Three Tips to Manage Overwhelm in the face of Fear

Fear is powerful. It can lead us to react in ways we could never predict, it can lead us feeling debilitated and unable to respond.

The experience of fear is normal and healthy. It often manifests in three forms:

You fight...

When backed up into a corner, you come out swinging! Both figuratively and literally. When you notice fear creeping in, anger soon follows. 

You flight...

When faced with fear you are quick to get out of harms way! You don't stick around to endure what makes you scared, you leave it, avoid it, and simply run away. 

Or You Freeze...

You may find yourself frozen or speechless when met with fear. Your body doesn't appear to be responsive and you are at a loss for words.  

Our fear response is an automatic reflex, and thank goodness for that! It literally is our survival mode, our way of protection and preservation. Our fear response can be triggered by both threats and perceived threats, and regardless of whether or not they are in fact "real"; our body can not always decipher the difference. It can happen during conversations with bosses, spouses, or even strangers. It can occur when we least expect it and without warning.

We can not control what cause us fear; we can control how we experience it. Through practice we can learn how to calm our nervous system in order to process, reflect, and slow down our thinking and reactions from it. 

Three tips to follow when faced with fear. 

  1. Create a self-compassionate inner dialogue that allows you to recognize when fear is creeping in. Giving "fear" a name and labeling it allows you to contain it's impact as you describe and experience it. We often search for words, language, and meaning to aid in our ability to clarify and understand. If you don't have a language or dialogue to identify difficult emotions it's makes it that much more difficult to calm yourself down. To work towards having a compassionate inner dialogue, I like to remind myself that it should be similar to how I would speak to a close friend who is struggling. I utilize kind and caring language.
  2. Allow yourself to experience fear without self-criticism or judgement.  Once you recognize it, acknowledge it with kindness. Judgement and criticism will not make fear go away any quicker, no matter how hard you try. As you much as you may want to wish it away, it's not going anywhere!
  3. Recognize that it is a feeling and not an identity. Feelings are meant to be felt. They may come and go with great intensity and linger for longer than we may hope, but they do not define us. You are still you, no matter what you feel. 

Fear, is a difficult emotion to experience. If you find yourself in need of additional support, or feeling overwhelmed by it, professional counseling can be incredibly beneficial. If you would like to learn how I can be of assistance, please contact me, I am here to help.