What is the best way to overcome fear?
First, we should establish the difference between “fear” and “anxiety”. The Oxford dictionary defines “fear” as “panic or distress caused by exposure to danger, expectation of pain…” It defines “anxiety” as “mentally troubled.” Anxiety is a perpetual state of feeling, which can produce stress and generate physical pain throughout the body. It can also affect your thinking in regards to decision making.
In many cases we discover that it was fear that lead us to make poor choices in our lives and in relationships as well. Fear is completely normal and believe it or not, even healthy. Fear is an instinctual response to situations we personally find “frightening”. Maybe it’s a dog, or heights, or your mother-in-law. It’s all very relative and personal. On the other hand, anxiety can be a debilitating experience that interferes with your daily live. For example, patients have shared with me that they have panic attacks such as sudden “doom” or “going crazy” sensations with symptoms of palpitations, choking feelings, or shortness of breath which causes interruption in their lives.
I am presenting working with a young woman who started to have anxiety about driving. Each time she tries to drive, she starts having feelings of anxiety. In other cases, anxiety can turn into phobias. Most of us know of someone who avoids going to places or be in situations because they feel it would be physically difficult to leave if they wanted to.
Additional examples of situations that cause anxiety are parents being unable to drive their children to school or if a person has to cancel an important meeting because of the fear of going in an elevator. The fears related to these situations definitely effect your life.
How do I recognize my fears and what can I do about it? When you start not feeling right, ask yourself how often you are having these thoughts:
* I feel more nervous than usual.
* I am feeling afraid for no reason at all.
* I get upset easily.
* I feel like I am falling apart and going to pieces.
My experience is that when you experience fear it is a sign that there is something in your life that is bothering you and that you are NOW ready to face that fear. Since it is usually our perception about this fear, positive statements to counteract the fear is helpful.
In Dr. Donald Meichenbaum’s book, Coping With Stress, it gives some examples of using your thoughts to confront fear.
* “I must ‘psych’ myself up-I can meet this challenge.”
* “I can do it. I can reason fear away.”
* “One step at a time: I can handle the situation.”
* “ I must not think about fear, just about what I have to do.”
* “This tenseness can be an ally, a cue to cope.”
If these positive statements do not empower you to take charge of your fear, there may be a block in your thinking process that may require professional help. When do I seek help? When you realize that your own perceptions about that fear is leading you nowhere.