Whether it’s the fear of getting hurt by someone close to you, or the fear of losing your job, or even the fear of leaving your home, many people live with fear that keeps them from doing things they want to do. And while some fear is natural and healthy (fear protects us from harm, for example), many fears are irrational and hold us back.
The first step is to recognize your fears, which can be a difficult thing to do. But there are some ways to help. For one, try reframing the way you think about your fear. Instead of thinking of it as a good or bad thing, consider it information your body is telling you—that’s what Stern calls “emotional science.” Listening to your fear and learning what it’s saying can also be helpful. It can show you where your fear is coming from and help you figure out how to overcome it.
Another strategy is to break down your fear into smaller pieces, such as the fear of being alone or being unable to cope with change. Then, take a look at the facts to determine what is really going on. For example, if you’re worried about being laid off from work and you can’t afford to pay your bills, it may be time to seek new employment options. If you’re worried about a family member who’s struggling with substance abuse, it may be time to have an honest conversation with that person.
You can also learn more about your fear by writing it down. This practice demystifies your fear and makes it seem less insurmountable. Try journaling about your anxiety, noting the physical symptoms you feel (like sweaty palms or a racing heart), and trying to understand the root of your fear.
If you have a phobia, it’s important to find a therapist who can help you learn how to confront your fear. A therapist can teach you a technique called gradual exposure, wherein you gradually introduce yourself to the object or situation that’s causing your anxiety. It’s not the only treatment for phobias, but it is proven to be effective.
A fear of flying or public speaking, for example, can be a result of childhood trauma. But, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek therapy or other forms of mental health care to help you face these fears and move forward in life.
It’s also important to have a support network of friends, family, colleagues, and mentors who can help you manage your fears. These people can cheer you on, reassure you when you’re feeling anxious, and offer advice on how to deal with your fears. They can also provide an unbiased, objective perspective when you’re judging yourself. They’re also there for you when you need to talk through your fears. They’ll remind you that everyone experiences hardships, but you can decide how to respond. In the end, you’ll be stronger for overcoming your fear and moving forward in life.