Whether if it’s fear of failure, rejection, or getting sick, fear can be so crippling that it prevents us from reaching our full potential or living a healthy, happy, and meaningful life. But, you do not need to live your life in fear. In fact, when you stop succumbing to fear and accepting it, fear can be a powerful assist. But, in order to get there, you need to do the following eight activities.
1. Distinguish between fear and anxiety.
“Fear is defined as an emotional state triggered by real danger that is in front of you, whereas anxiety is created from an image of danger that is not present in that actual moment,” writes Chris Connors on Psychologies.
“This is a huge distinction,” adds Connors. “Look at fear as a positive, instinctive emotion that serves you loyally – fear gets you out of danger.” This “is explained in the body by a general activation of our sympathetic nervous system (the fight-flight-freeze mechanism). Fear flows through us and onwards,” making it “a powerful and delicate emotion.” As a result, this creates a “multi-layered experience rather than a flatline concept that should be avoided. Fear can actually be exciting – think of your last roller coaster ride or perhaps a parachute jump. Fear is part of our awakened natural animal world.
“Anxiety, however, is the product our own internal TV show that is produced and directed by ourselves,” explains Connors. “It uses stock images borrowed from many other sources. It is within our power to change the images projected in our minds, but we need the discipline to be able to change the channel.”
2. Keep a journal.
“What’s your fear?,” asks Leo Babauta on Zenhabits. “Write it on a piece of paper.”
“Writing it down not only acknowledges that you have it — bringing it out into the light — but it externalizes the fear. It takes the fear from the dark lurking places in the back of your mind, where it has power over you, out into the light of day, outside of you, where you have power over the fear,” explains Babauta. “Take control over it by writing it down. It is now outside you. You can do something about it. I personally like to crumple it up and stomp on it, but you can do whatever you like. Post it on your fridge as a reminder of your enemy.”
3. Take control of what you can, accept the things you can’t.
“Some things are out of your hands—but there are things you can do to feel safer in certain situations," Bri Jensen told Rewire. "Depending on what worries you most, you can take preventative measures like carrying pepper spray when you’re out late at night, installing sensor lights for your home, or telling your friends which trail you’ll be on if you go on a solo hike.”
“Once you’ve made the changes you can, let go of the fears you can’t do anything about. While you can control your own actions and influence your situation to a degree, there’s very little you can do to control the actions of others. Try to avoid spending emotional and mental energy on things you can’t impact.”
4. Become more self-aware.
In a piece from Harvard Business Review, Matt Brubaker and Foster Mobley share a step-by-step process that incorporates emotional intelligence and breaks down four parts of fear, as well as, how this cycle manifests itself in our lives:
“Step 1: Acknowledge the Fear: In the acknowledge phase, we suggest that people take a close look at their history and examine the choices they’ve made and the reasons behind those choices.”
“Step 2: Interrogate the fear to better understand it: assess current reality and look at the costs of fear… spen(d) time considering what it would mean if (you)failed at something.”
“Step 3: Choose a different course of action. This is about deciding what to do next and making commitments — understanding what truly matters to you.”
“Step 4: Act on that choice — in a way that aligns with your values. The last step is to deliver on your commitments.”
5. Admit, it. Fear is irrational.
Most of the time, what we fear is irrational or doesn’t make sense. And, if it’s legitimate, the chances of occurring will never come to fruition. Most importantly, even when something bad happens, you’re going to get through it.
You can use affirmations or mantras, such as “This too shall pass,” “All is well,” or Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
6. Use your fear to your advantage.
"Fear propels you to prepare. When we engage it with awareness, it can become our greatest ally. Fear is energy that channels our focus into the mission at hand," Akshay Nanavati, author of FEARVANA, said in an interview with Inc.com. "It doesn't matter how, when or where fear shows up. All that matters is what we do with it."
“In the book Nanavati talks about four strategies to embrace fear,” writes Jeff Barrett. “He uses the VIEW acronym to describe how to channel and embrace fear:”
V: Visualize the obstacle standing between where you are now and where you want to be
I: Isolate yourself from the fear to understand it so you can better prepare for it
E: Embrace the fear. Simply choosing to breathe in your fears and perceive them as excitement will allow them to work in your favor
W: Why. What is the driving force pushing you to engage your fears? What is the reward waiting for you on the other side of them? And the consequences of not taking action?
In short, use this to motivate you.
7. Stop the excuses.
Via Team Tony:
“Like blame, excuses are a defense mechanism we use to avoid facing our problems. It’s easy to push our hopes, desires and dreams aside when we have excuses: There’s just not enough time, I don’t have the money or the resources, I have a family, I’m too busy. And we start to hide behind those excuses instead of taking action to move forward.
Excuses are comforting when we’re living in fear. They’re safe. But excuses will also bring you back to exactly where you started. Remember that the next time an excuse floats into your mind. Are you truly where you want to be in life? Or are you falling back on fear and choosing to be comfortable instead of facing a challenge? By becoming more cognizant of your brain’s proclivity for using excuses so you won’t be held accountable, the better you will become at dismissing them.”
8. Let the fear slow you down.
“No, don’t let your fear stop you, but it’s okay to pause while you consider it,” suggests Alyssa Gregory. “Sometimes one of the best ways to use your fear is by allowing it to exist for a short period of time, taking a break from the pressure to beat it, and using the time to reflect.”
“This may not rid you of your worries instantaneously,” adds Gregory, “but it can give you a clear head and a new focus as you work on getting past it.”