that piece of paper out and scribble away. You’ll never know how remarkably beneficial it is until you try.

Lynn Reilly LPC, Master Energy Therapist – www.healingwithserendipity.com

# Learn relaxation techniques

In life, there can be a constant desire to continue growing as a person either in our personal or professional lives.

Perhaps we want to become a better friend or parent, or excel in our professional careers in order to be successful and strive for recognition or a higher pay grade. While these aspirations are normal, sometimes fear can hold a person back from this desired growth in life and can put a halt on the strides a person has made to better their life for themselves or others around them.

Have you ever been faced with a task that you wanted to achieve or succeed at, yet something holds you back from accomplishing this goal?

It’s as if an invisible wall has been built and is stopping you from accomplishments that will most certainly propel you forward in life. This situation can surely feel frustrating and even morally defeating. Your initial reaction might be to want to charge ahead and ‘push through’ these obstacles or fear blocking your way in order to succeed.

For some people, being able to ‘push through’ this fear is enough and they are able to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves.

For others, it might be important to take a moment to reassess the situation and to find other ways to process and achieve these goals. In order to have this moment of reflection, it can be important to learn relaxation techniques that can help you to consider this experience of fear and, rather than push through it, to accept it as a normal component of life.

The next time you feel a sense of fear, lack of motivation, or frustration from not being able to accomplish set goals in life, try out these three simple techniques in a quiet and comfortable spot to feel more relaxed in the present moment.

1. Breathing

At a regular pace, inhale through your nose for a count of 4

1...... 2...... 3...... 4......

Exhale through your mouth to a count of 6, blowing the air out gently

1...... 2...... 3...... 4...... 5...... 6......

Repeat 3-4 times or until a sense of calm returns

2. Body Scan

Close your eyes or, if you prefer, leave them open. Bring your awareness to your face. Notice all the areas of your face including your chin, your lips, your nose, ears, eyes and forehead. How do all these areas feel? Are you noticing any pain or discomfort? Notice any sensations without trying to change the way it feels.

Continue this scan of each area of your body all the way to the soles of your feet. Only notice any sensations rather than trying to change anything. Become aware of how your body feels in this moment and focus on your breath as a way of becoming more relaxed.

3. Mindful Stretching

Bring your attention to your body.. how does your body feel in the position it is in? Is it feeling supported, or uncomfortable? Slowly stretch your hands up the sky and feel your spine lengthen.

What position are your feet in? Are they comfortable, or sore? Slowly move your feet in a circular motion in one direction and then back the other way. Repeat for the other foot.

What else do you notice about how your body feels right now, in this moment? Try some gentle stretches on the areas that you feel the most tense, and notice how you feel afterwards.

Practice these or other methods of relaxation before charging into a decision or a situation in which you need to face a fear that’s blocking your way in life. Chances are you will feel more prepared and able to take on the task as you will feel more relaxed and comfortable within your own body and mind.

Heather LeGuilloux, MA, RCC - www.heatherleguilloux.ca

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