By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)
This article will teach you how to overcome fear. Fear is something we all face at some level in our life. The things that we fear may differ, the intensity of it may differ, but the fact is we are all fearful of something or the other. It is an uneasy feeling that stops us from doing what we want because it forces us to worry about the consequences.
Fear exists in the brain as a safety mechanism. Your brain pops what ifs into your head because it thinks that is going to make you doubt yourself and then you will not take risks that it thinks will get you into trouble. Your brain thinks it is doing you a favour by keeping you safe, and to a certain extent it is, by keeping you out of truly dangerous situations.
Some fear is good. It makes you more cautious and proactive if contained in healthy levels. If you are afraid of going into a jungle full of lions and stepping out of the car, it is a legitimate fear. The only time it is not a legitimate fear is when those lions know you well enough to not eat you!
But the problem is 99 percent of the fear we have today is totally in our head. The brain sends us false messages thinking it is helping us but it forces us to stop living our life! Your mind cripples you. You will have to learn to overcome fear if you truly want to live to the fullest with no regrets. You should never look back and say I wish I would have done this or done that but I was too afraid to do it. Learning how to overcome fear is one of the biggest keys to becoming the best version of yourself. Do you want to learn how to overcome fear? Then Read On.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 1) Realize that your thoughts are just thoughts. They do not depict reality, only your perception of reality.
How I perceive a situation is totally different from how you might perceive it. Some people are great at public speaking, others are terrible at it because they are excessively judgemental about the situation. Some people might hear a screeching noise at night and think it’s a ghost and become very scared, others might realize it’s just the stray cats making some noise and go back to sleep. Same situation, two different reactions.
The truth is most of the thoughts in our head are not totally under your control. The brain keeps generating thoughts that may not necessarily mean anything at all. But how you react to those thoughts will play a tremendous role in the development of fears and phobias. For example, if after hearing a screeching noise at night, you develop a habit of ignoring it and sleeping throughout it, the brain will naturally refocus on something else. However, if you worry and resist the thought and stay up all night, the brain will throw that thought at you again and again and again and every time, there is the slightest noise or trigger, you will again be up scared and afraid.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 2) Look at the evidence to the contrary
Now that you know that your reaction or fear does not depict reality, only your perception, start looking at the evidence that goes against your beliefs that drive the fear.
Afraid of traveling in a plane? Study statistics that show how safe plane travel is compared to other forms of travel.
Heard a noise at night, go check the house once completely for your satisfaction and then go back to sleep. If it happens again it could be coming from outside or might just be the mouse.
Now realize that this doesn’t work with everyone. Some people suffer from extreme anxiety which makes it difficult for them simply dismiss their fear by rationalizing. If investigating evidence does not make you feel relieved, then there is something else you need to do. But before that let me tell you what doesn’t work.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 3) Do not think about the situation excessively. It will make it worse.
Excessively thinking about something is called rumination. People are naturally drawn to excessively thinking about something that makes them anxious or depressed .The problem is that rumination doesn’t make things better it actually makes it worse. That’s why I don’t recommend “investigating the evidence” beyond a certain level. If investigating the evidence once or twice makes you feel relieved, fine, if it doesn’t then you need to stop because you are getting into a vicious cycle of thinking, called rumination which studies have confirmed, makes the anxiety or depression WORSE.
People are naturally drawn to ruminate because they want to solve the problem. They want to feel certain and nullify the anxiety. And sometimes it works, but sometimes, it will make your fears worse, because the message you are feeding to the brain is – “Hey that thing is dangerous, please remind me of it again and again and again and please make me fearful to keep me safe.”
How To Overcome Fear: Step 4) Distract yourself.
When something gives you fear, you need to stay in that situation and distract yourself. If you do something you enjoy or something that makes you really busy, that makes the process much much easier and will over a period of time remove the fear.
When I was a doing my undergraduate studies, for a while a studied in a University in America. I stayed in a Dormitory. But during the holidays, almost everyone from the dorm, left to meet their families and it was me alone who stayed in a 7 floor high building. To make matters worse, there were rumours of it being haunted.
For Ten nights I stayed in that building alone, and while I saw no ghost, the dread of encountering one (my perception and thus false fear) worried me. But guess what, I stayed there all ten nights and pretty much killed a lot of my fear. How did i do it?
I kept myself busy with things. When you are busy laughing and having fun and distracting yourself, your mind refocuses. That artificial dread created in your mind goes into the background and the fear gradually subsides. At the end of those ten nights, I overcame most of my fear and it hardly bothers me any more. I will admit that I was scared at first but after the first couple of days I was hardly thinking about it any more.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 5) Do not practice avoidance. It doesn’t work.
If you avoid what you fear, a false message gets sent to your brain that the thing you are avoiding is harmful or will get you into a lot of trouble. So when you avoid it for a bit, you feel safe, but the moment it comes into the picture again, your brain sends you an even bigger fear message. You have two options at that time, either you face it and gradually let the fear subside or avoid it yet again and then have the fear rise even more thus continuing a vicious cycle until which you become extremely scared of facing it. This vicious cycle avoiding behaviour plays a big role in the development of phobias. Avoidance makes you feel safe temporarily but a hugely destructive behaviour in the long run. So no matter how cliche it sounds, the only way to beat fear is to face the fear, stay with it as long as possible and as often as possible until the fear gradually subsides on its own and your brain reprograms itself.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 6) Face the Fear.
Face the fear to overcome the fear. This is the only way to beat fear. This is common sense that has been passed on to us since centuries and Modern Science confirms this fact. In psychology, this process is called an Exposure and Response Prevention. You see our brain learns patterns whether positive or negative. How quickly one does it depends from person to person. When you face a fear, the first things that happens is that your brain is going to freak out, thinking you are doing something dangerous. You will have to learn to ignore those false messages and stay with that fear. You should NOT avoid the fear because then it is only going to make that false fear grow and GET EVEN Worse. It will make tackling that fear even harder the next time. So ignore those false messages and stay with the fear and face the discomfort. When your brain realizes over time, that facing the fear is not dangerous, over a period of time those heightened feelings of anxiety will go down and down and down and you will emerge victorious because you refused to give in!
Now this sounds good in theory but sometimes it is hard to face a fear that terrifies you in one go. Some people get too overwhelmed, abandon the exposure midway therefore reinforcing the negative avoidance patterns which make things worse. So a solution to this is Gradual Desensitization
How To Overcome Fear: Step 7) Practice Gradual Desensitization
What is gradual desensitization? It means taking a gentle approach to eroding your fear over time instead of taking an aggressive head on approach to beat it in a shorter time. Different things work for different people but some people are not able to tolerate an aggressive approach. So something else needs to be tried.
How this works is simple. You identify something that you are afraid of, let’s say you are afraid of public speaking but someday you wish to speak in front of thousands of people. How do you tackle it. Can you do it over night if it is a morbid fear? Probably but it is going to shake you tremendously. So the gradual desensitization approach is this. You first get people you trust and those that don’t make fun of you, like your family to listen to you talk and be your first audience. You practice the entire speech in front of them a couple of times, then you invite a few other people you trust and speak in front of them. Then you start speaking in front of larger and larger groups like 10 people, 20 people, 30 people and so on and you become more and more comfortable and build your way up to huge groups. Then one fine day you decide to speak to a massive event of over a thousand people, and you realize that apart from a mild nervousness, it does not bother you at all, because your brain has gotten used to it!You just conquered a previously massive fear through a series of achievable steps
How To Overcome Fear: Step 8) Seek the help of someone you trust.
The help of someone you trust is paramount when it comes to overcoming fears, whether it is through gradual desensitization, just like family members helped in the overcoming public speaking example I gave previously. However some fears are such you just to have face them head on. Apart from the knowledge that your fear is unreal and trusting yourself that everything will be all right, you have no other option but to face it. For example if you are afraid of flying, there are no two ways about it. You will have to step in an air plane and take a trip to overcome it. What helps tremendously here is the support of people who you trust that then instil the trust that everything will be alright.
When you are with someone you trust, you become much more capable to deal with the fear and may be able to overcome it better using this approach. However, do not depend on them as a crutch. It is very easy to fall into the pattern of always depending on them to make you feel safe. It’s ok to seek their help in the beginning, but don’t get into excessive reassurance seeking mode, at some point you will have to let go and face it all on your own at some point and the sooner it is the better.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 9) If nothing else works, be willing to face the consequences of being wrong. Replace What Ifs with So What.
Sometimes the fear is so deeply engrained, no matter how false or unrealistic it may seem that the only way to truly face and overcome it is to be willing to face the consequences of being wrong and then distracting yourself.
If you have a fear of flying, and there is no one to help you and all the research about how safe flying really is doesn’t help you, the only option you have is to say whatever happens, happens, I am not going to stop living my life . You will have to replace the what ifs with So what. You will have to tell yourself that you embrace the risk because the fear for your life is not letting you live your life! It maybe painful at first to be accepting of the consequences, so you can acknowledge it briefly and then distract yourself doing activities that keep you in the situation but slowly erode the fear on its own. Over time you will realize that the truth is that there are no realistic consequences at all.
How To Overcome Fear: Step 10) Once you overcome the fear, do not avoid it again. Keep exposing yourself to it.
Remember that overcoming a fear is like a habit you need to maintain, it is not enough to expose yourself once to a fear and think that it is enough. You need to keep doing it. Even after the fear is mostly gone, the moment the situation provokes the slightest anxiety, go and face it .yet again. Do not avoid it because the moment you avoid it you are again telling the brain that this thing is dangerous, it is going to start reforming old patterns even if they are milder this time, but the risk remains nevertheless. So keep re exposing yourself to these fears and de sensitize yourself as much as possible and keep it that way.
I hope this article has given you great tips on how to overcome fear. Your life is yours, it is that of your soul, not even that of your brain. Your biggest enemies can exist inside your head, your fears. Don’t let them master you, Instead become the master of your own mind. Beat the enemies inside your head and every time they rear their ugly head, face them and beat them for good again. You can live and enjoy your life to the fullest, if you have the courage to do so . Good luck!
Email the author, Anubhav Srivastava for coaching, consulting or motivational speaking queries at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook Profile: http://facebook.com/anubhav981
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