Have you ever been afraid to try something, do something, or make a decision, whether it be big or small? Do you fear abandonment, unworthiness, or rejection? Have you felt stifled by fear and not sure what to do next or how to overcome it? Well, you’re not alone. We are currently experiencing a pandemic that has led many to live in fear. Facing tough situations and choices throughout our lives is where we allow fear to take over and prevent us from moving forward. Dealing with fear is scary.
If we allow it, fear holds us back. And the more negative attention we give it the larger it becomes. The fear of failing, the fear of being exposed, even the fear of succeeding. Fear can manifest itself in many ways. Anxiety, jealousy, greed, eating, drinking, addiction, and rage are examples of elements of fear. It is important to note there is a need for fear that is hard wired for basic survival like protecting yourself from danger- the fight or flight response in certain situations. But other forms of fear can impact your mental health if they aren’t addressed properly. Which is why it’s important to identify when you’re standing in fear, address it, understand what it means, and what you can glean from it.
Through a combination of thoughts and approaches from Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert, here are four steps to help you in dealing with fear.
4 Steps to Dealing with Fear
1. Acknowledge the Fear
When you start to feel yourself going through multiple ‘What If’ scenarios and beginning to spiral out of control that’s when you need to take a moment. Stop. Acknowledge what’s happening. Take a few deep breaths. You’re not the only one that faces this, and it’s a common reaction. ‘What If’ scenarios can cause you to spiral into panic and leave you with no answers. It is important to take the time to acknowledge that you’re starting to spiral, or you’ve already spiraled. Then give yourself credit for noticing it. Say to yourself, “I recognize that I am in fear right now.”
2. Let Fear Write You a Letter
It’s critical to make time to work through the fear and to stay in it. Take time to be alone with yourself and allow your fear to write you a letter. Set a timer for ten minutes and have your fear tell you what it’s afraid of. What does it want? Why is it holding you back? Listen and be respectful of it. Allowing your fear to speak will uncover the things that are at the heart of fear itself. Be open to letting it reveal itself to you. Then re-read the letter to yourself.
3. Write a Letter Back
Now it’s time to write a letter back to fear. Begin by thanking fear for sharing its thoughts with you. Then tell it about YOUR new plan. This is how you’re dealing with fear head on. Show it who’s boss!
Here’s an excerpt from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring.
There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat and to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps, not allowed to suggest detours, not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
4. Repeat the Process
Continue to repeat this process whenever you’re having fearful thoughts. It might even be daily. And don’t be ashamed of it. It’s not a weakness. Everyone experiences these feelings. And understand that this takes time. Just like any other practice, consistency works to build momentum and allows you to see and feel the benefits of the process. You’ll also understand what works and what doesn’t for you, how honest you’re being with yourself as you dig deep, and the effectiveness of your plan of dealing with fear when showing it the door.
Most importantly, always remember that you need to take care of yourself first before you can help anyone else, whether that’s a significant other, a child, a family member, a friend, a co-worker. Nothing matters more than being there for yourself. Dealing with fear, and learning from it, is an important component of your overall well-being.
As Elizabeth Gilbert suggests, take a deep breath and say to yourself:
“I’m right here. I’ve got you. I love you. And I’m not going anywhere.”