Are you afraid? How to overcome fears

When we are afraid, we may panic, freeze or try to find a way to escape. Fear may cause anxiety symptoms making things feel even scarier. Understanding ways to conquer fear will help us enjoy life again. Here are some tips for conquering fear.

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  • Fears may be specific and small, like hating spiders, or vague and big like being unable to stay in crowded spaces. You may be able to avoid fears most of the time, like being afraid of flying in an airplane while others may come up in work or social settings, like being afraid of public speaking. Here are some ways to conquer your fears and get back to living life:

  • Change thinking patterns

  • There are often fewer reasons to be afraid when we have accurate knowledge and better understanding. Knowing a panic attack is not a severe heart attack may help a person be calm enough to remember to use breathing exercises to calm down further. Understanding that many people are afraid of public speaking may alleviate some pressure that you are the only one dreading that moment of being called on to speak. Learning techniques to help lessen anxiety may help a person feel more in control and able to intervene in their own behalf. Realizing there are ways to help makes us feel less helpless.

  • Try breathing exercises

  • Because anxiety can cause physiological responses such as, heart racing or fast breathing, there is some relief by addressing those symptoms directly. Breathing slowly and deeply will help relax your body, and focusing on your breathing can calm your mind. Some people find it helpful to breathe in slowly while counting, hold their breath for the same count, and then breathe out slowly for the same count. Others use relaxation techniques that focus their breathing and relaxing different muscle groups.

  • Confront panic

  • Because some anxiety is based on the process of anticipation, sometimes the best thing to do is just “get it over with.” Making that dentist appointment, taking your first airplane flight, or placing that phone call will conquer the anxiety simply because you are no longer dreading it.

  • Practice fear exposure

  • Other types of anxiety may be too big to confront directly. Taking smaller steps, like visiting an airport a week before the big trip may help transition you into being able to confront the fear. Doing something — anything — to progress toward confronting the fear, even if you can’t yet directly conquer it, will help lessen the anticipation.

  • Develop skills

  • Sometimes the fear relates simply to not having the experience to be confident. Taking a class to develop certain skills may help. Practicing in front of friends may ease the nerves before speaking in public. Joining a club or hobby group may improve your ability to function in social settings.

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  • When we are afraid, we may panic, freeze or try to find a way to escape. Fear may cause anxiety symptoms making things feel even scarier, but your body cannot produce the chemicals that cause anxiety symptoms for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Know the moment will pass and keep breathing deeply. If anxiety symptoms worsen or continue beyond the stressful situation, you may need therapy to learn relaxation techniques, ways to change your thinking, and new coping skills.

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Emily Christensen lives with her husband in Oklahoma. Her Ph.D. is in marriage and family therapy and she is pursuing a second degree in Hebrew and Jewish studies.


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