In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered his famous words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Roosevelt was speaking about the Great Depression, but we can put his words on a smaller scale and relate it to the inner minds of human beings.
When we have one particular fear, it’s no big deal. When fears build up, those turn into worries and anxiety.
Overcoming fear and anxiety may take a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it in the end.
Let’s examine a few ways you worry too much and how to overcome it. Don’t worry; we won’t make you skydive, sit in a pit of spiders or watch 13 movies on the 13th floor on Friday the 13th.
What causes fear, worry and anxiety?
Before we try to cure your fears, worries and anxieties, we have to look at what causes them.
The difference among the three concepts involves the length of time and amount of brain power put towards something.
Fear is an instant, physical reaction to certain stimuli.
Fear is what happens when you jump-scare during a movie, when you scream in terror on a fast amusement ride, see a snake suddenly slither across your path or think you lost your cell phone even though it was in your pocket the entire time.
This type of fear causes your heart to race and your pulse to quicken. You might even start to sweat and clench your fists as a gut reaction.
Your brain is hardwired to respond to fear because fear can save your life.
Luckily, fear itself is only short-lived.
Fear only occurs for as long as the stimulus presents itself. A roller coaster only lasts a few minutes, while the snake probably slithered away after a few seconds.
When you dwell on fear, that’s when it turns to worry.
What if that snake comes back? What if the next roller coaster has some kind of malfunction? What if the bad guy in the movie comes back in a later scene?
In a more practical sense, think about the fear you experienced when your boyfriend or girlfriend didn’t call right at 9 p.m. when that person said he or she would do so.
Every minute after 9 p.m. turns to worry, and you start to question what might have happened. Is my partner talking to someone else?
Why hasn’t my partner texted me? What if my partner lost the car keys? What if someone mugged him or her? What if something worse happened?
Your worry dissipates whenever the constant fear abates as the situation rectifies itself.
Your boyfriend or girlfriend arrives safe and sound. It turns out the cell phone battery wasn’t charged all the way, and your significant other presents a dark phone without a lit screen as evidence.
Your worrisome crisis, which was all in your head, is averted.
When you worried, your state of fear happened for more than just a few seconds.
Your racing heart and sweaty palms lasted 30 minutes instead. During this time, you might not have felt hungry, you probably felt agitated, and you couldn’t sit still for very long.
Had your worrisome night gone on for a longer period, you might have had a panic attack.
This is when worrying turns into thoughts that focus on what might happen.
Every time you see a roller coaster at an amusement park, you feel nauseous even though you’re not on the ride. Seeing a picture of a snake makes you stay up at night and wonder if a snake may enter your home and slither into bed with you.
The next time your partner forgets to call right at 9 p.m., you instantly call that person’s parents, friends, neighbours and co-workers to try to find out what happened.
Anxiety takes over every waking moment of your life, and it’s hard to get rid of. Anxiety might have come from just one simple little fear that lasted no more than a few seconds, yet those few seconds provided such a memorable fright that you never forgot that feeling during that experience.
Anxiety does more to your body and your life than fear and worry can ever do.
Anxiety can cause panic, unrealistic fears and an impending sense of doom. Beyond your mind set, anxiety can affect your relationships, job, appetite and lifestyle habits.
Perhaps you start eating more to cope with the anxiety, and you gain weight. By the time you recognise you have a problem, you may not even realise that you eat so you don’t feel anxious.
You could also turn to drinking alcohol, smoking or drugs to deal with anxiety. Changing any of your lifestyle habits for the worse can lead to all sorts of medical problems.
Despite all of the bad things that can happen to you as a result of excessive worrying, you can do something about your fears, worries and anxiety.
The overall goal of eliminating these things from your life revolves around reducing stress. Getting rid of stress means managing your reaction to life’s situations.
How do you reduce fear, worry and anxiety?
Anxiety generally comes from too much stress. Common stressors include moving, having a baby, getting married, changing jobs, having an illness, a sickness in the family or a death of a loved one.
These events usually happen at one time as opposed to constantly. However, your stress can build to anxiety if you don’t find ways to cope with what’s happening in your mind.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one way to help manage your stress.
Certain foods can help calm your mind. Remember that chocolate you always grab for when you’re tense? That’s not far off. Dark chocolate may help reduce stress hormones in your bloodstream due to the antioxidants found in the chocolate.
Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and those substances improve your circulation and blood flow. Avocados can also reduce your stress levels.
Find what foods work best for you, and remember not to overdo it when eating one particular food over another.
In addition to food, getting exercise and regular sleep give your body a regular routine to help manage stress.
Exercise helps manage your weight, while sleep gives your body time to go through its natural healing process.
Meditation doesn’t make your anxiety go away, but it does train your mind to focus on the here and now ahead of any other concerns.
The idea is that meditation quiets your mind by removing all excessive thoughts as you focus further and further inward.
To meditate properly, find a quiet space in your home. Sit comfortably, perhaps in a darkened room with a little bit of ambient light, and make the space yours.
Consider playing soft instrumental music in the background. Some types of music, called binaural beats, may help you reach a meditative state by tuning into your brain’s natural rhythms.
Once you get this setting, it’s time to focus your thoughts inward. The easiest way to do this is to focus on your breath. Breathe in and out slowly. Consider breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth to get a regular pattern going.
You might include a mantra, or a simple word or saying, to help your mind to focus. If you feel your mind drifting to a thought, feeling or physical sensation, think about that for an instant and then imagine the feeling drifting away to nothingness.
Eventually, your thoughts focus just on your mantra or your breath.
Consider finding a guided meditation to listen to as you focus inward.
Guided meditations are audio recordings wherein a person speaks to you in gentle, even tones to guide your thoughts to just a singular, intangible thing.
One important thing you must know about meditation is that meditation doesn’t necessarily rid your mind of your anxiety.
However, it makes you focus on just one singular thought by forcing you to think about just the singular, present moment.
All you do is think about your breath, your mantra, the music or the other person’s voice and that’s it. All other thoughts are gone until you finish the meditation.
Recognising the Causes
Recognising the causes of stress and anxiety can lead to major changes in how you handle this problem.
Once you determine the causes, such as uncertainty in your job, your partner’s behaviour, some issue from your childhood or whatever the cause may be, talk to someone about it.
Talk to a trusted friend about your feelings. Do something about your stress.
Remember, all stress and anxiety come from fear. Some fears you can allay on your own. Other fears you have to conquer, but you have to know what causes that fear.
Perhaps fear about your job uncertainty comes from an incident in your childhood when you saw one of your parents get fired.
Realise that some things you can control, such as your reaction to a situation, versus some things you cannot control, such as your father’s firing from 30 years ago.
Once you get to the cause, true healing can begin.
Do you feel better? Are you ready to conquer your fears and overcome your anxiety?
It all starts with awareness and ends with happiness.