Fear is an important human emotion. It protects us from dangerous situations. It increases our readiness for fight or flight. But fear can also be destructive, keeping us from doing the things that could make our lives better.
There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with fear. Here a five mistakes people make when confronting what frightens them.
Mistake #1: Denying That the Fear Exists
You can’t confront a fear if you don’t admit that it’s there. You not only need to recognize it; you must examine it and understand it. It’s like looking at a person. The longer you look, the more you notice and the more ideas you have about what to do.
It can be helpful to keep a journal or make notes. When is it worst? What sets it off? What are the physical symptoms: tight stomach, sweaty hands, etc.? Something that’s captured in words may not seem as insurmountable.
Mistake #2: Not Taking a Break from Fear
Unless you’re in immediate danger, take a few minutes and calm down. Do some deep breathing. Take a short walk. Have a cup of tea. Taking a break will help you think more clearly.
If your face feels flushed or your heartbeat has risen, don’t worry about it. Just let if happen. This will give you practice in confronting fear. Anything you can do to feel calmer in the face of fear will make the thing that you’re anxious about less foreboding.
Mistake #3: Not Harnessing Your Imagination
Don’t let your imagination rule you. If your fear is, say, public speaking, you’re probably painting mental pictures of the worst that can happen. You see yourself visibly perspiring and losing your words while the audience stares at you sternly with arms crossed.
Instead, make your imagination work for you. Get alone and visualize success. Close your eyes and let the mental video role, from the moment you confidently take the stage until the audience erupts with applause at the end.
Mistake #4: Keeping Fear Inside
You don’t have to do this by yourself. Talking out your fears can make them smaller. If you don’t have a friend or family member you can confide in, try a clergy person or ask your doctor. An MD might recommend an expert who can help you. Depending on your specific fear, there might even be hotline help.
Mistake #5: Disrespecting Yourself for Being Afraid
Even courageous people experience fear. A person with no fear is an oddity. The truly brave people are those who work through their fears and overcome the thing that had them scared.
Sometimes fear is our friend. It warns us to avoid dangerous situations and proceed with caution. Fear can be a counselor. Listen to it when there’s true danger, and confront it when it stands between you and a goal.