‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance’. Franklin Roosevelt made this statement on the day of his first inauguration, brave considering that he was just about to enter his US presidency during the Great Depression.
Especially in current times, considering that many people worldwide are faced with Covid-19, job loss, separation from loved ones, amongst other hardships, his words are still topical.
Fear is not a bad thing when it prevents you from doing things that could potentially harm you. It is an important human warning and survival mechanism therefore, considering that life is full of real dangers, threats and pitfalls. Drugs and alcohol, for example, can be dangerous, because they lower your fear threshold and make you decide to do risky things you would normally not. For example, driving a car even when you are over the limit, or not taking sensible precautions being on a night out during Covid-19.
When you are facing a potential danger, as with everything in life, even if you can’t change the situation, you can decide how to respond to it. Fear is a choice, it is not real, it is a product of your thoughts. This is even more obvious when you have an unfounded fear or phobia that still cripples you. Whether the phobia is about spiders, flying, lifts or something else, it can put a spanner in the works and prevent you from making constructive, positive choices. You might never visit your family living overseas because you can’t get yourself onto a plane; how unfortunate would that be? Life is after all about taking calculated risks so that we can have experiences.
Even or especially in very challenging situations, you can decide to not let fear overwhelm you and rule your decision making. A serious health condition must not throw you into a crippling freeze; it is not helpful. You will waste a lot of time fearing, where you could spend that energy contemplating what to do. You might say, “Well, what about in case I have a terminal illness, the only thing I can do is feel fear, isn’t I?” My answer would be: I understand that you will feel fearful at times, as we all would, and it is normal, especially, in a situation like that. For the rest of it, however, I would disagree. Mainly for 2 reasons: in my opinion it is only over when it’s over, and not before, and change is always possible. If you concentrate on your fear you will just make yourself feel worse and ruin the time you have left, however long that might be.
In addition, long term fear can have some serious impact on your physical and mental health. It can increase your stress levels, blood pressure and cause fatigue, depression and loss of confidence to name a few.
Below please find 5 simple steps on how to face your fears head on, manage them and the situation attached to it:
1. Become aware of your fear
Let the situation and the fear attached to it come into your consciousness, so that it is not purely an uncontrollable, overwhelming feeling, but something you can look at and become familiar with. Accept that is exists and refrain from judging it or yourself.
2. Analyse your fear
Try to detach yourself mentally and look at it almost as an external spectator evaluating a situation or circumstance. Do some research, analyse the risks, the chances and best and worst case scenarios.
3. Look at your belief systems
Think about your belief systems and consider if they have something to do with your fear. Do you generally feel powerless for example, and if ‘Yes’, where does it come from? Find the root cause of it and work on eliminating it.
4. Decide if the situation or circumstance you fear is worth it
Sometimes after contemplating of doing or deciding something you feel fearful off, you might get to the conclusion that it is not worth it at all. That is OK too; just leave it and move on. If you decide it is worth it, plan what, how and when to do it and get support and resources if you need them.
5. Feel the fear and do it anyway
Thinking about it is over, now it is about doing! Accept that you feel fear, but go for it. Every time you will do this successfully, it will increase your confidence and it will get easier with time. Your fear might even disappear over time completely.
Let me know your thoughts! Gisa x