In this scary season, counsellor Sarah Barr shares advice on conquering inner fears.
“Fear is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of progress. In overcoming our fears we can move forward, stronger and wiser within ourselves.”
Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain. The Celts used the day to mark the end of harvest but they also believed the change in the seasons, acted as a bridge to the world of the dead.
Today Halloween is more about dressing up, trick or treating and sweets.
Yet fear is an emotion many people live with on a daily basis.
Fear is one of the most powerful emotions and it has a strong impact on our mind and body.
When we feel threatened our natural response is fear. It triggers certain behaviour patterns, which tell us how to cope in these situations.
We all feel fear when we are scared or faced with a dangerous, difficult or challenging situation. Examples of this include facing exams, public speaking, a new job or even attending a social gathering.
What is the difference between fear and anxiety?
Sometimes we can use fear and anxiety to describe similar things, however there is a difference. Fear specifically triggers off our ‘fight or flight’ response. This response happens quickly and results in the body releasing adrenaline, which disappears once the threat has gone.
Anxiety is usually made up of the apprehension, worry or dread of something that may or may not happen. It is the thought of the possibility of something happening, the ‘what if’s’ and ‘this could happen’ type of thinking patterns.
How does fear affect our body?
When we feel afraid, our mind begins to prepare us to respond to the threat. It increases the blood flow to our muscles and focuses our mind on the object scaring us.
When we feel frightened you may experience some or all of the following:
- Your heart beats very fast
- You begin to breath quicker
- Your muscles feel weak
- You sweat more
- Your stomach feels nauseous
- You find it hard to concentrate on anything else
- You feel dizzy
- You feel frozen to the spot
- You get a dry mouth
- Your muscles tense up
- You can’t eat.
Fear can last for a short time or stay with us for longer periods. Sometimes the fear can be so strong, that it can take over our lives, affecting our appetite, sleep and concentration. It can stop us meeting new people, going to work and even leaving our home.
What you can do…
Learning more about your ‘fear’. It will help you feel more in control and less afraid.
Another suggestion is write a list of the different techniques that help you when you feel afraid and use these the next time you face your fear.
Controlled breathing helps your mind and body work at their best and can help manage the physical effects of fear.
There are different breathing techniques, the general aim is to shift from upper chest breathing to abdominal breathing. You will need a quiet, relaxed environment where you won’t be disturbed for 10 to 20 minutes.
Sit comfortably and raise your ribcage to expand your chest. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy. Take notice of how your upper chest and abdomen are moving while you breathe. Try to gently breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
With each breath, allow any tension in your body to fade away.
We can only think one thing at a time. So if you feel that your fearful thoughts are taking over your mind, distraction techniques may work. These are also useful during anxiety/panic attacks also.
Below is a simple grounding exercise. Take your time and completely focus on each part whilst doing the breathing exercise (above).
4. Talk to someone
If you feel anxious or if feel like your fears are taking over, then talk to someone you trust, your doctor or a counsellor.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a technique used by counsellors, that are very effective for people with anxiety problems.
Fear, left to grow, can lead to some serious health problems.
All fears, no matter how big or small, are worse when we face them alone. Sometimes we may not want to admit our fears because we are afraid that the person will think less of us, that they will laugh, or make things worse. It is important that you find someone you can trust. Facing your fears is a process, so by confiding in someone they will be there to stand by you and encourage you as you take steps to face your fears.