We might associate fear with dangerous situations, but things like exam worries, starting a new job or financial struggles can also leave us feeling anxious and fearful. Symptoms of anxiety include a rapid heartbeat and breathing, perspiration, dizziness, a churning stomach, dry mouth and tense muscles. It can also affect appetite, sleep and concentration, making everyday life more difficult.
If you find that you're worrying all the time, here are a few tips on how to manage your fear.
While it's understandable to try to avoid the situations that trigger feelings of fear, you will be better served by learning how to cope instead. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation can make a huge difference. They enable you to re-focus the mind and see past the fear trigger, allowing you to calm yourself in moments of anxiety. If you can't find a class near you, try the internet to help you get started and learn the basics.
Physical activity has two benefits when it comes to managing anxiety. Exercise not only causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals that improve your mood, it also requires concentration, which in turn can help to shift the focus away from your fears. Combine it with a healthy, reduced sugar diet. Sweet foods lead to a sugar rush, but the inevitable crash that comes afterwards can increase feelings of anxiety.
It is also important to quit smoking and keep alcohol consumption down if you are prone to panic attacks. Instead of helping to calm you down, they will only exacerbate your anxiety in the long run.
Feelings of panic and fear make it almost impossible to think clearly, particularly given the physical symptoms like a racing heart or hot and cold sweats. And when you can't think clearly, the subject of your fears can often seem much worse than they are in reality. When you start to feel the signs, try distracting yourself, whether that means taking a walk, doing household chores, making a cup of tea or soaking in the bath. Once the physical symptoms have eased, you'll be better placed to see the problem clearly and decide how best to cope. Visualising a safe or calm place can help too.
Facing your fears
Distraction and relaxation techniques can help you to work through your feelings, but avoiding situations that scare you can eventually prevent you from doing things you need or want to do. If that's the case, it may be time to face your fear. As tough as it may be the first time, embracing your fears will make them easier to cope with on each occurrence. Try to imagine, what is the worst thing that could happen? When you have a panic attack, for example, it may feel as though you're having a heart attack. But just because you're thinking it, doesn't mean it will happen. It is usually the case that the fears are much worse than the reality, and it's important to try to remember that in times of stress. However, do take things one step at a time, and reward yourself when you have overcome a problem, no matter how small.
Share your fears
Talking therapies like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy are designed to help people to cope more effectively with their anxieties and fears, so if you're struggling, ask your doctor to refer you. But even talking with friends, partners or family members can make a difference, so don't be afraid to share. There are also many support groups and self-help organisations where you can get help and advice for free, including the Mental Health Foundation, Anxiety UK and FearFighter. Sometimes simply talking to others with the same problems can be a huge help.
Have you struggled with a particular fear or anxiety? What helps you to overcome the problem? Leave your comments below...