Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Don't Let Fear Stop You

Almost 40 years ago, I refused to drive after a drunk driver's hit-and-run at the speed of over 100 miles per hour zigzagging on Highway 101. Months later, I resumed driving out of necessity, but I constantly looked into the rear view mirror fearing someone would hit my car again. That fear lasted for quite some time!

Fear talks to people. And when they listen, this is what can happen:

Sheila loved to dance but she wouldn’t go out on the dance floor with her fiancĂ© because she thought she’d look clumsy and ridiculous.

Arnie knew he deserved a raise, but he was so nervous about approaching his boss, he never asked for one.

Delia’s fear of bears was so great that she wouldn’t go on a camping trip with her friends. And their campsite wasn’t even in bear territory.

Fear is that voice inside our heads that says, you can’t, you shouldn’t, what if…. Fear keeps us from taking risks that might enrich our life or holds us back from doing some things we need to do. Experience new and exciting vistas? Accomplish something really great? Fear says “No" to all risks, real or imagined.
This isn’t to say that fear is all bad. At its best it’s an instinctive, natural ability to help us survive. Without fear we might attempt to stroll across freeways or scratch behind a lion’s ears. But given the upper hand, fear can dominate our life and make even the innocuous—taking a walk or answering the phone—a daunting experience.

Even if ninety-nine percent of what we worry about never happens, we still hold onto certain fears because they seem so real.

On its own, fear won’t disappear. Following are some strategies to help you deal with fears that might be holding you back from something you want or need to do.

Get information. In an information void, fear clicks in to do what it thinks is its job. But when you find out about what scares you, you replace fear with knowledge.

Learn how to do it. If there’s something you’d like to do, but you’re afraid to try, take lessons. We’re not born knowing how to ride horses or make pottery.

Find models. Let someone who’s not afraid model courage for you. Just as fearful behavior breeds the jitters, courageous behavior invites confidence.

Talk about your fears. Keeping your fears bottled up inside magnifies them. Taking them out into the light can shrink them. Find a good listener who won’t pooh-pooh your fears or make judgments. Pray to God about your fears.

Talk to yourself. Self-talk filled with positive messages can change fear energy into positive energy. Eliminate the can’ts, shouldn’ts and ought-tos from your self-talk vocabulary. Do you wholeheartedly believe you are under grace, not law?

Use your imagination. Before the first day at a new school or starting a new program, imagine other students also feeling scared of the unknowns. Before you arrive at the party, imagine the other guests are as frightened as you are. Or see your audience as people who really want the information you have. Visualize yourself doing what you are afraid to do; see yourself as graceful, strong and capable in Christ. Do you believe that God your Heavenly Father is going with you?

Focus on the little things. Keep your mind on the details, not the Big Picture (there will be other times to do that). Complete the report word by word, pay the bills one by one, see the group individual by individual.

Expand your comfort zone. Take a small risk each day. Make one phone call, ask for one thing you want, go to one new place. Little by little your confidence will expand, too.

Relax and breathe. Sometimes the physical response to fear creates even more fear. Physically relax your body and breathe in and out to release tension.

Ask for help. If your fears are pervasive or severe, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, in which case you should definitely seek help from a health care professional. If your fears are not debilitating, but still get in the way of doing what you need or want to do, asking for help can make all the difference.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

 Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

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