You can allow yourself to be a victim and let fear control your life. Or you can choose to confront fear and gain control of yourself in the face of the powerful emotion of fear. You can feel fear but you do not need to be ruled by it.
Nature has given us control over one thing" our thoughts. A thought is the beginning of every journey. Everything ever created was first a thought. Fears are nothing more than thoughts, a state of mind. You control your thoughts, so you are in full control of your worries as well. The following steps can help rescue your emotional life from fear and uncertainty.
STEP 1: Allow for the Humanness of the Fear
Fear is a human emotion. It is an important survival mechanism that has helped us survive for thousands of years. Fear is an involuntary response to a threat to your safety. Once you notice you are afraid, however, you do have some choices about what you will do with fear.
STEP 2: Acknowledge the Presence of the Fear:
There is a strange paradox when it comes to controlling fear. The harder you fight the emotion of fear the stronger it tends to grow. Emotions are like messengers. You can imagine the emotion of fear arriving on the doorstep of your life and announcing its presence by "knocking on the door." This "knocking" can be felt as a surge of adrenaline, increased heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, or a feeling of uneasiness in the pit of the stomach. If you refuse to acknowledge these feelings by denying their presence, they will only "knock louder." The symptoms of fear either increase or they are expressed on deeper levels. Once you acknowledge and respect the messengers of fear you can begin to have greater control over them.
STEP 3: Determine the Message of the Fear:
Having recognized the presence of fear you can then begin to listen to its wise message for you. This message is different for each person. For one, it might be a message regarding the need to take care of some preparation for increased safety. For another it might be a message to pay more attention to important relationships to make the most of them in the limited time you have. Each person can "listen" to their fear and hear the message for him or herself. (Hint " It will always be about some kind of need. You can find this by filling in the blank as follows: "The fear that I am experiencing is telling me I need to _________.") You can make a list of all the needs that the fear is making you aware of.
STEP 4: Take Action on the Fear:
Once you have determined your needs you can begin to take actions to meet them in legitimate ways.
Step 5: Revisit the Fear
It is important to understand that this "emotional work" is an ongoing process. New information and new needs can surface in ways that you need to be aware of and respond to. Sometimes the fear can recur as a simple reminder to continue responding in healthy ways. Sometimes you need a deeper understanding of your needs. Whatever the reason, the fear will be something that will likely visit us from time to time just to keep us on track. You can start all over with Steps 1"4 and follow through with further emotional work. You also need to:
Get in Touch with Spirituality: Many people have a spiritual tradition to draw upon in times of crisis and uncertainty. Taking the best out of one's faith-tradition can be a helpful way of" remembering what life is about. Connecting with others of like mind who are using faith to remain resourceful in the midst of fear can also have a powerful affect. Love and trust can be as contagious as panic and fear.
Make a Difference: If you do not like the way things are going in your world, you can do what you can to change it. When you are acting to be a part of the solution you are often too busy to be bothered by worry or fear. You do not have to be Mother Theresa, but you can all work to make a difference in your own community each day.
WHEN FEAR "OUTSTAYS ITS WELCOME":
In spite of all the above, you will still experience unhappiness, sadness and anxiety of "normal"proportions. In such a case, you need to remember that
Despite implementing all the above you may find that, sometimes, the fear can be"reluctant" to leave when repeated trauma or constant stress can cause your emotions to work"overtime". Once you are certain you have heard all of the messages of the fear and have done what you need to do to respond to them you may want to try one or more of these techniques designed to limit the effects of the fear and give you greater control over your life.
Practice Deep Breathing: At first glance, breathing may seem overly simplistic. The truth is, when you are stressed, your breathing is fast and shallow. When you are relaxed, your breathing is slow and deep. Deep breathing is a powerful way to control anxiety and fear. Begin by sitting upright in a chair or lying down on your back. Place one hand over your stomach. When you are breathing properly, your hand will be moving in and out with your stomach. Imagine your breath filling your stomach before filling your chest. Take slow, deep breaths. Doing 10 or 12 deep breaths will lower your heart rate and help you gain a sense of control.
Practice Relaxation/Meditation: A daily time of relaxation or meditation has been medically proven to help lower stress and anxiety. This practice is able to lower your"baselineï¿½ anxiety and teach your bodies and muscles what it feels like to relax. There are many programs commercially available. Tai Chi and Yoga have also been proven to provide similar benefits. Many find that cultivating a spiritual aspect of life is essential to controlling fear and finding balance. Choose a form of relaxation or meditation that is comfortable to you.
Monitor Self-Talk: Your thinking affects your bodies and your overall mood. The words you say to ourselves in your head can either amplify alarm and worry or they can help to soothe and relax. Pay attention to the"self talk" that is going on in your head. When you notice a stream of thoughts that are not helpful, you can say the word"STOP!" in your head. Then begin speaking soothing word internally to take your self-talk in a different direction. Affirmations like"I am here now" or"I have everything I need in this moment" are examples of useful phrases to use. Sometimes it is also helpful to ask ourselves a good question that leads your thinking in a helpful direction.
Set a"Worry Time": If you cannot beat it, join it! As strange as this sounds for controlling fear, it is actually a useful strategy. Begin by setting a regular time for worry each day. Pick a time when you are not normally productive. Pick a time and place where you will not be distracted. Intentionally worry and fret for a set period of time. (This actually is pretty hard to do and you tend to get bored and think of other things.) During the day when a fearful thought or a worry comes to mind, make a mental note to put that on your agenda for your next worry time.
Change Your Beliefs: Beliefs shape your interpretation of your world. Many thoughts that cause fear come from irrational beliefs. You can learn to identify and challenge them and take away their power over us. You can make a list of "evidence" that challenges an irrational belief and supports a rational belief. This process is more involved than other strategies but it is a powerful tool in challenging fear. You don't have to work too hard fighting the unreasonable beliefs you have, just learn to doubt them more. Are you really so certain that your life is in danger?
Stay in the Present: Most worry or fear is about what you fear is going to happen in the future. Once you have done all you can do for your own safety there is no further need to think about fear. Most of what you fear will never happen. If you stop and take a deep breath and remind ourselves that you are fine" in this present moment" you will likely experience a moment of calm and relief.
Get Distracted: Getting involved in something absorbing can drown out the emotions of fear and anxiety. If you can get very involved in doing something you love" that fully absorbs your attention, playing a game with a child, or working on a project, or dancing" when in a state of "flow" fear and worry goes into the background.
Laugh: Humor is an excellent way to reduce fear. Fear shuts down creative parts of your brain. Humor opens them up again. Reading a humorous book or watching your favorite comedy can be a powerful resource.
Call a Friend: Fear can get the best of us at times when we are feeling alone. It can help to call a good friend who is particularly good at managing fear and anxiety. Friends who are upbeat and have a good sense of humor are the best candidates for teaming up with you against worry and fear.
FINALLY, IF NOTHING WORKS, CONSIDER PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE
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