Letting fear and anxiety rule your life can prevent you from growing as a person and achieving success. To enjoy a fuller life, you can follow these tips on facing your fears, managing your anxiety, and even rewiring your brain.
To manage your anxiety, learn how your brain reacts to the things that trigger your fear. Once you do this, you can make lifestyle changes so your mind can be less anxious. The tips below will focus on avoidance and exposure. (Related: Could you have high-functioning anxiety? Here’s what you can do to reduce your fear AND continue to stay successful.)
At its core, anxiety makes people feel afraid. It can be overwhelming to feel severe anxiety, and this can cause avoidance, which may snowball into a life fueled by more avoidance. Coping with your fear through avoidance can force you to live an unfulfilling and very limited life.
Avoidance coping can aggravate your stress and anxiety, and it will negatively affect your self-confidence. It's a major factor that differentiates people who have common psychological problems, like anxiety and depression, from those who don’t. There are many types of avoidance coping; some examples include not doing anything that will attract attention or not taking risks that can result in rejection.
It can be difficult, but do your best to start taking risks, even if you feel scared of rejection or failure. When you avoid something out of fear, you're not giving your amygdala (fear center) the chance to get used to the cause of your fear.
Think of a child who believes that there's a monster under his bed. He won't believe you right away if you just tell him that there's nothing there. However, you can convince him by showing him that there is no monster under the bed, just some dust bunnies and maybe some forgotten toys.
The same thing applies to your amygdala. Like the child who feels reassured when he sees the empty space under his bed, you can train your amygdala to think that a lot of your fears will probably never happen. In fact, the things you fear, like rejection or failure, won't hurt you as much as living a very limited life because you believe you can't handle risks or the unknown.
Are you scared of heights? Unless you have a phobia, getting used to very tall buildings can help you slowly overcome your fear. You can do this by teaching your amygdala that your fear isn't really a threat.
Facing your fears will also help you handle them so you can take charge of your life. Take baby steps to gradually change your brain’s physiology and face your fears. Start with small fears that you can handle on your own without getting overwhelmed, like enjoying the view from a high building, one floor at a time.
If you don't try to face your fears, your brain will be convinced that what you fear, even if it's not dangerous, should be avoided at all costs. According to phobia experts, this will aggravate your fear, and your reaction could be worse the next time you have to stay in the 30th floor of your office building.
This concept applies to different situations, such as having difficult conversations with people or taking risks in your personal life. Avoiding the cause of your fear will only make them seem that much scarier. At the same time, your confidence that you can face your fear might also diminish.
To grow as a person, you need to try to avoid facing your fears. Help your brain calm down, then face your fears and overcome them so you can live a fuller life.