Fear keeps us in the background. It convinces us we can never accomplish our dreams, tells us to keep quiet, and separates us from the ones we love. Fear has an unparalleled ability to freeze us in our tracks, and limit what we are willing to try. Fear makes us lead a smaller life.

The things that we are afraid of may be different, but our reactions to fear are usually the same – our palms sweat, our mouths get dry, our stomachs churn — and we would do anything, make any sacrifice, just to make it go away. How many times have you turned away from an opportunity or even a relationship because you were too afraid to go for it?

Fear is not a bad thing. It exists for our protection as an early warning signal. But there is a big difference between the healthy fear that tells us to step away from the edge of a cliff and a constant fear that keeps us from living our life. Dr. Henry Cloud, counselor and author, in his article “Overcoming Fear,” recommends several active steps we can take to battle the fear that controls us – connecting with others, creating structure, learning relaxation techniques, developing a spiritual life, and facing your fears. Fortunately for us, there are practical ways to take the doctor’s advice.

Connecting with others

All fears, no matter how big or small, are worse when we face them alone. Find a good friend to share your fears with, or connect with a free and confential mentor available through this website. We tend to resist admitting our fears because we are afraid that the person will think less of us, that they will laugh, or make things worse. Find someone you can trust, possibly a counselor, maybe a relative or trusted friend and share what’s bothering you. They may be able to help you see what you’re afraid of in a new light, and they will be there to stand by you and encourage you as you take steps to face your fears.

Create structure

If it’s a new situation that is causing your worries, Dr. Cloud recommends building structure into your schedule to create safety. If you exercise, exercise at the same time every day, arrange to meet a friend for coffee at the same time each week. Structure gives us a sense of security because we know what to expect. There is comfort in the familiar. If you take control of what you can, it will give you a good starting place from which to face the things you can’t control.

Learn relaxation techniques

Fear, left to grow, can lead to some serious health problems. If your fears are having a physical effect on health, learning some relaxation techniques may help you to be physically ready to face the challenge ahead. There are numerous resources online on this subject as well as a wealth of information at the library. Find the technique that works for you.

Develop a spiritual life

In times of crisis, spiritual truths that are consistent in any circumstances are a great comfort. They give us safety and familiarity and, more importantly, they give us a reason to hope. If you do not have a spiritual life or faith consider talking to a pastor or read the Bible. The book of Psalms in particular speaks to people that are facing difficulties.

Face your fears

Finally, the last step is to actually face your fears. First, it is important to note that some fears are healthy and some situations should be avoided for your own personal safety. There are no hero points awarded for going into a personally threatening situation. However, if the threat is more mental than physical, actually doing the thing you’re afraid of can be the best antidote of all.

Don’t forget that it is often easiest to do this in steps. If your biggest fear is public speaking (and it is for the majority of us) don’t offer to address the room at the next stockholder’s meeting, but do try something smaller. Consider leading your next departmental meeting, or give a small talk at your next group meeting, something with a small audience and familiar faces, then work your way up from there. Facing your fears is a process.

This article was written by: Claire Colvin

Photo Credit: Benjamin Forman