You’re sitting in a meeting and suddenly feel tightness in your chest, your heart is racing, and you feel like you’re being judged. Maybe you’ve felt this before.
Fear can come on fast, and it’s hard to think straight or act like yourself. Here, we’ll explore what fear is, why it shows up at work and in life, and give you some practical and powerful tips for conquering your fears.
What Fear Feels Like And How It Can Hold You Back
When you feel fear, it comes with physical sensations like a racing heart, shortness of breath, or tense muscles. Fear can also show up as feelings of anxiety, dread, or panic.
Fear can hold you back from going after your dream job, starting your own business, or speaking up in a meeting. It can prevent you from trying new things or taking risks. In short, fear can keep you stuck.
- The first step to conquering fear is identifying it. Instead of ignoring your fears, acknowledge them. You’re one step closer to overcoming your worries when you can name them.
- Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways for different people. It might feel like a racing heart or butterflies in the stomach for some. Others might feel tense muscles, shortness of breath, or sweating. Others might feel an overwhelming sense of dread or panic.
Understand your triggers:
- Now that you know what fear feels like, it’s time to understand your triggers. What situations, people, or environments make you feel afraid?
- Once you know what triggers lead to fear, you can address them. Use a journal to write your fears and triggers, and then brainstorm ways to confront them. You might even be able to avoid some of those triggers altogether.
The Difference Between Healthy And Unhealthy Fear
There’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy fear.
Healthy fear is a normal response to an actual threat. Healthy fear kept our ancestors alive by warning them of danger. The fight-or-flight response kicks in when experiencing a real threat. This type of fear is helpful because it can keep us safe from harm.
That fight-or-flight response also triggers unhealthy fear, even when there’s no real danger. When you face stressful situations, like working long hours without a break, overthinking, or constant worry, it can happen. Over time, this can lead to anxiety and other health issues.
How To Conquer Fear In Small Steps:
- The first step is acknowledging your fears. Once you know what they are, you can address them. Use a journal to write your worries and triggers, and then devise a plan to confront them.
- Take small steps. For example, if you fear public speaking, start practicing in front of a mirror or a friend. Start standing on a stool instead of a cliff if you fear heights. Small steps will help you ease your fears.
- If you are struggling with endless fear and panic, see a therapist. A therapist can help you understand and manage your anxiety in a safe environment, without judgment or expectation. They can also teach you coping mechanisms when fear pops up again.
What To Do When Fear Pops Up Again (And It Will)
Remember that fear is normal, and that everyone experiences it. Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.
When fear pops up again, try to identify the trigger and then use the techniques you’ve learned to address it. If you’re struggling, reach out to a friend or therapist for support.
Some Common Coping Mechanisms:
- Deep breathing exercises. Using breathwork to calm the body can help you feel less anxious. Take long breaths through your nose and mouth. Repeat this until you feel relaxed.
- Visualization. Picturing yourself in a calm place or situation can help ease fear and anxiety. First, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then, visualize yourself in a peaceful environment—sitting on the beach, surrounded by nature, or anywhere else that makes you feel calm.
- Positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you’re capable and strong. Write affirmations or positive statements about yourself and read them aloud when you feel afraid.
Start with one fear. Don’t try to conquer all of your fears at once. Instead, choose one or two to focus on and take it one step at a time.
Remember, fear is a normal emotion. It’s what kept our ancestors alive by warning them of danger. However, when it controls our lives, it’s detrimental to our physical and mental health. So, if you’re struggling with fear, know you’re not alone.
There are many ways to address fear, including therapy, breathwork, visualization, and positive self-talk. Start small and take it one step at a time. You will conquer your fear if you practice these fear-reducing strategies, and your therapist can provide practical tools to facilitate the process.