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6 Helpful Ways to Overcome Fear
Many of us know the children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen. It was a favourite in our house. The premise is a family outing to catch a bear. “We’re not scared.” They encounter a bear – a big bear – and flee back to bed to hide under the covers. Amongst phrases like “swishy swashy” and “squelch squerch” we might discount the range of obstacles the family encounter and overcome during the adventure. “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it.”
In a way our lives mirror this book. We tackle obstacles all the time, often with varying degrees of inherent fear. We navigate our way through them, mostly barely noticing. Sometimes we freeze or flee. Accordingly, fear gets written and read about extensively. Perhaps these six ways to tackle fear may resonate:
Experience has taught me that the only effective way to quell my fear is to tackle it, either by taking physical action or setting a mental plan of how and when I will move forward. The when is important: because without a deadline our tendency can be to defer, allowing the fear to become exaggerated by our thoughts. Sometimes my first act is simply deciding how I will show up as selecting the attitude I will apply to the situation may be just as important as the steps to be taken. To encourage myself to act, I convince myself that the alternative – doing nothing, is simply not an option.
Try to critique the advantages of progression versus the dread of inaction. By looking forward in this way, you will help liberate yourself and open your mind to new perspectives, new possibilities. Action both changes the information we have about our situation, and it builds the belief that we can act despite the spectre of our fear.
2. Don’t give up
Having de-shackled ourselves from fear, we do not want to be recaptured! We need to quell self-doubt about the actions taken, as this can trigger reversion to fear. We need to grant ourselves permission to make imperfect decisions and achieve imperfect results. Encourage yourself to do this by rewarding the decision to act and the effort applied to break inertia. Focus on the experience and information gained from that act rather than the outcomes. Ensure that progress trumps regret. Strategies like this help us persevere.
3. Visualise positive outcomes
To encourage ourselves to lean into the fear, we can employ visualisation to help us start and to keep going. Focus on the outcome and not the challenge of the journey. Picture yourself reaching your goal AND the points that demonstrate progress towards those outcomes. This moves our perspective from the fear to the reward, but it also prepares us to persevere in the case of shortfall, because we can still celebrate the valuable progress made.
4. Set incremental goals
Break down the problem into smaller pieces. Creating manageable steps may not immediately make the fear surmountable, but it diffuses that sense of it being insurmountable. This action also provides opportunities to reward effort applied towards these interim targets, and opportunities to celebrate them. Each step builds confidence.
5. Ride the tide
Be kind to yourself and utilise the ebbs and flows to advantage rather than lament them. With all the best intent you will have good moments and bad moments. Use those tides to your advantage. Push hard for progress when you feel momentum, and value what you have achieved by avoiding giving ground when the current feels against you. It will pass, visualise it passing.
6. Savour the moment
Think back to fears you have faced in the past and how great you felt as you tackled them. The unsettling anticipation, that fear of stepping into the unknown; the uncertainty and liberation once you committed to an action, and ultimately the sweetness of both the attempt and the reward. Your past experiences can be drawn on to help you visualise and tackle your fears. The more you savour your past successes both big and small, the stronger and more confident you will feel.
Don’t focus on the few times you hid under the covers for a moment like our Bear Hunt family. Think about all the times you set out with adventure, and the millions of obstacles you have overcome. And the joy of the journey. These powerful memories can be relied upon to drive us forward when we need them.
I suspect that there are people out there that live without fear, but I am not one of them. I concentrate on the steps that help me flow with it, rather than allow it to wash over me. By facing fear, I change my circumstances and perspectives. I don’t want my life to be constrained by the suffocating fear of ‘what might be’ so I open my mindset to the opportunities of ‘what might be’ amidst and beyond fear.
6 tips for overcoming fear:
Act – nothing changes the shape and substance of fear like tackling it!
Persevere – don’t give up! You’ve started, you’ve got this.
Visualise – focus on the satisfaction of the outcome rather than the threat of the task.
Resize – stop fear from being insurmountable by breaking it down to achievable increments.
Surge – make the most of momentum when you have it, bolster when you don’t.
Savour – celebrate effort and success. Bank your past achievements to fortify future resolve.