Think back to a time when you were afraid. What was happening at the time? What made you feel fearful? When you felt fear, how did you respond? Did you take control of your fear, or did you let it hold you back?
Fear works like any other emotion. Everyone deals with fear—it’s a natural part of being human. While we can’t avoid fear, we can learn to cope with it. Fear has a tendency to paralyze us, and to make us feel like we’re incapable of doing something simply because we are afraid of what might happen. The problem with fear is that it can prevent us from trying new things, growing as individuals, and reaching our goals.
So what can you do to manage your fears? Here are some helpful tips…
Recognize how you’re feeling –
The first step is to become aware of your emotions. When you recognize that you are dealing with fear, you can address your feelings. Name your emotion. Then, remind yourself that you are NOT your emotion. Yes, you’re feeling afraid, but the fear will not define you. You want to notice your feelings without holding onto them or avoiding them entirely. Be aware of your feelings, and then let them go when they are ready to go.
Prove your fears wrong –
Pretend you are a lawyer for a moment, and build a case against your fears. Write down or verbally tell yourself a rebuttal to your fears. For example, you may be afraid of giving a presentation because you think you will forget your points about the topic. When you prove your fears wrong, you tell yourself “I won’t mess up because I’ve practiced so many times, I practically have this memorized.” You might also say “Half of the people watching won’t even be paying attention to what I have to say anyways,” or “I’ve given presentations before and did a good job despite being nervous; why should this time be any different?” Come up with as many reasons as you can to disprove your fears. When you prove your fears wrong, you’ll realize that they’re not as scary as you initially thought.
Gradually confront your fears –
Sometimes, the best way to deal with fear is to face it head-on. Try using the DBT skill called “Opposite Action” to confront your fear. The goal of Opposite Action is to act the opposite to your emotion urge. When you feel fearful, your urge may be to run away, to avoid your emotion, or to overthink the situation. Instead, approach the stimulus that gives you anxiety. Do things to increase your sense of control and build mastery over your fear. Start with something small that isn’t too daunting, and work your way towards your most fear-invoking situation. As you face your fear, you’ll see that you had it in you all along!
Fear is not easy to deal with. Even the most brave and courageous people feel afraid from time to time. The most important thing is to learn to with fear instead of letting it control you. When you feel afraid, don’t let your fear paralyze you and prevent you from reaching your goals. Fear is just an emotion—it’s a brief feeling that doesn’t have to hold you back anymore. Just like sadness or anger, you can learn to manage your fear. And when you do, you’ll feel proud of yourself, empowered, and fulfilled. The sky is the limit!