Fear is a complex emotion that can leave you feeling trapped and limit your life in various ways. For example, if you are afraid of traveling, you might eventually reach a point where you are unwilling to leave your home. Or, a fear of meeting new people could cause you to miss out on job opportunities because the idea of going through the interview process terrifies you. Everyone feels fear, but if you find it is consuming your life and leaving you unable to cope, you need to learn strategies for overcoming it.
Your Body’s Fight-or-Flight Response
As an instinct, fear has driven humanity’s survival. If our ancestors didn’t feel wary about dangerous things such as falling, our species likely wouldn’t have made it as far as we have. While you might know intellectually that some of your fears are irrational, your fight-or-flight reaction is so hardwired that your brain and body respond to them in the same way an ancient human would when confronting a predator on the savanna.
While most people’s fight-or-flight response is short-term and only activates in the presence of a threat, people living with anxiety or trauma disorders are in an almost constant state of hyperarousal, or high alert. Hallmarks of this can include sweating, hyperventilating, paranoia and difficulty concentrating, and their intensity might leave you feeling drained and searching for ways to escape your feelings.
Prolonged stress on your body from chronic fear and anxiety can also cause many other physical symptoms that affect your long-term health, including immune system dysfunction, insomnia, body aches, high blood pressure and more. To avoid further harm to your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, try these techniques to overcome fear.
1. Cultivate Mindfulness
Becoming more mindful can benefit you in many areas of your life, so it’s worth trying to make it a regular habit. Through meditation, you can become more relaxed, focused and optimistic, improving your outlook and letting go of stress. Some research even indicates meditation can change your brain’s function by deactivating areas that play a role in fear, anxiety and trauma.
2. Learn From Your Fears
Another way to overcome fear is to embrace it as a learning opportunity. Next time you face an anxiety-inducing situation, analyze your response and why you reacted the way you did. It might help to keep a journal of these experiences – especially if you’re working with a therapist who can spot emerging patterns and evaluate your behavior.
3. Use Your Imagination
Your imagination is a powerful tool. Unfortunately, if you have anxiety, your nimble mind has probably led you down some dark paths and doomsday scenarios more often than you’d like. When you feel your fear emerging, take steps to counteract it by using creative visualizations. For instance, if you are starting to dread an upcoming trip or event, don’t get dragged down into negativity. Instead, picture yourself handling the situation calmly and confidently. If you mentally rehearse success often enough, you can train your brain to be more positive.
4. Practice Self-Love
Overcoming fear is challenging, so acknowledge your accomplishments by reflecting on your progress. Treat yourself to healthy rewards like takeout from your favorite restaurant, supplies for a new hobby or a relaxing walk through the park.
Where to Get Help for Co-Occurring Disorders
If fear or anxiety have become a regular part of your life and you’ve found yourself relying on drugs or alcohol to provide temporary relief, don’t lose hope. At New Found Life, we have guided men and women to embrace sobriety since 1993. We empower clients to find renewed purpose through a continuum of care that includes evidence-based therapies and 12-step immersion. To learn more and verify your health insurance coverage, request help today.