While often considered a “negative” emotion, fear is actually a natural experience that plays a fundamental role in keeping us safe. However, when fear and anxiety become a pattern in our lives, they can impact our happiness and mental well-being, preventing us from living the way we’d like to.
Let’s talk about fear…
Anxiety, stress, worry, panic – whichever word you may choose, most often we are referring to the same basic emotion. Like all other immediate responses, fear provides us with information. It is a way to signal a potential threat to our physical or emotional safety; as such, it is a normal biological reaction present in every living being.
Even though fear and anxiety can be distressing, they usually pass when the underlying trigger is gone. In some circumstances, however, fears can have a major influence on our being and take over our lives. This can affect our ability to take care of ourselves properly by disrupting our sleep, concentration, and overall well-being. Living with fear can also hold us back from doing things we want or need to do, and distance us from ordinary situations that might make us feel uncomfortable.
👉 Also interesting: Why Negative Thoughts and Feelings Are Important Too
The cycle of fear can be challenging to break, but the good news is that there are lots of ways to help manage your fears and lots of places to find support. In fact, what matters most is not making fears disappear, but rather learning to deal with them so that they won’t stop you from living the life you aspire to.
“Just like fear signals a potential threat to us, its function is to keep us safe”, explains psychologist Eva Rüger. “To avoid reaching out to a person to protect us from feeling rejected, to not speak up in order to prevent us from potentially feeling excluded. When we understand our fear and learn to interpret it, we can look at it differently and it loses the power to hold us back from stepping outside our comfort zone.”
The effects of fear
Many things make us feel afraid. Some fears are rational and primal, caused by imminent dangers or innate responses to certain stimuli (e.g., loud unexpected noises), others are irrational and can vary greatly from person to person. The effects of fear can be very powerful on both our minds and bodies. Regardless of whether the threat is perceived or real, you can experience three types of symptoms:
- Intrusive thoughts, such as thinking that something bad will happen;
- Physical symptoms that reflect your body’s response, such as a faster heartbeat and irregular breathing;
- Changes in your day-to-day behaviour, such as avoiding social activities or events.