Like any other primary emotion, fear serves the purpose, and as such, has two main functions: adaptive and communicative. Fear provokes “the fight or flight” response and keeps us alive. It helps communicate and express our feelings. Therefore, fear isn’t a generally unhealthy emotion.
However, when fear gets out of control, it can easily consume you, until you become paralyzed and unable to take action.
The Difference Between Healthy and Paralyzing Fear
The intensity and quality of fear depend on our cognitive perception of the situation. If you asses the fear-provoking situation and decide that you can escape or avoid it, the response will be a healthy fear and the fight or flight response. If, on the other hand, you believe that there is no escape from the threatening situation, you will most likely become overwhelmed by panic or paralyzing fear. Your response will most likely involve reactions such as a panic attack, paralysis, and a blackout.
Also, unhealthy fear occurs as a reaction to a perceived or imagined danger. While healthy fear arises as a reaction to real danger and recedes after the danger is no longer present, unhealthy fear tends to persist, causing you to feel paralyzed by it.
How to Manage Fear?
Whether you have experienced trauma or you are suffering from overwhelming chronic fear and anxiety, try to always keep one thing in mind: a strong feeling of fear that you are experiencing is just that, a feeling. An awareness that you can separate from that feeling is the first step in overcoming your fear.
So, here are 4 simple ways to manage fear.
Acknowledge Your Fear
Trying to suppress fear will only make it stronger. Recognize that fear is there and face it. Keep in mind that fear is just a feeling – acknowledge this with an awareness that your fear doesn’t define who you are. Then simply let it go.
Practice Stress Reduction Techniques or Exercise
Practice mindful relaxation techniques, as those are an effective way to boost resilience and manage stress. Mindfulness can help you recognize your fear as it arises and to observe how it feels in your mind and body. Simply observe your fear as it is, without trying to get rid of it as soon as possible. Remind yourself again that what you are experiencing is just a feeling and not who you are.
Other stress-relieving strategies that can help you manage fear include breathing techniques, visualization (guided imagery), progressive muscle relaxation, body scan, biofeedback, and physical exercise.
Connect with Nature
Spending time in nature brings about positive feelings of calmness, happiness, peace, optimism, and beauty. Studies show that being connected to nature reduces anxiety and fear, and increases mood, making us feel better emotionally. Not only that, though. Spending time in nature reduces the production of Cortisol, Adrenaline, and Norepinephrine (stress hormones), muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure, all of which are signs of fear and tension.
If you have suffered trauma, it is important that you seek professional mental health counseling or psychotherapy. A skilled therapist will help you to work through your memories and face your fear in a safe environment.
Right now with the pandemic hitting the world at large, fear is an emotion that many are feeling. Many of us feel out of control. Therefore, identifying the ways to create a sense of control in your life is vital to managing fear. Above all remember that you do have control over how you react to situations. If you could use some support around this, please reach out.