3 tips on how to keep your fears from running your life.
Note: This post assumes run of the mill irrational fears and not phobia level fears. If you have a phobia, seek the assistance of a professional. You will be glad you did.
When I was a child I used to have nightmares about a giant bunny that wanted to steal my hands. As long as my hands were under the covers, I was safe. Whenever I woke up in the middle of the night I would make sure my hands were under the blankets and that was enough for me to calm my fears so I could go back to sleep.
I was reminded of this the other day because my son has bad dreams on occasion and he likes to hide under the covers to protect himself. I think we’ve all done this at some point. It’s irrational; after all, if there were a ghost or a monster, a bed sheet isn’t going to stop them. But, out of sight, out of mind.
Some of our fears are valid, others are irrational. All fears can be paralyzing so having a strategy to calm your irrational fears is essential. What can you do to help calm your fears short of hiding underneath the covers?
- Face your fears. My mother taught me about lucid dreaming. She said, if you are running away from a monster in a dream, stop, turn around and confront them. As silly as this sounds, it actually works, most of the time anyway. It also works in real life. If you have an irrational fear, like the fear of public speaking, do it anyway. Just do it. You may find that you faint, or you may find that you survive. And the more you survive, the less afraid you will be in the future.
- Ignore it. If you are worried about a future problem but you are also pretty sure that it is an irrational fear, decide to ignore it. Have a plan of what you will do IF it happens. It can be a very simple plan, then, give yourself permission to not worry about it anymore. You can deal with it IF it happens because now you have a plan. In the meantime, focus on something else. This technique does take practice but the more you do it the easier it is to do.
- Think of Happy Thoughts. When my son has a nightmare, we discuss it for a little bit but then I direct the conversation to happier things until he is ready to go back to sleep. This is a lot like Professor Lupin teaching the Hogwarts kids how to deal with a boggart. Take what you fear, transform it into something silly and then stop being afraid of it. Again, learning how to transform your thoughts from fearful to happy is difficult to do when you first start, but with practice, it becomes easier, so don’t give up, keep practicing. Eventually you will find it easier and easier to do.
Hope this helps. What is your favorite way to eliminate irrational fears?