"What is your biggest fear?" is a common question people tend to asks one another. It drives a connection between people and allows you both to face your most vulnerable thoughts. But aside from just talking about it, there are a few mental tricks to help you conquer your fears, because while it's always a good idea to talk about your fears, conquering them sounds even better. And let's be real, if overcoming your fears was actually easy, then I wouldn't be writing this post. No matter how irrational your fear may sound to you or other people, it sometimes can feel impossible to get over that hump and brush it off. But why does even the smallest fear seem so hard to conquer? Well there actually might be some scientific proof behind it.
"When we experience fear, our body perceives a real and present threat or danger—even if none is really there. Most of the time, we fear things that haven’t even happened and often will never happen. We fear the idea of something, and not the real thing itself. The problem is our brain and body can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined threat, so our body responds in the same way to true danger as it does to an imagined danger — racing heart, shortness of breath, anxiety, etc.," says clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. in an interview with Bustle over email. "Because these physical signs of fear are so real and uncomfortable, we tend to imagine threats the same weight as real threats. This is one reason fear can become so controlling in our minds, and why it can be so difficult to take the control back. We think fear is there to protect us from something dangerous, but it’s most often there to prevent us from something good."
While it might be normal to fear something every once in a while, you don't want it to control your life, whether that's afraid of going after a brand new job or getting married to your SO. If you're not exactly sure how you can overcome your fears, here are 11 mental tricks you can do that can help push you in the right direction.
1. Take Action Instead Of Feeling Paralyzed
The only way you're going to overcome your fears is by actually doing something about it, rather than sitting back and doing nothing at all. "I'm a big fan of taking action. Taking action can greatly reduce one's fear level. I often advise my patients to remember a time when they were afraid of something, yet did it anyway. Fear can be paralyzing and fool us into thinking our feelings are correct," says psychotherapist and author of Your Best Age is Now Robi Ludwig in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. Question Your Fear
"It's important to remember: feelings are not facts. Your will is more powerful than your fears, especially if you're motivated to taking control of your life," says Ludwig. Just because you fear something, doesn't mean that you can't do anything about it. Ask yourself why you fear this particular thing so you can find ways to fix it the issue.
3. Motivate Yourself Through Self-Talk
Don't beat yourself down. Remind yourself that your fears are there to help guide you in the right direction once you figure out why you're fearing them in the first place. By setting a plan of action and talking yourself through it, you can help guide yourself in the right direction. "Self-talk can be tremendously helpful during these times. It's important to give yourself credit for challenging yourself and to remind yourself that you can get through this difficult moment," says Ludwig.
4. Visualize Positive Outcomes
Instead of thinking negatively, visualize a positive future when you're pondering about your fear. It can help change your perspective so you don't have to fear it anymore. "Visualize the positive outcome you want to have happen and take some action in that direction," says Ludwig.
5. Learn To Hear What You're Thinking
Rather than just accepting your fearful thoughts for what they are, learn to actually listen to them, and switch your internal language to be more positive. "This is part of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). As you learn to hear the things you tell yourself, things like 'I’m not going to be able to handle that situation,' or 'I’m going to fail,' thoughts that lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress, you give yourself an option—to either continue to believe the thought, or to look for a more helpful and realistic alternative," says Hibbert. "As you learn to challenge your unhelpful/unhealthy thoughts, and to replace them with healthier thoughts (i.e. 'I’m feeling afraid, but I know I’ve prepared the best I can, so I will give it my all.'), you’ll find you can change your feelings, too."
6. Use Thought-Stopping
"This is especially helpful for fears you know are unrealistic and unhealthy, like worrying about something happening to a loved one all the time. Once you’ve proven to yourself there’s nothing you can do, or that the most likely outcome is not going to be the horrible thing you imagined, the best way to tackle these fears when they pop up is to just say, 'Stop!'" says Hibbert.
"As you say, 'Stop,' imagine a brick wall popping up, encaging the fear. Imagine you can no longer see it or hear it or feel it, and that means you must turn your attention to something else, something like what’s happening in the here and now. The more you practice, the easier thought-stopping becomes, until you can immediately stop fearful thoughts just by hearing yourself say 'stop.'" Controlling your thoughts and fears are never easy, but if you use this trick, you can prevent yourself from obsessively thinking.
7. Distract Yourself With Something Positive
While simply distracting yourself won't solve anything, distracting yourself after acknowledging the root of the problem may help, especially if it's something that will bring more positively into your life. "Distraction is another simple way to conquer daily fears. Use thought-stopping to turn the thoughts off, and then distract yourself into something more helpful and positive. For instance, you might call and talk with a friend about 'life,' or watch a TV program, or go for a walk. Anything to get your mind off the thing you’ve been fearing," says Hibbert.
8. Do Diaphragmatic Breathing
If you don't have time to do a complete mediation session, simply take a few moments to do a quick breathing routine in a quiet corner to help you adjust while you're trying to overcome your fear "Learning to breath from your belly is a powerful way to calm and center yourself no matter what is happening around you. When fearful thoughts come, close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep belly breaths. Inhale slowly for the count of five; exhale even more slowly for the count of seven. Repeat 10 times. Once you feel calmer, you can better use the techniques described above to challenge your fears or let them go," says Hibbert.
9. Practice Mindfulness
While doing breathing exercises is a great way to calm down, being mindful every day will allow you to be more attuned with your thoughts and emotions. "Each day, spend 5-10 minutes being present with whatever is happening. Focus on the world around you. Use all your senses to take in the sights, smells, feel, taste, and sounds. The more you practice, the easier it will become to use this technique to remind yourself, in fearful moments, that right now, everything is okay. Almost always we are okay in the present moment. We just need to bring our mind back to the hear and now and take it all in to remember," says Hibbert. "Use your breathing with mindfulness for even more power. And practice daily meditation, even for a few minutes to calm yourself and be still and get out of your 'thinking mind.' The more you practice all of these, the better you’ll be able to call upon them when a fearful moment arises."
10. Figure Out The Root Of Your Fears
One of the best ways to get over your fears is by simply finding the root of why you're feeling these emotions in the first place. "If you can come to a place of understanding as to why you have these fears in the first place, you can play the role of scientist; through this lens, you may be able to see with detached curiosity your fears and how they cause a reaction in you," says psychotherapist, and LGBT and affirmative counselor Kristen Martinez in a interview with Bustle over email.
11. Learn To Embrace Your Fears
You won't solve your problems if you can't embrace your fears and accept them for what they are. No matter what, they are apart of you and another great way to overcome them is by acknowledging them rather than ignoring them completely. "If you're relatively safe and are still feeling the feelings of fear, worry, or anxiety; don't try to ignore the thoughts or push them away; they will only come back with a vengeance. When you can, welcome in the fearful thoughts and 'sit with them,' you can gain a better understanding of why you might be frightened by them in the first place, and they may begin to hold less power over you." says Martinez.
Conquering your fears will take a lot of work, but if you're truly determined to overcome it, you can overcome them in no time.