Fear is a common and totally natural emotional experience. It’s helped us survive since the days of cavemen (and cavewomen!), serving as an internal guide to keep us safe from harm. But for many of us, fear can become an overwhelming and all-consuming way of life. And when fear dominates our existence, there’s little room in life to do anything more than simply survive.
My relationship with fear…
Having dealt with anxiety and panic disorder since childhood, I can attest to the limiting boundaries living a fear-based existence can place on our lives and our happiness. While I am a very social person and always ready to jump at new life experiences, I lived with this internal, incessant drone of thoughts coming from my inner voice that critiqued, criticized, and ran a never-ending commentary of every action I took. As you can imagine, it was both tiring and utterly overwhelming.“Never give in to the obstacles that lie in your path towards the achievement of your dreams.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita Click To Tweet
Naturally, my constant negative thoughts gave way to living in “survival mode,” always waiting for something to happen. My quality of life plummeted and my blessed life began to feel empty. Living with fear at every thought and every turn, I began to believe my fears were real. And while I consider myself an optimist, my fear-based thought process took complete control of my life – and ultimately gave way to a full-blown nervous breakdown.
For me it took having that breakdown to break free from my fear-based lifestyle. But you don’t have to go that route (nor do I recommend it!). We all experience fear in our lives. And as I said before, there are times it can actually be a very good thing. As humans, it’s natural for us to have rational and irrational thoughts. It’s when we begin to buy into or believe those irrational thoughts that problems arise.
As part of my build-up after breaking down – or breaking free as I like to say these days – I gathered up a ton of courage and faced my fears head on. Was it difficult? Yes, and scary, too!
Why you should make fear your best friend
In confronting my fears and even befriending them, I learned a lot about where my anxiety and discomfort was coming from. I took what I learned from my new friend, Fear, and used it to help me shift from merely existing to living a thriving and fulfilling life!
Below are six steps I used to befriend my fear-based thoughts and open up my mind – and life – to happiness and contentment:
Clear Your Mind
Go for a run, take a yoga class, meditate. Maybe use essential oils, get a massage or do some simple breathing exercises. Do whatever makes you feel good from the inside out. When our minds are free from clutter we’re better able to judge whether our thoughts are rational or not. It builds up our internal resources and helps us let go of the thoughts – and fears – we don’t need in our life.
Call It Out
Write it down, send it to yourself in an email or even say it out loud. What does that fear look like now? How does it sound? Putting words – not just thoughts – to your fears makes them more physical and tangible. You have something to look at or hear out loud. And looking or listening to them takes on a whole new (and probably irrational-sounding) perspective.
Do Some Digging
Where is this fear coming from? Why does this keep popping up in your mind? What’s the deeper message? Maybe there’s something in your life you feel is unresolved, or maybe you need to learn more about a situation to better understand it. Finding the holes in what you know can make a huge difference in your understanding and acceptance of things in your life. It serves as a compass to guide you toward the areas of your life that need some more work, some more nurturing and love.
Tune In to You
When are you having these fears? Are there patterns you can pick up on or triggers you can look out for that might kick up these fear-based thoughts? Pay attention to the times when these thoughts are shouting out to you. Make a mental note or even write down what’s going on around you, where you are and what you’re doing when they arise. You may start to see some patterns arise, which you can use to plan ahead for when those times come back around. And as you uncover those patterns, you’ll be much more prepared and able to shift toward new ways of thinking next time.
Be Right Here, Right Now
One of the biggest things that helped me get over my fear-based lifestyle was in learning how to be present and mindful – and to stop future-tripping! I was constantly in this cycle of “shoulds” and “what ifs.” By learning how to keep my thoughts in the present moment, I squashed a ton of fears. And if they popped up again, I’d work toward getting back to the moment at hand and say goodbye to those thoughts!
This is a tough one, but give yourself time! Changing ingrained thought patterns doesn’t happen immediately. It takes consistent work – yes, WORK – to reroute our thoughts and lay down tracks for new thought patterns to emerge. But trust that with time and consistency, your patterns will change.
Kindness + Love
Treat yourself well during this challenging, but fulfilling process. Be nice to yourself. And if you feel that’s difficult, recruit someone close to you for support and encouragement. Be gentle with yourself, and take care of your heart and soul. If something doesn’t feel good, listen to your intuition – it may not be the right moment for you. That doesn’t mean run the other way and drop all the hard work you’ve done, but rather be conscious that there will be times when you may not have the internal resources to work through these fears.
Above all, the most important thing you can do to overcome fear-based thoughts is to show yourself a whole lotta love. Hiding away from fear can feel easier in the moment – but that comes from our internal survival mechanism that’s constantly being activated. Survival trumps happiness every time. As you go into this process, know it will be difficult at times, but don’t let that hold you back. Doing the hard work is not only rewarding, it also opens up your mind and life to a world of limitless possibilities.
Fear is a natural, and at times useful, part of life. But when it begins to paralyze our life, it’s time to take back control. Making fear your friend will uncover the areas of your life that aren’t serving you well, and will open it up to the wonderful blessings it has to offer. With time, consistency, a few strategies and buckets of love for the amazing individual you are, you’ll regain control of your life and come out infinitely happier than before.