Facing Your Fears

Facing Your Fears Image​ There are countless fears such as: giving speeches, darkness, heights, flying and so on. But letting fears fester can limit our lives. In my case, I developed a fear of needles so bad that I'd throw up and faint.

"Help! No! Go away!!!" That was the sound of me as a child reacting to needles. My cousin started to freak out when getting a needle. I looked up to him, so followed suit and added my own screams to his. This fear persisted and got worse over the years.

By the time I reached adulthood, I found a few techniques to help me disengage from and bravely face my fears. Some useful tools included:

  • Muscle memory
  • Role play
  • Music

Muscle memory is a helpful technique. To start, I pay attention to how I stand, sit and move when I feel what I call the 3Cs — Calm, Comfortable and Confident. When feeling the 3Cs, I notice how my facial features are alert but relaxed. For example, my eyebrows are slightly raised and lips lightly smiling. I also find when standing or sitting, my back is upright and my shoulders are apart. When standing, my feet are slightly apart, firmly planted on the ground, and my knees are relaxed; my hands are at rest and somewhat open. I learned to memorize how my body felt in this state and in what positions my muscles held my body. Then I'd consciously apply muscle memory of the 3Cs and shift to this way of standing, sitting and moving when I felt fearful or anxious. The more I practiced going about my day, moving and mimicking the 3C state, the easier it became to shift to this mode at will.

Tip: Make mental notes of these nuanced movements as you go about your day when feeling calm, comfortable and confident. Then apply these body positions and act as if you feel the 3Cs, particularly when you are feeling otherwise. Doing so can help to bring about a more relaxed state, and help you override your fears.

Role play is another useful tool I use to help overcome fear. In my case, I imagined I was my mother-in-law, a confident, take-charge type of person. She is a retired nurse and just gets on with what needs to be done. She'd often not like what she had to do, but just did it without fuss. Thinking of her really helped me overcome my fear of needles when I had to learn to give myself medical injections. I spent a few moments over several days pretending to be my mother-in-law, especially when doing things I didn't much care for, like house cleaning, or driving during rush hour.

Tip: Think of someone you admire who has qualities you'd like to develop, such as: brave, upbeat, tough. If no one comes to mind, think of someone you read about, or perhaps a character in a show you've seen. Then imagine what it would be like to step into their shoes and ‘be' them. Try walking around pretending to be this person. You can make small talk as if you were them, or perhaps practice being them while doing simple chores. The more you attempt to take on this role the easier it becomes to emulate these qualities you admire when facing your fears.

Music can affect one's mood. Slow, relaxed music can calm you; fast, upbeat music can energize you. I often have a song playing at the back of my head that makes me feel good. In overcoming my fear of needles I play relaxing classical music. Choose any morsel of music that speaks to you.

Tip: Find a song that makes you feel good. Play it out loud when you can. Sing along with it, or whistle. Move to it, dance to it. Enjoy it! Then, when you find yourself feeling anxious or otherwise upset, try imagining this music playing in your mind. Feel its tonic-like effect. Savour it!

These are three simple techniques you can try to help you overcome your fears. Try all three and see what works best for you. The more you put these tools into practice, the easier it becomes to work through difficult jitters. Overcoming your fears is something to be rewarded. Be sure to celebrate your success!

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