Today’s post is inspired by one of you! You may know that I regularly ask my newsletter subscribers whether they have any topic on their chest which they would like me to address in a specific post. So, today, I would like to thank Cynthia! She asked me whether I can help with an article about how to deal with fear and anxiety in particular, so here it comes!
Before we go in detail on how to deal with fear and anxiety, let’s have a look at what both of those terms really mean.
Fear is a negative emotion felt by a person who is responding to a known or definite threat. To make it more explicit, imagine you are in a supermarket. Someone comes up next to you. You sense danger. The stranger gets out a knife and threatens you to do you harm, if you do not hand over your wallet. That emotion popping up right in those moments is fear. You feel endangered. The threat of this person with the knife is as real as it can be.
If someone feels anxious on the other hand, it’s an emotional reaction to an unknown or imprecise threat. In other words, anxiety is often caused by negative imagination. If we take the above scenario, it would be you in the supermarket feeling unpleasant because you imagine that a person walking behind you might threaten you with a knife. But it is not actually happening. So, feeling anxious is not based on an existing threat. (Source for definitions)
Why the difference between fear and anxiety is more important than you think
With those definitions in mind, I have come to the conclusion that in most cases when people speak about their fears, they actually mean their anxieties. For me the most typical example would be “I am too scared to leave my job. Why? My biggest fear is that I will not have any financial security anytime soon.” So, in actual terms this person is anxious right? Anxious about an unknown situation.
But I am not here to pinpoint anyone. I also speak sometimes of fear, even though I should technically refer to “anxiety”. The reason why I am stressing the difference is that fear is actually an emotion you cannot prepare for. It is triggered by a concrete situation. It is a reaction.
Anxiety, however, is an emotion which – in my view – we can control better. Why? Well, we are anxious about things we can in no way foresee. About things we imagine. We don’t know what the future will bring, we don’t know what life will be like in 6 months or 3 years time. So, why be nervous about something which is not in our hands? Or is this why we feel anxious? Because we can’t control it?
How to stop struggling with (fear and) anxiety
Now, usually there are two types of ways to deal with these negative emotions. You do it completely on your own, but then the likelihood that you continue to struggle with it are relatively high. The second way (my preferred option), is to start on your own and then “process” the emotion together with someone you trust.
In order to work on these emotions, I recommend that you
- (Print out and) read the following articles.
- Then get out a pen and a piece of paper and complete the exercises included in these articles:
- Understanding Your Emotions
- Are You a Victim of Self-Sabotage? & How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs
- How Do You Overcome Fear? (my first ever learning bite :-))
In all cases, it is us who are responsible for our own emotions. Whether they are positive or negative. As much as we like to blame others for things that happen to us, it is only you who can influence your own emotions. This is also why I included the two posts above about self-sabotage and limiting beliefs.
When you are done with the first one or two exercises, let me know how it goes for you! Whether it actually helps you to decrease your level of anxiety or not. In either case, I would like to know. Leave a comment below!