Ways to Fight Your Fears


As kids, facing our fears is often a rite of passage. We learned there were not monsters under the bed or danger in the basement.

As we get older, facing our fears can become more complicated. But you don't always have to overcome your fears - we obviously wouldn't want to lose our fear of a speeding car or other real dangers.

Fear is a basic human emotion designed to motivate us to avoid danger. 

A physiological arousal happens - what's called the fight-or-flight response - that energizes you to move away from the threat.

Physiological changes triggered by fear include rapid heartbeat, redirection of blood flow away from the periphery toward the gut, and tensing of the muscles, according to the definition of fear from the American Psychological Association (APA).

4 Tips for Facing Fears You Want to Get Over

1. Stop Judging Yourself

Judging yourself negatively for being afraid of something is not going to help you face that fear. Instead, consider practicing reframing how you look at that fear. Rather than thinking of being afraid as good or bad, consider it information your body is telling you. Then assess what value that information has and what to do about it.

2. Slow Down and Breathe From Your Belly

There is a method called the "meta-moment." To do it, pause and take a deep breath, which helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the system in your body that is responsible for rest, sleeping, and enjoyment, among other things. It's the body's calmed down (rather than active) state. When it's activated, you're more likely to be able to think clearly.

Don't rush your breath. "If you try and breathe from high up in your chest, it's not going to be as effective," as compared with slow, deep belly breaths. You can even put your hand on your belly and watch it go up and down to get it right.

3. Be an Emotion Scientist

Another way to reframe fear is to try and be an "emotion scientist." Listen and be curious about what's driving you to be afraid of something, rather than shutting down or ignoring it. Learn where that fear is coming from. You might see a new way to face those fears, or you might realize there's less to be afraid of than you thought.

4. Practice Positive Self-Talk

"Instead of being impatient, replace that negative self-talk with positive self-talk". Tell yourself: "I've got this. I'm going to get this. I've been here before, and I can do this."

Source: Seth Gillihan, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and the author of The CBT Deck for Anxiety, Rumination, and Worry. 

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