Everybody has fears in some shape or form. And while other people can tell us that our fears are irrational, they are not to us, but if they are stopping us from living our lives, it’s crucial that we find ways to cope. Whatever it is that scares you, here are some ways to cope with them.
Look at the evidence
If your fear is getting trapped in a lift, why is this? Is it because you worry about suffocating? If so, is there any evidence of anybody suffocating after being trapped in a lift? Sometimes the issue can stand from something very minor, such as the sensation of a needle being pressed into the skin. This is one of the more common starting points for people who have a fear of needles. And it’s important to remember that for those people who are concerned about getting a vaccine, there are ways to numb that immediate sharpness. For example, a lignocaine patch can dull the area greatly reducing any sensation. When you look at the evidence, this is one way to desensitize yourself to your irrational fears, but it also gives you an important sense of perspective. Also remembering it is only a quick sharp pain, it’s not ongoing and only lasts for a second. Mentally preparing oneself before facing a fear can really help. Work out why you have an irrational fear of something and then use mental techniques or other aids to help overcome the fear.
Take time away from the situation
It is important to remember that when we are exposed to situations that scare us, the fight-or-flight sensation takes over which floods our body with adrenaline and cortisol. When we become irrational, this sensation can hinder our abilities to deal with the problem. One of the best ways to overcome this is to step away from the situation and allow yourself to calm down. Taking time away by distracting yourself is one of the best approaches, but it’s also important to learn how to overcome the sensation of fight or flight. One of the best methods to do this without exposing yourself to the situation is to breathe deeply. When we start breathing in a certain manner, we can reset our stress response. Learning to manage and reduce stress is about exerting control over our autonomic nervous system. One of the more interesting practitioners of reducing stress is Wim Hof, who has been promoting his breathing techniques for a number of years.
Visualisation is a very powerful tool when dealing with external threats. When we have irrational fears, this is why the aforementioned distraction tactic can help. Having control over our emotions and reactions to stress is about remembering one simple thing, that our brains are not able to determine what is real and what is imagined. When we have the right tools to help us visualise happier things, and we are able to project these happy images at will, this will help us overcome any tough stressful and fear-inducing situation. It’s about making sure that you have a place that you can always come back to to make you relax. Picturing your happy place, whether this is a beautiful beach, a memory from childhood, or being relaxed at home, will soothe your mind and body, which helps you to relax in those challenging situations.
Facing up to your fear
It’s so easy to talk about facing your fears, but it should only be done when you have the right tools to cope. Practising breathing techniques, learning to visualise your happy place, addressing the evidence, and taking time away will help you create a solid technique to face your fears. What’s important to remember is that any exposure to stress can reduce the symptoms like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But it is so vital to remember that exposing ourselves to our fears should be under a slow and controlled dose. Too much exposure to our fear can overwhelm our nervous system, and put it off. Facing up to your fear is about those minimal exposures. For example, when a child is scared of a dog (cynophobia), it’s important to take those baby steps, by stepping one step closer to the dog first, and recognising that they have taken one literal and figurative step in the right direction. The same applies to you. When you expose yourself gradually, it works to improve your confidence, give you a sense of achievement, while also desensitizing yourself to the situation.
Experiencing stress and anxiety is tough on us, and when we have an irrational fear, it may be irrational to others, but it’s not to you. You can do it, just take your time!