How To Tackle Fears And Phobias

Fear has to be one of humankind's least favorite emotions. When you have a particularly strong fear of something, getting over your fears can seem like an impossible task. But it's not all doom and gloom — when tackled head on, fear helps us to challenge ourselves in order to grow. Imagine facing your fears being akin to levelling up on a video game.

Fear can come in many shapes and forms. You might be a little afraid of public speaking or becoming embarrassed in public, or you could have a full-blown, anxiety-inducing phobia of flying or the dentist. Sometimes a fear can seem totally strange or weird to others, such as the fear of dry elbows or butterflies, but the odd thing about fear is that you can literally be afraid of anything.

Luckily for us, there are many ways you can tackle your fears, so you can find a method to suit you. There are ways to start small, such as expanding your reading material on the topic of fear. Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love, discussed the art of living a creatively fulfilled life, while facing your fears in her newest book: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear . It has some amazing gems of inspiration and motivation within its pages and it's a great place to start. And when you're ready to confront your fears head on, try these ways to tackle your fears.

1. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Renowned book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway has assisted tons of people in overcoming their fears. According to the author's website, Susan Jeffers, "...inspires us with many dynamic techniques and profound concepts that have helped millions throughout the world grab hold of their fears and move forward with their lives." If you're not much of a reader, you could take this concept and run with it by coming face to face with your biggest fears and beating them.

After re-assessing what she wanted out of life, writer Amber Bell did just that. In her article for The Huffington Post she said, "I needed to climb out of my comfort zone and leave everything behind to really discover who I wanted... who I needed to be. I moved to Italy; Florence, to be exact. Miraculously I managed to find a job before I left, so I gave in my notice, packed my bags and boarded a flight to Italy. And I was absolutely terrified. I have never been so scared of anything in my life." Sometimes the best way to overcome your fears is to dive in head first.

2. Gradual Exposure

Breaking down your fear into small pieces could be the right method for you. Bustler JR Thorpe discussed gradual exposure therapy in an article about curing phobias with science. Thorpe said, "Gradual exposure therapy is the one thing most commonly prescribed to people with crippling fears and phobias. But you may not be aware that there are very specific ways in which to do 'immersion therapy,' as it's called, and they're all dictated by science. The basic thesis? Get exposed to what scares you. You need to do it very gradually — therapists tend to recommend the latter approach, whereby you progress from tiny kinds of exposure to more full-on ones."

Thus, you may wish to take baby steps in overcoming your fears. For example, if you fear the dark and you sleep with the hall light on, you could start by sitting in pitch black for one minute and then gradually adding on to this time every day, until you can finally sleep in the dark without being afraid.

3. Meditation

According to the Headspace website, "Numerous scientific studies have found meditation to be effective for treating anxiety." Andy Puddicombe, creator of the Headspace App, discussed the fear of flying and how mindfulness meditation can help combat it. Puddicombe said, "So if the problem originates in the mind, it’s something that mindfulness can really help with. Like any kind of anxiety, a fear of flying is self-reinforcing."

Puddicombe explained mindfulness by saying, "Mindfulness teaches us to try to observe our thoughts without identifying with them so strongly. I often return to the idea that meditation is like sitting beside a road and watching the cars passing. The cars represent our thoughts, so if we can watch them as they pass, rather than getting in among them, we have a much easier time of it. By observing our thinking in this way we can intervene in that vicious cycle of panic before it gets going." So practicing mindfulness meditation could be a good help in fighting your fears and anxieties.

4. Thought Field Therapy (TFT)

According to Dr. Mercola's website, "Thought Field Therapy is a unique mind-body therapy that capitalizes on the power of the body's energy system to relieve the emotional distress associated with most psychological problems."

Basically, you tap on your energy meridian points, located all over your body, to dispel negative energies. You can learn TFT yourself, but it may be advisable to see a trained TFT therapist if you are new to it and/or if your problems are severe. You can try out Thought Field Therapy at home with the above tutorial or with the help of a variety of YouTube videos. Acupuncture also works with meridian points, so TFT isn't the only way to release the energy stored within them if you fancy experimenting with a couple of different methods.

5. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

England's National Health Service (NHS) explained to readers of the many different ways to treat phobias. The NHS defines cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as "a type of counselling that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It can be used to develop practical ways of dealing with your phobia."

This is a great method for those wanting to experiment with the aforementioned exposure therapy, but with the help of a professional. "One part of the CBT treatment process that's often used to treat simple phobias involves gradual exposure to your fear, so that you feel less anxious about it. This is known as desensitisation or exposure therapy," according to the NHS.

6. Hypnosis

Hypnosis can be a powerful tool in defeating a number of unwanted negative obstacles or habits in our lives. Mindbodygreen discussed how hypnosis can be life-changing. According to Mindbodygreen, "Too often, we use the mind's ability to transport us, down destructive roads. The Buddhists say, "an untrained mind causes suffering." We all know people who practice the bad habit of focusing on frightening distorted beliefs which harm them." But writer of the article, Martine J. Byer, described the process of utilizing hypnosis on one of her clients being, "Hypnosis offers a safe set of highly effective techniques to access and rewire faulty core perceptions, releasing feelings from those sticky corners of her mind." Therefore hypnosis could be a super effective method for confronting your fears.

7. Prescribed Medication

I am not by any means saying that the best method for everyone to fight their fears is medication. However, it does work for some folks. A case in point is someone close to me once suffered from severe agoraphobia – which the NHS describes as, "a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult, or help wouldn't be available if things go wrong." This friend beat their fear through a mixture of counseling (including gradual exposure therapy) plus the use of beta-blockers. Of course, you should always consult your doctor when it comes to any form of medication you might start taking.

According to the NHS, "Medication isn't usually recommended for treating phobias, because talking therapies are usually effective and don't have any side effects. However, medication is sometimes prescribed on a short-term basis to treat the effects of phobias, such as anxiety." Thus, depending on how severe your fear or phobia is, it might be a good idea to try other methods first and use medication as a last resort, or in conjunction with another method.

Whichever route you decide to go down, believe in yourself and look forward to living a life which isn't ruled by fear.

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