Simple Steps for Dealing with Fears and Phobias

Is this how you’re feeling?

Are fears or phobias controlling your life?  Holding you back from achieving your full potential?  Stopping you enjoying your life fully?

You can be helped to cut those fears down to size and take back control of your life.

I can help you to identify your levels of fear and to determine your own self-help programme or whether professional intervention might be appropriate.

Here are some tips that you can use to help determine your level of fear.

From the table below, you can rate your fear as either mild, medium or severe (on a scale of one to ten, one being the mildest and ten being extremely distressed).

Fear/Phobia Scale Typical Symptoms
Mild (1 to 4) I can look at pictures of spiders but I am uncomfortable being in a room with one. I can cope with small spiders and I can even catch one in a container and put it outside.
Medium (5 to 7) I can only cope with a spider by squashing it, flushing it down the loo or vacuuming it up. I can cover the spider with a glass and ask someone else to remove it.
Severe (8 to 10) I have to leave the room or building if I see a spider, if I can’t, I feel panicky, hysterical, and I can even feel frozen with fear and shock. I can’t even look at spiders on TV without coming out in goose bumps and feeling panic

If it’s a mild to medium level of fear: think very carefully about whether it’s really affecting your life negatively. If so, you can use self-help to deal with this.

If it’s a medium or severe level of fear: take an honest look at how much it’s affecting your life and decide whether you need to access some professional support.

Now that you have decided:

If you have a medium to severe level of fear and feel that you need support, claim your FREE 30 minute Change Your Lifestyle Consultation by going to my website www.vernonaharris.com or call Vernon on 07866 730941.

If you have a mild to medium level of fear and you are happy to try self-help, here are some tips.

Tip 1
Write down a list of about 10 (or as many as possible) situations you find frightening because of your fear or phobia and arrange them in order of severity from lowest to highest. This can be from things you find a little uncomfortable to very distressing.

You are going to use this list to help you gradually build up your tolerance of the things that trigger your fears and also to build up your confidence.

Even though the process of facing your fear/phobia maybe uncomfortable, let me assure you those feelings are temporary if you put in the work.

Tip 2
Learn what to do to calm yourself quickly and make list of techniques. Examples: deep breathing, looking at calming images, listening to relaxing music or doing some form of physical activity. These are just some of the tools you can use to calm yourself quickly when fear/phobia is triggered in you.

Every time you are successful in stopping or reducing your level of fear/phobia, it’s important to reward yourself. Your reward can be as simple as enjoying a favourite meal, listening to your favourite piece of soothing music, taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk or short run in pleasant surroundings…the reward list can be endless – just use your imagination.

From your list of calming techniques, choose a couple that you can recall to mind quickly when feelings of fear/phobia begin to surface.  I would strongly recommend making deep breathing one of your calming techniques, due to its effectiveness in so many of these kinds of situations.

Simple deep breathing technique:
The instant you feel your fear/phobia coming on…Take a deep breath in for a count of 5…Hold for a count of 5…Then breathe out for a count of 8. Repeat this breathing technique until you’re feeling calm again.

Tip 3
The aim is for you to expose yourself to each stage of your fear/phobia until you feel calm and comfortable with it.  From your previous list, start with the lowest step for tackling your fear/phobia and see how much tolerance you have of it.  You are going to stay with this situation until you feel comfortable with it, only then moving on.  Remember, a little discomfort is normal and necessary in order for change to take place, but stop as soon as you begin to feel overwhelmed.

If you do start to feel overwhelmed: STOP and use your chosen rapid calming technique(s).  Once you’re feeling calm, of course you can repeat the process until you’re completely comfortable and calm with the whole step.

Example:  If I’m afraid of water, I may be fine with going into a pool up to my waist but start feeling discomfort when others get in and start splashing around, so……I get out, calm myself, step back in and slowly walk forward to a slightly deeper level.  It could be a matter of repeating and repeating until YOU are comfortable

Remember to reward yourself for each level of success you have and also start creating a reflective journal – write down in a notebook what happened and your thoughts and feelings for this step, eg. How long did any anxiety last, at what point did it come in, what you did to calm yourself, how did you reward yourself, etc.  You’re going to do this throughout the whole process to record your journey, so date each journal entry as you go.

Tip 4
Using your journal, reflect on how you got on with the first step of your journey again.  Do you feel ready to take the next step on the ladder?

If you are ready, just start on your next fear/phobia situation and repeat the process of exposure again.

If you are not ready yet, keep working on step one until you are ready to progress to your next fear/phobia step; the great thing is, you can repeat as many times as necessary – it’s YOUR personal journey.

Make sure you reward yourself for your successes and keep your journal up to date.

Tip 5
Again review your journal and observe your progress – how are you feeling?  How is your confidence?  Are you starting to feel like you’re taking control of your life?  Remember, it’s OK to re-do any step over and over, until YOU are satisfied, happy and comfortable.  Now it’s time to challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that have been affecting your life, Eg: “I’m afraid of water and I’ll panic when I step into the pool.”  Now that you’ve made so much progress, how would you re-write your previous negative thoughts into positive ones that resonate with your new belief system?  Eg: “As long as I can feel the bottom of the pool with my feet, I know I am safe and can feel calm.”

Some More Strategies You Can Use to Challenge Negative Beliefs
Logic: Is there any hard evidence that runs contrary to the thought?
Eg “People go swimming every day and don’t drown in the water.”
“There is normally a trained lifeguard on hand to assist if needed.”
“Getting water splashed in my face does not mean that water will go into my lungs; it’s no different to getting my face splashed in the bath.”

Challenging Automatic Assumptions:
Eg “I’ve never tried going into deeper water, I have no experience that says I would definitely panic.”
Imagining you’re talking to a friend with the same issue: What would you say to them?
Eg “The chances of anything happening when you’re in the water are negligible, so why not enjoy yourself?”

Tip 6
As you go through your consecutive steps, continually testing yourself and reflecting, keep challenging those negative thoughts you once believed, re-writing them into positive statements as often as you can along the way.  You may find that you can re-write quite a few!  Be assured as you go through your process that you are continually reinforcing and adding to your new, positive mindset.  This allows you to re-evaluate and re-determine the real you.

The chances are, you’ll gain enormous benefit from the process and you will be much further forward in your journey to take control of your life.  Remember, as you get further and further through your list, the steps will be the most difficult things you have tried yet and you may like to remind yourself that you now have a range of positive coping strategies that will support you (not just in this context, but in any other difficult areas of your life.)

Here are some examples:
“If I have a panic attack, I’ll simply breathe deeply and stop what I’m doing until I feel able to cope again.”
“I’ve coped well so far and dealt with the uncomfortable feelings, they may be unpleasant, but they won’t hurt me and I’m growing in my awareness of this.”
“I’ve done this before and the worst did not happen – statistically, the chances of a disaster are very slim – the lift will not jam for ever/the plane will not crash/I will not be in danger if I go into the deeper water.”

On completion of your final step:
Take a clean page of your notebook and copy every positive statement that you noted down in date order, from when you began to work through the steps until the end of the process.  Read the list of statements out loud from beginning to end and give yourself full credit for the work you have done to arrive at this point!

Remember, this is an experience you have used to address one area of your life, but the skills you have gained can be used in all areas of your life.

Congratulations – YOU have done it!

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