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When Fear Takes Over You Have a Choice
Fear is a normal response in uncertain situations. Healthy fear is a necessary part of our lives, helps you make good decisions and protects you from potentially dangerous situations.
However, fear can lead to obsessive thinking, worrying, stress and anxiety. These emotions can cause us to seek relief by using unhealthy coping skills. For people with substance use disorder, this can lead to relapse. Finding healthy ways to manage fear can reduce anxiety and helps protect your mental health. When you find healthy coping skills to walk through fear, you can start to look at situations objectively and not feel overwhelmed.
Fear leads to emotional hijacking and triggers your fight, flight or freeze response. When this response is activated you lose the power to view situations rationally or discern between what is an actual threat and what is a perceived threat. Emotional hijacking can lead you to feel unsafe in safe situations.
Grounding yourself in the present moment and examining thoughts are the most effective tools to help regulate your emotions. To regain control you must anchor yourself in the present and look at your current situation objectively. Grounding exercises and deep breathing will help you come back to the present and think clearly.
(Examples of grounding exercises https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques)
Once you’re present, it will be easier to examine your thinking to determine what is a rational thought and what is an irrational thought. Being critical of your own thinking and looking for evidence to prove which thoughts are true, gives you the power to decide how you will feel. Many times fear based thinking leads to catastrophizing current circumstances. Take a step back and ask yourself what is fiction and what is fact.
Once you’ve gained a healthier perspective on the situation, you’ll see clearly how fear has hijacked your thinking. Clarity will help you make better decisions about how to cope. Engaging in healthy distractions, making a gratitude list, prayer and talking to others are effective ways to help improve your mood and thinking.
Prayer and faith are profound coping skills. Belief in a power greater than yourself gives you hope when you feel afraid. Spirituality and religion have been the greatest protective factors used by human beings since the beginning of time. These beliefs have helped people make it through the most desperate times in history. Believing that all things are happening for a purpose and there is a larger force which is protecting and guiding you creates trust that everything is happening for a greater good. This faith destroys fear. When you live in faith you can make better decisions about your actions and find peace during even the most difficult times.
Feeding into fearful thoughts, obsessing about future events or allowing yourself to go get lost in “what-ifs” only perpetuates fear and leaves you feeling powerless. Knowing what is in your control and what is out of your control helps you to feel more powerful in times of uncertainty. Knowing that you can control how you think and feel helps you gain perspective on situations, protects your mental health and reduces the risk of relapse. Examining your thinking, using healthy coping skills, and calling on your faith will give you the power to overcome fear, so you can live a life filled with courage, peace and faith.