An estimate 8 million people suffer from an anxiety disorder in the UK. One of the symptoms of anxiety is fear about everyday situations. This means that, if we suffer from a degree of fear in our daily life which is hard to control, then we are in good company.
One thing that fear does, is affect how we act. Biologically, fear affects our whole system: it alters our attention, and tenses up our body, changing our behaviour, and our experience of ourselves, significantly. It’s an extremely primitive emotion, and one that is hard to control directly.
What can we do to get it under control?
Here are 4 suggestions:
- Recognize consciously that the fear may be trying to tell you something, but clumsily. Try not to look away, but attend to it. Maybe discuss it with a friend or counsellor. Bring it into understanding, rather than pushing it away.
- Give your body a distracting focus – an activity that can use up some of the chemicals coursing around your body. Exercise, for instance, reduces stress chemicals in our daily life, because it helps us process them harmlessly and with focus.
- Allow yourself small bits of exposure to the object of your fear, but keep it simple and easy. This may help to shift you from avoidance to engagement.
- Try to encourage less defensive emotions, such as gratitude and compassion. This often helps us to feel better in ourselves. It also helps us to improve our relationship behaviour while afraid, as compassionate behaviour draws us closer to others, rather than pushing them away.
To help control fear,
- Attend to it, rather than denying it
- Get involved in an activity, preferably exercise
- If appropriate, allow a bit of exposure to what you fear
- Balance fear with gratitude and compassion
It’s not easy, as fear is so ingrained and primitive. But facing the fear in some small way, allowing your body some channelled activity, and focusing outwards on others, can certainly reduce its impact and bring us closer to some kind of mastery.