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Psychology Today: Overcoming Fear

Heather Edwards Mental Health Counseling / Articles  / Psychology Today: Overcoming Fear

Psychology Today: Overcoming Fear

Heather Edwards Overcoming FearThis article was featured in Psychology Today on January 7, 2015.  Click here to see it on PT!  
Get Past Your Fear:Psychology 101 teaches students everywhere that besides food, water, and air, the most basic of human needs is SAFETY. Just watching the news can be traumatizing.  News and media build their audience by sensationalizing real and/or perceived threats to their viewers’ personal and public safety. We’re easily captivated by the shock and horror of natural disasters and man’s relentless capability to commit heinous acts (like terrorism or videos of beheading etc.).Headlines can scare us, like the recent massacre in Paris. They grab our attention, shake us up, anddare us to let go. We must be able to learn what we need to know, and yet live our lives.

Our psyche also carries fears. Some people are frightened by the possibity of rejection, others by the dissapproval and still others fear disasters of some sort.

What do you do with the barrage of threats that hit you every day? Where do you find refuge? How can you create a sense of peace and live in an optimistic way when you’re bombarded by fears from both the outside and inside?

  • No place to run; no place to hide.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your feet on the ground, your head lifted high, and getting-on-with-it amidst the chaos – and dangers – of everyday life.

Enjoy Positive People.

Scary things are in the world, but so are good people. Feed off the energy of those good souls and their attitudes. We feel happier around happy people. Find the people in your life that encourage the experiences and state of mind you crave. Strengthen those relationships. Let them know how much you value them. Replay the positive messages you’ve heard from those you love and respect. Believe in yourself.

Recall the revitalizing messages that give you energy when you hear the voice of fear, self-doubt, or criticism in your head. Write yourself a letter of encouragement. Practice being a friend to YOU.

All you need is love. It’s a great line. And, it helps a lot.

Meditate or Pray.

Take a time-out to redirect your thoughts to the present moment. Be mindful of your existence in the immediateenvironment. Focus on your breath and how it feels filling your lungs and belly, leaving your body through a slow exhale. Notice any tension in your body as you breathe. Notice surrounding sounds and smells and let them go. Five minutes each day may truly help you feel more at peace and less stressed out.

Or, if you are person of faith, find a place to pray. Talk to your maker. Let your imagination allow you to know that He or She cares and is there in your life. Let your fears be lifted by the power of a loving God. Or, just say a thanksgiving prayer, and be cognizant of all that you do have. Breathe deeply and let your creator touch your heart.

Both prayer and meditation have been shown to relieve anxiety.

Relish Happy Moments – Past, Present, and Future.

Write about them. Spend a few minutes each day reminiscing about good times and future plans and goals. This can change your brain structure in positive waysWriting about cherished memories and ideas strengthens the neurological pathways responsible for positive-thought processes. It also gives you another way of appreciating them. Our brains naturally attend to negative aspects of our environment to keep us safe. Retrain your brain to notice the joyful, empowering ones more easily!

Accept that Fear is a Feeling.

Bad things do happen in life, but they may not happen to you. When anxious, notice your feeling. Label it. Let it go. Use your imagination to allow feelings to drift by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream. Don’t get caught up in that feeling. Simply notice it, name it, and let it go. That moment of emotional distance from your feelings can result in a more peaceful, productive, problem-solving state of mind.

Celebrate Each Day.

Appreciate the people, places, and activities that feed your soul. Notice even the tiniest of pleasures. Be an active participant in life. Let others know that you value them. You’re not alone in feeling negative feelings. It’s a normal part of life. That’s what makes it so important to demonstrate gratitude and nurture the sources of your well-being at every opportunity.

Laugh & Smile.

The act of smiling forces a chain reaction of muscular, hormonal, and neural activity that is associated with happiness. It therefore is difficult to hold onto negative feelings when smiling. Laughter is associated with strengthening the immune system due to the physiology involved. Here is some information about this…http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/

Try smiling right now! It can actually lift your mood.

Distract Yourself.

The more time and energy you devote to fearful or negative thoughts, the more power you give them. The effect can be stifling for positive behaviors. Do what makes you smile. Go for a walk. Spend time with old friends, family, or neighbors. Treat yourself to a show, dinner, massage, or yoga class. Do the opposite of negative thoughts and behaviors. You deserve to feel good!

Stay Grounded.

Truth is, there are things to be frightened about. The world is not perfectly safe, and intelligent precautions are part of living a good life. I put on seatbelts out of love for myself and my family, and I would do so even if there was no law demanding it. Living life with safety in mind, is not the same as living in a state of fear.

So, find solid ground. Enjoy life, feel close to those you love, recognize that fear can make things bigger than they are and accept that we can control much less than we might think. There is freedom when fear is put in its place.


Heather Edwards, LMHC, BCC

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