“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Fear, anxiety, stress… they come for us all. Unfortunately, no matter how good our resilience and wellbeing are, these things cannot always be avoided. However, if you are practised at coping with high-negative-emotion and times of stress, you will feel fear less regularly. The better you get at tackling these feelings, the more your wellbeing will benefit from it, and the less scary ‘fear’ will seem.
1. Identify Your Coping Mechanisms
We all have coping mechanisms. If you are unsure of what they are then a coping mechanism is something that you can do to mediate your emotional state at times of stress.
Even if you have yet to identify them, you will likely have some kind of coping mechanism already. For me, it is mostly exercise. Other common ones include eating, listening to music, meditating or going for a walk in the fresh air.
Do you know what yours are? If you don’t, take a moment to think about what makes you feel calm and safe. What did you do to help last time you were stressed?
Panic is rising in your chest, your head is racing and full of ‘what if’ scenarios and you can’t think straight. Breathe.
Take a deep breath. Go back to basics. Just take a seat, close your eyes and listen to your breath. Push out all other thoughts and try to focus on nothing else. There is a good reason that so many meditations use the breath as their foundation. To focus on the breath is to remove the noise in your mind, and to tune into the rhythm of the breath is to tune in with a sensation of calm and serenity.
Don’t force your breath in any direction. Don’t will it to calm down… this in itself is stressful. Just notice it. Trust it. Soon enough, your body will relax, your heart will regulate, and your breathing will settle. When you feel sufficiently centred, only then return to the matter at hand. You should be much more clear-sighted.
3. Transport Yourself
If focusing on our breath is not quite working, try this. Close your eyes and visit a happy place. This could be any place in the world, it could be an imaginary place. Alternatively, it could be a sensation, a smell or a memory. Whatever that place is, the visit is for a sense of calm and a reminder that good places without fear do exist beyond your current situation.
4. Don’t Avoid the Issue
Face the fear. Don’t hide, it won’t help!
Cliché though it is, avoiding engaging in something you are afraid of really only makes things worse. If you do not face them then how will you even know if it was something worth fearing? If your concerns are valid? The more you face up to your fears, the more resilient you become towards them.
5. Be Critical About Your Fear
Consider the thing you fear. What is the worst thing that could happen as a result of doing the thing about which you feel so anxious? Very often the answer to this question highlights the irrationality of your fear, or certainly that your anxiety has less weight than you are giving it.
Now that you have asked yourself what the worst that can happen is, now consider, ‘what is the worst that has happened?’ This thing you fear, has anyone ever actually hurt themselves doing it? Has failing at this actually ever ruined anyone’s reputation? Is there evidence of it being unsafe? Is your fear unsupported by actual evidence?
6. Talk to Someone
Don’t let that anxiety eat away at you. Staying silent will only lead to more anxiety and fear. Talk to somebody. If you share your worries with somebody the likelihood is that they will be able to offer you a different angle. A way of thinking about things that you might not have considered. It also helps to have someone looking out for you; somebody who is in the know when you are having a tough day.
By Chris Thomson
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