Strategies to Overcome Your Fears
We all have fears in life that sneak in and hold us back; sometimes it’s an annoyance while other times it affects our personal growth and goals. The latter comes up with each and every coaching client, some of whom come to me specifically to work on facing their fears while others uncover them during our time together. Whether your fear is of heights (like me), or you want to work through your fear of change, failure, or even success, there are many strategies to help.
10 Strategies to Overcome Your Fears
Working with a coach is a great way to get an external perspective on your fears and help you work through them, but there are lots of things you can do on your own as well. Some of the ideas below will help you lessen your fears over time, while others may help you in those fearful moments. I encourage you to try one or two that speak to you, be consistent, and be open to the possibility of releasing your fears (because you can!).
I’m terrified of heights, and I recently had to ride my bike over a train bridge that crosses a river. The tracks are closely spaced, and I logically know that the likelihood of falling is minuscule; I take much more risk riding alongside busy roads! Even talking about it, however, makes my chest feel tight and my stomach knots up. It’s something that I’d like to work on since I love mountain biking, and I know that riding on mountainsides and over bridges is part of that. I’m going to use some of the strategies below to help me, and I know they’ll help you, too.
On The Extraordinary Life Podcast, I share more about my fear of heights and how we can use our subconscious minds to overcome fears.
- Embrace Reality. Most fears don’t make sense when you look at them from an outside perspective, so separating reality from perception is a great first step in dealing with them. Ask yourself what’s really going on, look for facts, and why you have the fear. In my case, fear of falling is one of the two fears we’re born with (the other is loud noises), so I feel somewhat justified. But when I look at the facts, I’m safer riding on the railway bridge than the alternative route, which is a curvy road with blind corners and a narrow shoulder. When your fear arises, remind yourself of the facts of the situation.
- Identify the Trigger. Identify what it is about your fear that triggers it. Knowing your trigger will help you learn to combat it.
- Take Care of Where the Fear Lives. When fear pops up, it lives in our bodies as well as our minds. If you can identify how fear affects you physically, you can work to take care of that area. This can help relieve the symptoms of fear at the moment, but also relieves the chronic effects that stress has on your body. For example, if fear lives in your stomach, avoid eating too much before a potentially stressful event like public speaking. Soothe your tummy with peppermint or ginger tea. If you tense up from fear, your back and neck may be tight and sore, exasperating negative feelings. Try stretching or foam rolling for relief. Read More: 5 Ways to Cope With Stress
- Gratitude. You know me - I think gratitude can make almost anything better! It helps shift the mind to positivity, which in time can overcome your fear. For example, if you are constantly fearful of losing your job, list a few related things you are grateful for, like amazing co-workers or that you enjoy your job. Over time, your subconscious will associate these positive feelings with work, rather than fearful ones. Read More: 6 Ways to Integrate Gratitude Into Your Daily Life
- Monitor Your Inner Voice. Our inner voice can say some pretty mean things, and by monitoring what you say to yourself, you can change that dialogue. It’s unlikely that a friend would laugh at me or criticize me for being afraid of a bridge, so why would I say those things to myself? Try shifting the voice to be more supportive. “Crystal, you have ridden over this bridge before and even though you were scared, you did it. I know you can do it again.”
- Create a New Association. Instead of imagining the bad outcome (like falling into the river below the bridge), work on envisioning doing that fearful thing successfully and the positive outcome. This is one of those things you need to practice, but it works.
- Be Positive. To look at the glass as being half full is a powerful tool. How you feel about your situation dictates how you respond, and by repeating the positive version, your subconscious will turn it into a habit. The last time I had to ride over the bridge was as a coach for the bike team, and I was in the back. I knew what route we were taking, and I knew I’d need to cross the bridge. When it came time to cross, I did it! Yes, I was terrified, and the only thing that got me across may have been being embarrassed in front of the team if I didn’t do it. Still, simply by believing that I can do it, the fear will be less over time.
- Deep Breathing. If you are in a moment of fear and anxiety, deep breathing will help you calm down and get through it. Try box breathing for a few minutes, and your heart will calm down and the anxiety will subside. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for five, breathe out for five, and hold for five. You can also use deep breathing to start your day, end your day, or anytime you need it.
- Create a Safe Space. When you feel safe and secure, there is no room for fear. Create somewhere safe so that you can retreat from those bad feelings. When you are soothed and safe, you can face your fear with more strength. This could be your bedroom, a spot in your garden, or even an imaginary beach in your mind.
- EFT (Tapping). The Emotional Freedom Technique works by telling yourself specific messages while tapping specific meridian points. I love this almost as much as gratitude, and I’d encourage you to find an app or tutorial video if this piques your interest.
Fear should never hold you back from achieving your goals and dreams, and these strategies for overcoming them are a good place to start. If you’d like personal help busting through your fears (or even figuring out what they are), I’d love to help.
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