We all feel fearful from time to time, and fear is a normal and natural emotion to handle. At times it’s beneficial, but sometimes we experience irrational fear. This means that we are consciously aware that the situation we are facing does not necessarily justify the emotional response we are experiencing. While the process of how we perceive a threat can be complex, there are only two natural causes for experiencing irrational fear. The first is that we had a prior negative experience or that we are continuously exposed to possible threats that may gnaw away at our natural resilient, and resourceful state.

If we think about the fear of public speaking and what a great fear that is for many people. Some people even suggest that ordinary people tend to fear public speaking even more than death. I have often found with people that I work with that the fear of public speaking stems from a series of reading aloud experiences in early schooling year. Often this experience would be in a classroom where many of the audience members (the other classmates) are already experiencing some level of anxiety. As they await their turn to read aloud in front of the class, be evaluated by the teacher, and risk public humiliation while performing a task (reading aloud) that they were seldom confident about.

At that moment, an association between appearing in front of a group is born unless that association is challenged or broken. After that, a person is likely to continue to associate a fear response with public speaking. So we can see that in this case, something happened in our history. We started developing a fear response to most experiences that resemble those initial uncomfortable experiences of being evaluated in front of a group of people.

The other primary possibility is when we are placed into a state of fear by experiences in our immediate environment. I believe that this is more relevant to us today because we are continually bombarded with messages that imply some sort of threat. When we continuously hear about people dying and an invisible enemy that can appear at anytime and anywhere, that can quite quickly accumulate to a default state at a state of fear. Our emotional state tends to have a recursive effect on the kind of questions that we ask internally. Those questions of themselves tend to provoke even more fear. That sense of fear tends to generate even more questions, and this becomes a state of hyper-vigilance. Living in fear can affect our physical bodies and health, which causes us to become even less resilient to everyday challenges. If we don’t take the time to stop and practice some mental and emotional hygiene regularly the risk of continually feeling overwhelmed and fearful becomes even more significant.

Fear gets to the best of us, whether it is fear of failure, fear of success or even fear of fear. All of us have experienced fear at some point in our lives, and it can be a fundamental stumbling block that holds us back from being truly successful.

Fear can’t hold you back forever if you don’t let it. There are several ways to overcome fear; here are my top 9:

Ask yourself what is really going on, locate the facts and place them over your feelings.

Figure out what it is in a situation that triggers you. Learning to identify it will help you learn to combat it.

Often fear takes over physically. It affects different people in different ways. Identify if/how it affects your physical body and do the work to take care of your body. As an example: if you hold stress in your back, you can learn stretches, foam rolling, etc., to avoid the pain.

Every day, list out 1-3 things you are thankful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. Gratitude helps shift the mind into a positive light, which over time overcomes fear.

Monitor your inner conversations. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. Instead, speak positively to yourself and remind yourself of your strengths.

Remind yourself that the feeling and the moment will pass. Focus on the positive outcome of the situation rather than the scary in-between.

Perception is a compelling thing, and how you feel about your situation dictates how you respond. So think positively, and you’ll give yourself a much better chance of success. This won’t happen overnight; practice with just one thought. What is one recurring negative/fearful thought you have? Work on reversing this one thought. Over time, this will become a habit.

Breathing helps center your body; when you stop breathing, your heart stops beating. You can do a grounding exercise, or even just take 5 deep, long breaths at any point to calm and center yourself. It is best to start your day with this, but feel free to practice all day long.

When you feel safe and secure, there is no room for fear. Find somewhere safe you can retreat to when ill feelings begin – whether this is a real place like your bedroom or a place in your mind such as the beach. This sense of comfort will soothe you and allow you to face your fear.

Please keep in mind, these are just 9 strategies; not everything works for everyone. But this is a place to start. So start implementing these techniques into your life, and don’t let fear hold you back from reaching your goals and highest potential this year!
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