February can be a cold, dark month if you live with cancer, or another chronic physical or mental condition. Spring can seem very far off when fear and anxiety are our constant companions.
Like I talked about in my post here, feeling fear is normal and even healthy to a certain extent. When we burn a finger on the stove, our fear changes our behavior to keep us safe. In most instances, we quickly process and overcome the fear.
But sometimes we get stuck.
When our feelings of fear and anxiety take hold, they become an unwelcome houseguest. They take up residence, and even though we don’t like them, we get used to having our negative feelings around. We might even change our behavior to avoid dealing with them.
If this sounds like you sweetheart, then listen up. You deserve better than a life filled with constant fear and anxiety. You deserve to thrive! So, tap into your turtle power (AKA one slow, steady step at a time) and get ready to learn how to conquer your fear and live courageously.
How do we get stuck in fear?
Fear is an important part of our natural survival processes. Our human ancestors used fear to provide them with a rush of adrenaline, the famous “fight or flight” response. (Though updated research shows that it would be more accurate to describe it as a “fight, flight, freeze or fawn” response.)
Nowadays, this primal response is usually triggered when we’re not in any imminent physical danger—for example, by a looming deadline at work. However, our bodies don’t know that. When the fear is not addressed physically, our stress hormones get stuck in an endless cycle.
Whether you feel your anxiety problems are “justified” or not, staying in a constant state of panic is not healthy. Our bodies aren’t built for that (and neither are our spirits).
Symptoms of fear can be painful and sap your energy, but the goal is not to eliminate it. That would be like getting rid of your household alarm system because it’s too loud. Living a courageous life means knowing how to make friends with your fear, learning its wisdom and using it to guide you to healthier paths.
The benefits of overcoming your fear.
When we allow fear to hang around, we can become so comfortable in our familiarity, that overcoming fear can feel almost as scary as the fear itself. This is because we’re tapping into another common fear, fear of the unknown.
My friends, if we let our fear and anxiety go unchecked, it can take a real toll on our health. Even leading to a bunch of long-term physical, mental, and emotional problems.
But sometimes knowing what can go wrong only makes us more fearful, leaving us feeling worse than before. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, let’s encourage ourselves by examining the benefits of overcoming our fear response.
Physical health will improve.
Below are just a few of the ways that you can feel better by confronting your fears:
- Improved digestion.
- Fewer headaches.
- Less muscle tension and pain.
- Reduced chance of heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.
- Better sleep at night.
Improved mental health.
In addition to feeling physically better, you can also experience improvements in how you think and how you feel:
- Better memory and ability to concentrate.
- Greater feelings of calm, capability and resilience.
- Less anger, anxiety and irritation.
- Improved decision-making ability.
Reach your full potential.
When you are constantly feeling anxious and fearful, you do not feel capable of doing your best. But when you start tackling your fears, you’ll be amazed at the extra energy you have!
Achieve your dreams.
When we do the work and face our fears, we’ll quickly find that we’re our own worst enemy. The only thing we need to fear is not trying at all.
Improve your resilience.
With each step you take, you’ll learn more about what you need to do to work through your negative feelings and worries. Then, the next time you encounter a trigger, you’ll be able to stare it down and move on quickly.
No one likes to feel like they missed out. Life is short, and we will regret it if we don’t live it to the fullest regardless of our circumstances.
Practical tools to help you conquer your fears.
Now you’re ready to take your first, small steps toward living courageously. Below are a few easy tools for learning how to overcome fear and anxiety.
Name your fear.
The first thing to do is to look your fear in the face and identify it. Sometimes we are feeling afraid and anxious without even knowing why. So, the first step is to examine your feelings and name them.
Maybe there’s one fear that affects everything, like a cancer diagnosis. Or maybe you’re piling a whole bunch of smaller fears and anxieties together. AKA making a mountain out of a molehill. Express out loud or on paper exactly what’s driving your anxiety. Just getting clear on the cause will start to provide some relief.
Befriend your fear.
Now make friends with your fear. Try to figure out where it’s coming from and why it’s acting up. What exactly is the problem? Then, identify the story behind your fear.
Once you realize there is a story behind your fear you will realize that, nine times out of ten, the story was made up by you. And your fear is only a reaction to the story you created.
Know thyself (journal).
Now that your fear and anxiety is revealing itself and whispering its wisdom to you, it’s time to write it down. Writing down your fears and the stories behind them will help you gain clarity. Sometimes, the mere act of writing them down and acknowledging them is enough to let them go.
Because fear and anxiety affect our physical bodies, we need to improve the health of our bodies. Not only does exercise improve our overall health, but it also helps to get rid of any stagnant stress hormones. You don’t have to go crazy, start with gentle stretching or a walk around the block. Make exercise something you enjoy.
Fear and anxiety can be exhausting. Sometimes you need to relax and restore yourself before you conquer your fear. Limit your activities in the short term so that you can reduce your stress triggers. It’s easier to tackle your anxiety when you aren’t feeling overwhelmed.
Those of you who are familiar with me know that I am obsessed with eating a healthy diet. Your diet forms the basis of your mental and physical health and cannot be overlooked. Take small steps to a better diet by adding in more fruits and veggies before trying to take anything away. That way you’ll feel less deprived as you eliminate the stuff that isn’t serving you.
Alcohol and sugar in moderation.
Speaking of things to avoid, both alcohol and sugar can add to already high levels of anxiety. While having a few drinks can make us feel better in the moment, the aftereffects can make things even worse. Too much sugar as well can lead to highs and lows in our mood and energy levels.
Daily meditation is one of the most effective and enjoyable ways to overcome chronic fear and anxiety. Just ten minutes a day spent in meditation can lead to overall improvements in your mental and physical health.
Another way to harness the power of your mind and learn how to conquer fear is to picture positive situations. Every morning, spend a few minutes imagining a joyful day.
Send love to everyone you’ll meet and imagine having upbeat interactions. Reframe any situations that cause you anxiety or fear. For example, visualize an easy commute and a handy parking spot.
Heal, heal little frog’s tail…
When I hurt myself as a little girl, my Colombian grandmother would recite a children’s rhyme to console me. “Sana, sana, colita de rana. Si no sana hoy, sanará mañana.”
This roughly translates to “Heal, heal little frog’s tail. If you don’t heal today, tomorrow you will.” I still repeat this rhyme to myself when my fears threaten to overwhelm me. It reminds me that sometimes we have to be patient.
We need to know that working through strong negative feelings is a process. Some big hurts in life never fully heal. But, if you give yourself time and do the hard work, you’ll definitely feel better than you do right now.
It’s going to be OK.
Before we wrap up, I want to remind you, dear one, that whatever you’re feeling is OK. If you’re finding it difficult to control your fear and anxiety, reach out for help. Call a friend, find a therapist (I have one), or join a supportive group like my Inner Circle Wellness community! And, if you’re really struggling, don’t hesitate to get immediate help by calling one of the numbers below:
Your turn: Do you have any strategies to overcome persistent fear and anxiety that worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Peace & courage,