Fear and its negative effects and how to overcome them 4 ways

Photo by Tonik on Unsplash

Fear is a universal emotion. We all feel afraid at times and the symptoms can be both mental and physical.

We’ve all felt the sweating, rapid heartbeat, and adrenaline rush that accompanies fear.

Or you’ve experienced dry mouth before or during a speech. Perhaps even stomach pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing, if public speaking is especially painful for you.

Some people find fear exhilarating and seek it out in roller coaster rides, horror movies, or dangerous sports like race car driving.

That’s because what is horrifying to one person may be thrilling to another. Scary movies are alternately called horrors and thrillers, after all.

Fear can be real or imagined, rational or irrational. But our bodies have trouble discerning the difference.

Effects of fear

One of the positive effects of fear is that it protects us from harm. That sense of being on high alert helps detect threats. The fight or flight response prepares us to deal with them.

But in our modern society, our fears are often unfounded. They can hold us back from fulfilling our potential.

Our fears are often unfounded. They can hold us back from fulfilling our potential. Click To Tweet

A fear of public speaking, for example, will stop us from accepting opportunities to share our message. It can prevent us from advancing in our careers or helping others.

Fear of rejection such as social anxiety holds us back from connecting with others. Intimacy is a basic human need that goes unmet when we avoid social interaction.

If we’re afraid to be vulnerable and reveal our weaknesses because we think others will reject us over them, we’ll never find true love and friendship.

The truth is, some people will reject us if we don’t measure up to their standard. But those people are not mentally healthy themselves.

Weeding them out would be a positive outcome of taking the risk to open up.

So, how do we overcome irrational fears that hold us back? Here are 4 simple ways:


1. Mindfulness

Breathe deeply when shallow breathing from fear overtakes you. Pay attention to your surroundings.

Use your senses to ground you, such as paying attention to the feel of a chair underneath you, or listing five objects in your sight.

2. Support or counseling

Tell others how you’re feeling. Ask them to encourage you to overcome your fears. They can hold you accountable to taking steps to combat them.

If public speaking scares you, join a group like Toastmasters. They give members the opportunity to practice giving speeches in a safe and supportive environment.

If your fears have crossed over to phobias, you may want to seek professional help from a licensed counselor.

3. Self care

Taking good care of yourself will help minimize irrational fears. Eat healthy well-balanced meals, sleep well, and exercise moderately.

A healthy lifestyle will keep you grounded and less prone to stress, a trigger for irrational fear and anxiety.

4. Exposure

Kindly and gently expose yourself to the thing you’re afraid of. If you’re scared of public speaking, don’t jump into giving a speech to a large group straight away.

Keep the stakes low at first and gradually up the ante as you become less terrified and realize you are safe.

You are still getting outside your comfort zone, but in a way that sets you up for success.

If you do too much too soon you’ll self-sabotage and perhaps do more harm than good.

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