When my brother came to visit me last year, I wanted to do something fun and exciting with him, something that would alleviate the stress of being a caregiver to his wife, and to help us bond with each other. So, I made plans to go zip-lining with him. I was already stressed from not being able to find the location for this activity for hours on end. In addition, I suffered from a fear of heights, but I felt the only way to overcome that fear was to face it head on. After all, I should be practicing what I encourage my clients to do. We finally reached the meeting point for this zip-lining event. Once each of us in the group got strapped into our gear and hiked to our destination, I made the mistake of looking down from where we were to begin zip-lining, which was 300 feet above the ground, even though it looked like an infinite distance. Of course, I was secured to a harness, but this gave little to no comfort at the time. I was petrified with fear, and my legs felt like complete Jello. It would have been easy to give up at that point, but I was being cheered on by the others waiting in line behind me. And, I wasn’t one to throw in the towel just quite yet. I literally felt like I was about to die, and part of me would have given my life to turn back right then and there. But, guess what? I calmed myself down, took a deep breath, said to myself, “I can do this,” and jumped. Somehow, I managed to thrust my body off the cliff I was standing on, and the cable I was attached to, slid forward till I finally got to the next mountain peak (which seemed like 1/2 mile away). I managed to find the strength somewhere deep down and continued right past the fear. This taught me invaluable lessons on trust, finding inner strength, and most importantly, to never give up. I suggest that you realize the power of pushing through your fears, the power you give yourself when you do so. Fear will only hold you back if you allow it to, remember that breaking through your fears will build your strength and increase your belief in yourself and your abilities.
1. Name your fears
We all have fears that we have avoided for some time. Maybe you have avoided certain situations your whole life. Maybe this is a newfound fear. Whatever the case, these fears have guided your decisions, your life choices, and the path you’ve taken. These fears are not going to go away on their own. Ignoring them is the easy way out! So, write them down where you can read them and vocalize them. This will make them real. “I fear being alone”, or “I fear commitment”, or “I fear speaking up for myself.”
2. Prioritize them
Now that you have your list, highlight the ones that seem to be all-consuming. These are the fears that take up a majority of your time and energy. You may have been in avoidance mode when facing these fears. The highlighted fears are the ones that you want to break through. You are tired of living your life in the shadows of these fears. You are ready to take the necessary steps to move past them.
3. Time to take action
Now is the scary part. You need to take action. List ways that would stretch your comfort zone. What risks can you take in regards to your fear? If you stretched yourself a little each and every day, how would your life be different? Make a list of small, medium and large risks that you can work up to. Commit to taking action every day until the fear is conquered. I guarantee the act of facing the fears head on will decrease your anxiety over time.