Living in fear for a long period of time can cause stress and can even be paralyzing.
This may impact your mental health in a way that keeps you from being able to engage in day-to-day activities.
Whether you are afraid of your circumstance, abandonment, have common fear, or a general sense of dread, you are not alone.
Living in fear can be painful because you may be relying on your perception rather than reality.
This can shift your brain activity into your amygdala and the sensation of fear may come up in uncomfortable ways like an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, and a stomach ache.
You are not a failure for feeling fear.
There are ways you can help improve your mental health by using a new set of strategies.
If you are truly in danger, fear is a helpful way to survive.
If you are not, fear and and anxiety can be a way to recreate old patterns that are no longer serving you.
In the rooms of recovery, fear is known as False Evidence Appearing Real. This means that you may double your worry or anxiety because you are reliving the experience that may or may not be scary.
Perspective taking can be a useful strategy to lessen living in fear.
If you find yourself facing your fears in unhealthy ways, like using substances to avoid feelings, or isolating to avoid, for example, there are strategies you can use to improve your circumstances.
Fear is inevitable, and patterns can be shifted when you are ready. Small steps can make big changes in your life.
Here are 5 Ways To Lessen Living in Fear:
1. Get To Know Your Fear.
Acknowledging that you are afraid can be the first step to making a change.
Shaming yourself about being scared only makes the anxiety worse.
Embrace the fact that you are afraid so that you can begin to move forward. There is no problem too big or small to overcome.
Keeping fear in perspective can help you build emotional regulation, leading to resiliency.
Invite your fear into your life. Sit with it. Work toward letting it go when you are ready.
This is a process and won’t look perfect, so getting comfortable with the uncomfortable can be useful.
You may find that most of your fear is from one event or several events in your life. Both are okay.
Many of our fears are attached to old stories that may no longer serve us.
Therapy is a great way to explore your fears with a professional who is trained to help make helpful connections.
Getting to know your fear, provides you with clarity around your actions; why you behave the way you do.
With clarity and understanding reasons for behaviors, you can take more helpful actions when fear presents itself to you.
2. Let Go Of False Control.
You can control some things and you can’t control everything.
When you have the perception that you can control everything, you may be living in fear.
Healing often happens within a paradox. When you lessen control, you may feel incredibly fearful at first. Then, you may realize that you never really had control at the start.
Attempting to control others can also be a sign of living in fear. This is an idea rooted in codependency and can be a band aid so that you don’t have to look closely at yourself.
When you are trying to gain control in a circumstance, think about your purpose.
Letting go of what you cannot control allows you to make choices that align with what you do have control of. It provides you the opportunity to learn to be flexible and go with the flow. It helps to create a growth mindset approach to life leading to more opportunities for growth overall.
“A handful of water cannot be grasped.” – Swahili Proverb
3. Use Your Imagination.
When you are in fear, your imagination may already be active with catastrophic events and a worst case scenario.
Replace the habit of catastrophizing with helpful, calming images and meditative practices. This can help you to connect with positive thinking and lessen specific fears.
Your mind is powerful, and your thoughts can be useful for you. You can take yourself to a beach, the mountains, a field of sunflowers, or another peaceful place at any time.
Allow yourself to use your imagination in a positive way to help yourself lessen fear in your life.
If there’s an image or picture of a place you have been, that you find calming or brings feelings of peace or joy, save the picture. Make a file of images on your phone, hang them in your house or place of work, or make them a screen-saver.
Sometimes having the image at hand, can help encourage your imagination.
One of the most popular ways to help fear subside is to breathe.
The breath is a useful tool to reduce panic and pause instead. Deep breathing can be useful, and if you are feeling panic, you may want to exhale for longer than you inhale.
When you exhale longer than you inhale, you can calm down your nervous system. That may mean that you breathe in for 4, hold the breath for 4, and breathe out for 5 to get a new start.
You don’t have to believe everything you think. When you feel overwhelmed, breath may help you pause and gain perspective and a new outlook.
5. Visit Nature.
A natural environment can help you to gain perspective, and lack of perspective can be a culprit to feeling fear. Nature is awe-inspiring and can help you to rightsize yourself again.
Fear and fearful thoughts can often be about believing that you are incredibly important or not important enough. This is called stinking thinking in the rooms of recovery because it is extreme.
Nature can help you to see yourself accurately. When your perspective is extreme, a false reality can be more likely to show up in your life.
Nature can also give you permission to step away from technology and social media. It’s okay not to be perfect when it comes to fear. After all, intense fear can be debilitating. When that happens, nature can help.
If you are having a panic attack or seemingly uncontrollable fear, a peer specialist with the Colorado Crisis Services can help. The phone number is 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.
There are many reasons for fear and anxiety. Living in fear and feeling anxiety may have been tools to help you survive; you don’t have to rely solely on these traits in your adulthood.
There are relaxation techniques and strategies available to you. There are ways to release past patterns to feel empowered as an adult. Fear is real.
Your perception may not be the only perspective. When you begin to doubt yourself, feel yourself stuck in extreme thinking, or not realize the size of yourself, you may be living in fear.
Give yourself permission to invite a new strategy into your life. You don’t have to stop a habit to replace it.
When life gets overwhelming and the fear in your life seems like too much, a professional like a therapist can help.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of Denver therapists who provide teen therapy in Denver, young adult therapy, adult therapy, family therapy and other counseling and therapy in Denver and throughout Colorado.
We specialize in relationships, codependency, communication and boundaries and provide supportive therapy for people struggling with life transitions, trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, negative body image, and more.
Our clinicians are trained and comfortable working with people who struggle with thoughts of suicide and work collaboratively with our clients and their loved ones to maintain safety through a trauma-informed approach.