If you’ve ever struggled with fear or anxiety, you know how crippling it can be. Fear can hold us back from so much—from doing small things like jumping in a pool to big things like making a career change or traveling the world.
Fear makes us believe we can’t live the lives we might be destined for. I don’t know about you, but I want to be intentional about living this one life I’ve been given. And I certainly don’t want to let fear dictate it.
Just like I can simplify my wardrobe, I have learned I can simplify my fear when I take the time to practice these 3 steps.
1. Accept it.
Remember that fear is a very natural response of the human body; one that can be life-saving depending on the circumstances. When we’re afraid, our adrenaline starts pumping which can help us escape from danger. But the majority of us are not in real bodily harm on a daily basis. Yet if we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us can identify a fear that is holding us back or that we know is not healthy or helpful in our lives.
One of the most useful things I’ve learned about fighting fear and anxiety is to accept the feelings as they come. For many of us, our first response to uncomfortable emotions like fear is to run away from them. We distract ourselves or we modify our situations (if possible) to placate the fear.
But strangely, the less you fight against fear, the less threatening it becomes. If you can pause for a moment and accept that you are feeling fearful, then you can float through it and decide what you want to do with that fear instead of letting it decide for you.
2. Name it.
The physical symptoms that accompany fear often increase the fear itself. But if I name and describe my fear, it helps me see that my physical response is just what my body does when it’s afraid—not a reason to get even more afraid.
I’m not a fan of traveling, especially on airplanes. So when I have a trip coming up and those fear-filled feelings come, I name and describe them. “This is just my typical fear of flying. It makes me feel nervous, and sometimes, shaky and nauseous.”
When you name your fears, they have less power and you begin to see them for what they are. Learning how to call your anxieties and fears by name and analyzing how they make you feel helps curb the scary emotions that frequently accompany each.
3. Be intentional and do it anyway.
Oftentimes, anxious and fearful people are faced with a decision: put forth the effort to power through the feelings, or just avoid whatever is causing them and stay safe. While I’ve certainly had moments where I decide it’s not worth dealing with my fears and just stay home, it’s far more valuable to go with it.
A couple of years ago, I made a decision to intentionally face my travel fears. My husband was traveling a lot for work, and we had several out of town weddings to attend. Each individual flight wasn’t always easy, but the end result of that year was a very obvious decrease in fear of traveling.
When you accept fears by deciding to face them anyway, you’re setting yourself up for little wins that will add up to a big way over time.
It’s helpful to remember that fear makes us focus too much on ourselves and not enough on others. Sometimes, the pull of fear can prevent us from helping someone else, even if we want to. I’d suggest being intentional about this—we should face our fears on purpose.
When I agree to help others despite my fears, it’s always a character-builder. When we just say yes and do it anyway, we have another opportunity to face (and thus, lessen) fear as well as the joy of helping someone in need.
Sometimes, you might say yes but the plan changes, or someone else has agreed to help instead and you’re off the hook. But either way, we’re reminded that pushing past our own fears for the sake of others is worth it.
Doing something even though we’re afraid, especially if it benefits others, fosters calm and simplicity in our minds and lives. Accept your fears, name them, and face them intentionally. If you make a point to consistently face a specific fear, I promise that fear will dissipate.
Even if you don’t have a chance to confront one thing over and over, whenever you decide to accept your fears and proceed anyway, you’ll find dealing with future fears becomes a lot simpler.