4 steps to face your fears and overcome anxiety

When we are suffering from stress and anxiety, it can have a huge impact on how we live our everyday lives, our relationships and our mental health and well-being. It can cause us to stop doing the things we really want to do or can even cause us to start diminishing in things that we could do before.

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The first thing I always explain to my empowerment coaching clients is that stress is normal. It is a self-defence mechanism that we have evolved to have as in our ancestral past it kept us safe and alive. I describe this evolutionary and biopsychological theory in my article Brain power. However, even though this used to be beneficial to us, for example running away from a sabre tooth tiger, we (thankfully) no longer have these threats.

Our brains, unfortunately, have not evolved as quickly as our bodies so we still have these automatic responses to things that we see as “threats”. For example, someone standing at the top of a skyscraper may still be afraid as their limbic system is screaming “Help, this is too dangerous I am going to fall" even though there is a reinforced window and railing stopping this from happening.


How can we control stress and anxiety?

In my empowerment coaching sessions, I have worked with many people with fears, anxiety and phobias. Having used many different tools and techniques to support them I have found four key steps that can make a change on how stressors affect us allowing us to take a more relaxed and rational approach towards them which can then consequently lead to them being solved and overcome. I call this process how to FACE your fears:

1. Flow 

The flow state is a situation where your abilities meet the challenge of the situation you are in. It encompasses the saying“Time flies when you're having fun”. This idea can be used in stressful situations by combine the anxiety-provoking event with something you enjoy. You have the familiarity and comfort of being able to concentrate only on what you’re doing, but will be pushing your boundaries.

For example, if you are having a vaccination but hate needles try listening to your favourite song while it happens. If your skills do not meet the challenge then you can also try to increase them so you feel more comfortable. For example, before a big test make sure you start revising and preparing early so you can feel more confident in the exam. For more information on flow please see my article,How to increase happiness, fun and flow in your everyday life.

2. Adopt a healthier lifestyle to reduce anxiety 

When we are struggling with stress we often take on unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking, ranting, smoking or ignoring the situation altogether. These may make us feel better in the short term but in the long run, we will still be exactly where we started, unhappy and unfulfilled.

In David Emerald’s book The Power of Ted, he speaks about moving from the role of the victim to the creator and the only way of doing this is changing your focus from the problem you have to the solution to that problem. Thinking of what you want and do not want can aid you to find a way out of this undesirable situation. For example, if you are not happy in your job, instead of complaining to colleagues you could look for a role that would make you happier or investigate training opportunities.

If you constantly worry about your body size beating yourself up and berating yourself will not change anything but finding an exercise or weight loss program will. These changes can often take more work and effort than staying in the comfort zone but ultimately you can create the life you desire.

3. Confront your fears

Avoidance is an extremely popular behaviour when we are feeling stressed in our lives, it is also one of the most unhealthy coping strategies. It leaves us with a feeling of relief when we miss that day of school or cancel the dreaded dentist's appointment. Behaviourists call this positive reinforcement as that feeling of escape and relief that provides a reward to our avoidance. Because of this, we can continue in this cycle again and again. The problem is that by avoiding these situations we are not solving them.

Missing a lot of school will impact grades and avoiding the dentist could lead to tooth decay and pain. It’s impossible to overcome social anxiety if you don’t expose yourself to situations but once we have done what we had feared to do the rewards are not just the completion of the act but it also boosts our self-esteem, confidence and belief as we have done it. We have faced our fears and succeeded by avoiding avoidance!

4. Exposure hierarchy

A behavioural treatment developed by Joseph Wolpe is that of systematic desensitisation. It is largely used as a treatment for extreme phobias but everyone can use it in any stress-provoking situation.

Firstly imagine the event, person, place etc that is causing your stress. Now make a list of activities related to it from easiest to hardest and think how each situation makes you feel in terms of anxiousness so you are prepared to deal with it when it next happens. For example, if you feel nervous in large groups, which has become very common since the pandemic, start small by going out for a walk.

When you feel confident ask a friend or relative to go out with you during a quiet time of day. When you are comfortable try going into a shop and so on. Keep building these experiences until your confidence is high enough to socialise in groups.


Let's face our fears!

Try to put some of these aspects into action and you should start to feel more resilient and less anxious. Remember stress and anxiety are normal feelings but you are in controlof them. Every step may seem small but if it is something you couldn’t do before then it is a huge achievement and you should feel proud of your bravery.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Rayleigh, Essex, SS6
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Written by Rosslyn Whellams, BSc PGDip PGCert
Rayleigh, Essex, SS6

My name is Rosslyn Whellams and I am an Empowerment Coach living in Essex. I offer online affordable, bespoke and effective individual Empowerment Coaching as well as set courses and programs. My goal is to help my Clients improve their lives by finding and increasing their Emotional Empowerment so they can live the lives they want and deserve

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