How To Control Fear

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Whether you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming job interview or the fact that your weirdo neighbors could possibly be blood-sucking vampires from beyond the grave, we all get that involuntary feeling of rattled nerves from time to time. But no matter what kind of drama you’re dealing with, the fear-based response is the same: Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure goes up, and your cognitive processing deteriorates. So since we all experience fear — and anyone who says they don’t is a bullshitter — we need to know how to control fear. Here are some tips on how to do that:

When you’re scared or anxious your breathing can get screwy. And the less oxygen that gets to your brain, the less effective your cognitive functioning will be. Simple, deep breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety as well as pain. “First, focus on being in your body. Feel the air on your skin and your feet on the ground,” suggests life coach Mike Hrostocki. “Next, breathe in for the count of four, hold it, then breathe out.” In the moment, even if the counts aren’t exact, you’re still ensuring you’re getting oxygen to your brain.

Coming clean about your fear can help you learn how to control fear. You don’t have to broadcast for others to see, but the admission allows you to understand what you scared of and why you’re fearing it. In turn, you can move past it quicker. “Naming the feeling, instead of trying to fight through it, makes it feel less overwhelming,” Hrostocki says.

A recent study of how mixed martial arts fighters handled fear discovered that they commonly hid the angst behind a sense of bravado and confidence. One way they did that, according to the study, is a technique called “othering,” where the fighters imagine themselves as stronger and better than their opponents. That’s a terrible attitude to carry with you on a day-to-day basis, but it can give you a jolt of confidence to power through a situation that may otherwise cause you to wet your pants.