What to do if I am afraid?
How do I reduce anxiety?
If you experience anxiety one of the possible causes is that you are afraid of “being afraid”. Fear is a universal emotion, we all feel it and have experienced fear at any moment in our lives. Feeling scared is the reaction to fear which is particular to each person’s characteristics, personality, and mental health.
Your reaction to fear will determine what ways you will find to cope with fear and these may be healthy or unhealthy.
Ask yourself these questions:
How do I respond to fear?
Do I try to escape from it? Avoid it? Repress it? Hide from it?
Do I try to escape from fear by avoiding the trigger?
Do I try to eliminate fear by increasing control over the situation or trigger?
Do I try to deny and reject fear by using substances, food, or relationships to create a false sense of safety?
These are all important questions that point out in which ways you are trying to cope with fear. Ultimately, the only thing to do about fear is to sit with it, allow it, accept it, and listen to it. Fear itself will not harm you. Fear brings up a very important lesson about you and where you are in life and what lesson(s) you need to learn. It brings a critical message to you about what is important to you, what needs to change, where you need to grow, what your needs are, and where you need to focus.
I know is not a pleasant emotion to sit with, but the thing is, fear is not presenting itself to hurt you or damage you in any way. Fear presents itself to protect you from something that it perceives as a threat (real or unreal). It is simply a message from your internal world. Do not be afraid of your own fear (i.e. do not try to escape from it) this creates a redundancy that increases anxiety and you will fall into a downward spiral.
The next time you feel afraid (when not in immediate danger), breathe deeply, and say to yourself: “I am feeling scared” or “I am experiencing fear”. Continue to take deep breaths until you feel regulated and in control. Then, with a lot of compassion and curiosity (judgement free zone) state what it is that you are afraid of, always in relation to yourself. For example, some of the most common universal human fears are:
I am afraid to loose (something or someone)
I am afraid to be alone and disconnected
I am afraid to fail
I am afraid of being ashamed
I am afraid of being rejected
I am afraid of feeling inadequate, defective, or unloved
I am afraid to die or get sick
Most likely, you are afraid of something that is normal for any human being. Stating your fears will allow you to begin to process them in a healthy way and figure out what it is that you need to do to increase safety. Safety is the opposite of fear. When we are afraid, it means we do not feel safe in those areas of life. In order to process fear in a healthy way, we need to increase safety in those areas where we feel unsafe or fearful. When you begin to examine your fears, you’ll realize what your needs are. Ultimately, most fears arise out of universal needs such as:
I need to feel valuable
I need to feel loved
I need to feel safe
I need to feel that I belong
I need to feel accepted
I need to feel adequate
I need to feel in control
I need to feel successful
Once you realize where your needs are, you can begin to work on increasing safety by working on the needs you have, and the fear will start to dissipate on its own. Now, fear is natural and human, we may never completely eliminate fear but the goal is not to eliminate it, but to listen to it so that it does not control us or causes us unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Remember, practice deep breathing to reduce anxiety levels first and foremost. Then, with a lot of self-compassion and curiosity, begin to examine your fears so that you can meet your own needs and slowly increase your sense of safety.
Step by step:
1. Deep breathing to self-regulate
2. Examine fears
3. Determine needs
4. Meet needs (increase safety)
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