Ten ways to fight your fears

Whatever it is that scares you, here are 10 ways to help you cope with your fear and anxiety:

1. Take time out
It feels impossible to think clearly when you’re flooded with fear or anxiety. A racing heart, sweating palms and feeling panicky and confused are the result of adrenalin. So, the first thing to do is take time out so you can physically calm down. 

Distract yourself from the worry for 15 minutes by walking around the block, making a cup of tea or having a bath. When you’ve physically calmed down, you’ll feel better able to decide on the best way to cope.

2. What’s the worst that can happen?
When you're anxious about something, be it work, a relationship or an exam, it can help to think through what the worst end result could be. Even if a presentation, a call or a conversation goes horribly wrong, chances are that you and the world will survive. Sometimes the worst that can happen is a panic attack.

If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it. Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Placing the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathing slowly and deeply (no more than 12 breaths a minute) helps soothe the body.

It may take up to an hour, but eventually the panic will go away on its own. The goal is to help the mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.

3. Expose yourself to the fear
Avoiding fears only makes them scarier. If you panic one day getting into a lift, it’s best to get back into a lift the next day. Stand in the lift and feel the fear until it goes away. Whatever your fear, if you face it, it should start to fade.

4. Welcome the worst
Each time fears are embraced, it makes them easier to cope with the next time they strike, until in the end they are no longer a problem. Try imagining the worst thing that can happen – perhaps it’s panicking and having a heart attack. Then try to think yourself into having a heart attack. It’s just not possible. The fear will run away the more you chase it.

5. Get real
Fears tend to be much worse than reality. Often, people who have been attacked can’t help thinking they’re going to be attacked again every time they walk down a dark alley. But the chance that an attack will happen again is actually very low.

Similarly, people sometimes tell themselves they're a failure because they blush when they feel self-conscious. This then makes them more upset. But blushing in stressful situations is normal. By remembering this, the anxiety goes away.

6. Don’t expect perfection
Black-and-white perfectionist thinking such as, "If I’m not the best mum in the world, I’m a failure," or, "My DVDs aren’t all facing in the same direction, so my life is a mess," are unrealistic and only set us up for anxiety.

Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s essential to remember that life is messy. 

7. Visualise
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm: it could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you or a happy memory from childhood. Let the positive feelings soothe you until you feel more relaxed.

8. Talk about it
Sharing fears takes away a lot of their scariness. If you can’t talk to a partner, friend or family member, call a helpline such as the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90, open 24 hours a day). And if your fears aren’t going away, ask your GP for help. GPs can refer people for counselling, psychotherapy or online help through a new online service called FearFighter.

9. Go back to basics
A good sleep, a wholesome meal and a walk are often the best cures for anxiety. The easiest way to fall asleep when worries are spiralling through the mind can be to stop trying to nod off. Instead, try to stay awake.

Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-treat anxiety, with the idea that it will make them feel better, but these only make nervousness worse. And eating well will make you feel great physically and mentally.

10. Reward yourself
Finally, give yourself a treat. When you’ve picked up that spider or made that call you’ve been dreading, reinforce your success by treating yourself to a candlelit bath, a massage, a country walk, a concert, a meal out, a book, a DVD or whatever little gift makes you happy.

 

Anxiety

Feeling anxious is sometimes perfectly normal. However, people with anxiety disorders find it hard to control their worries. A psychiatrist discusses the symptoms of anxiety, why it becomes a problem for some people, and the psychological and drug treatments for it.

Last reviewed: 11/12/2009

Next review due: 11/12/2011

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User130201 said on 31 January 2009

You can also visit Anxiety UK's website (formally the National Phobics Society). They have a great site detailing all forms of anxieties without trivialising or marking them out as weird and wonderful like most sensational media tends to. They also provide subsidised therapies such as CBT, NLP as well as hypnotherapy. I'm a student and have been a member for about 4 months since I decided to actually DO something about my claustraphobia. I have regular therapy sessions with one of the charities many associated therapists and am making steady progress.

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Elia said on 03 August 2008

I have been recommended, www.livinglifetothefull.com. There is a speaking voice which helps you work through the CBT moduals...Try it!!

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Sham said on 13 July 2008

I recommend the book 'Feeling Good' by David Burns if you want to apply CBT to overcome fear as well as many other mental health issues.

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viv said on 09 July 2008

just reading this has started to make me feel better,somethings so simple are the best...

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VioletVision said on 03 July 2008

You could also try The MoodGYM. It is another CBT based FREE website.

http://moodgym.anu.edu.au/

I would also recommend the following Canadian website - it has good toolkits and wellness modules that you can download for FREE

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/toolkits

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Ann said on 13 May 2008

Try Living Life to the Full, for free through Depression Alliance Scotland and the NHS: www.livinglifetothefull.com. Good online support and CBT tools.

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charlotte said on 12 May 2008

read this has helped me because sometimes we just need to hear simple solution to help us overcome the problems. sometimes thinking to hard about the problem is the problem.

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Wendy said on 02 April 2008

I started suffering with a panic disorder in Dec and am struggling to get on with my life. I would love to use Fear Fighter, unfortunately my PCT (Brent) has not licenced the program and I would have to pay £350 myself for access.

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John said on 19 March 2008

How about using a computerised program such as Fear Fighter, has anyone heard of the program or used it for anxiety and stress ?

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