Overcome Anxiety and Fear – 10 Strategies
Some anxiety and fear are normal and a matter of fact, beneficial. Fear keeps us safe, and some anxiety keeps us focused and prepared. Too much of it, however, can wreak havoc in our lives. If you don’t feel like you have control over your anxious thoughts, and fear consumes you, then it’s time you learn how to overcome anxiety and fear.
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What is Fear and How It Affects Us
Fear is one of the most powerful emotions that we can experience. It is deep rooted in our genes, and is a primal instinct that we share with all of the animal kingdom. Why? Because fear’s purpose is to keep us alive. Even though our dangers are far less today than they were in our caveman days, it still serves a purpose.
When we perceive danger:
- Your heart races.
- You become on high alert.
- Your body releases glucose in case your muscles need the extra energy to fight or run.
- Your muscles become tight.
- Hormones flood the body to help you stay focused and ready to handle the threat.
You can see how instantly our bodies can become ready to deal with fear and danger in seconds. The emotion of fear and the effects on the body are powerful but are not sustainable. Our response to fear is only supposed to be temporary. If we stay in a constant state of fear, you can see how our body’s response can begin to work against us instead of for us. We cannot, and are not, built to be on high alert at all times, to constantly release fight or flight hormones into our blood stream, or sustain an elevated heart rate. Yet, in all of nature’s wonder and intelligence, it did not install a built-in fear off switch for human beings, and many of us walk around with that switch turned to the on position almost every waking moment.
Many of us live in a constant state of fear, real or not, and it creates chaos in our bodies, our minds, and our lives. So, it’s important to learn to overcome fear that does not serve a purpose.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a type of fear. As such, it causes the same physical and mental reaction that fear does. However, anxiety is a perceived threat in the future and does not reflect what is happening in the current moment. Anxiety is also persistent. Do you constantly worry about things that haven’t even happened? This is not only draining, but dangerous to your body, and will prevent you from truly living a happy and successful life? How can you enjoy today and truly feel happy in the moment, if you have this nagging feeling that something bad is coming? You can’t.
How to Overcome Anxiety and Fear
As you have learned so far, fear has its purpose but can be dangerous if its persistent and it’s only perceived. Here are some powerful strategies to help you overcome anxiety and fear and flip the switch to off when needed.
“F.E.A.R – False Evidence Appearing Real.”
1 – Learn to Live in The Moment
When anxiety strikes, it means you are fixated on something that hasn’t happened yet. Your mind tends to take you to some future point in the midst of a worst-case scenario. You can break this worry habit and overcome anxiety and fear by bringing yourself back to the present moment. Do something that will bring your thoughts to the right here and right now. A quick way to do this is to use your senses to examine the world around you. What sounds do you hear? What smells do you smell? Here are a few other things you can do as well to live in the moment:
- Go for a walk.
- Play with your kids.
- Immerse yourself in a hobby.
Start staying out of your future so much and live more in the present moment.
2 – Visualize A Better Outcome to Overcome Anxiety and Fear
While you work to live more in the moment, you will no doubt still have visions of a future filled with turmoil. Start proactively replacing these worst-case scenarios with a more positive outcome. Close your eyes and visualize things working out for the best.
3 – Face Your Fears Often
The more you face your fears, the less they will seem so scary and the less anxiety you will have about them. Take the fear of rejection or failure for instance. The more you put yourself out there and the more you fail, the easier things will get. You can focus your attention on how to improve and how to move on rather than being afraid. If you are afraid of speaking in public, take every opportunity to speak in front of a group. After time, it will be easy and you’ll feel no anxiety the next time you are scheduled to speak at a meeting. Whatever your fear, face it often if possible.
4 – Learn to Calm Your Nerves
I spoke before about the physical and mental effects of fear and anxiety. Your heart rate increases, your body’s fight or flight mechanisms begin to fire, etc. The next time these things start to happen, use techniques to calm your nerves and bring your body back to a calm state. A great way to do this is by using the Equal Breathing Technique. Breathe in for the same amount of time that you breathe out. For example, breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. Doing this over and over will bring your elevated state of fear and anxiety to a halt.
5 – Overcome Anxiety and Fear by Questioning and Challenging
Make it a habit to question your fear and anxiety. Ask yourself, “how likely is this going to happen?” “Is my fear really grounded in reality?” When you take the time to question, especially after you have calmed your nerves and can think more clearly, you start to see your fear from another perspective. Once you can shift your perspective, your fear will loosen its hold on you.
6 – Limit Your Exposure to Negativity
Let’s be honest, negativity is an addicting drug. It has so many negative effects on our mood, our happiness and life in general but we just can’t seem to stay away from it. When we constantly bombard ourselves with things that create a negative emotional response within us, it keeps our anxiety and fear levels high. Avoid doing this to yourself by proactively limiting your exposure to negativity. I know for me, listening to news all day puts my anxiety into overdrive. So, I purposely limit my exposure to all news once I get my 30-minute morning fix to catch up on current events. You should do the same. Stay off of social media when possible, limit the news that you hear and, stop hanging around others who always seem to be the bearer of bad news. I know we all know at least one.
7 – Sleep More
Overcome anxiety and fear by getting more sleep at night. This does two things. First it gives your mind and body a chance to recuperate from being at a heightened state that anxiety and fear creates. Second, it is less time you have during the day to worry. Keeping your body in a heightened state for long periods at a time without adequate rest will cause all kinds of issues. These include:
- Muscle fatigue.
- Headaches (I struggle with this).
- Trouble concentrating.
This is only scratching the surface but I would also add that the more tired you are, the more prone you are to higher levels of anxiety throughout the day.
8 – Address Your Concerns Head on To Overcome Anxiety and Fear
If there is something in your life causing anxiety and fear and you have control over it, then address it head on. Finances stressing you out? Then work on finding solutions to alleviate the problem. If you have anxiety about your job, then explore other career alternatives. Start saying “No” more to people who are the source of your anxiety.
Yes, you will have to face more temporary fear of the unknown and anxiety from doing something different, but it is necessary to rid yourself of the persistent fear and anxiety you’ve been dealing with. Would you rather have some anxiety over changing your career and finding a new job over the next few months, or facing the same anxiety day in and day out for the rest of your working life at your current job? Make some hard choices, and face your concerns head on.
9 – Journal
Journaling is an excellent way to overcome anxiety and fear. Studies have shown that writing things down is a powerful way to express your thoughts and feelings. Doing this will help you work through your worries and fears often changing your perspective. Write down your fears and how they affect you. Use your journal to challenge your thoughts. You can even write down your desired outcome. Pick yourself up a journal today and start writing.
10 – See Professional Help
Do not be afraid to seek professional help. Sometimes we need some assistance overcoming anxiety and fear. See a therapist if you cannot shake your anxious thoughts. Be open to getting help. If you don’t want to see a therapist right now, see your normal doctor. There may be something else going on that only they can diagnose. The important thing is that you take steps to improve.
We all have anxiety at times and we all have fear. The key is to control them, instead of them controlling you. If life seems to be too much, then use these powerful strategies to overcome fear and anxiety. Learn to live in the moment, visualize a better outcome, face your fears often, learn to calm your nerves, question and challenge, limit your exposure to negativity, sleep more, address your concerns head on, journal, and seek professional help if necessary.
How would your life change, if your anxiety and fear no longer have the power they have over you? Let me know in the comments below.