We all have something we’re really scared of – it could be flying, snakes, sharks or being so high up that your knees start trembling and blood begins pumping faster. Fortunately, it’s very rare that we come face-to-face with the things that we dread. But have you ever stopped to think about the things that frighten you on a daily basis? Do you get a surge of anxiety before a meeting at work or avoid broaching a tricky topic with friends? Have you ever had to steel yourself on a packed bus or train? You might not notice yourself doing it but these daily phobias could be holding you back. Life coach Olga Levancuka (olgalevancuka.com) talks us through some of our most common fears and how to face them.
One thing you might fear more than anything is public speaking. It can make you feel that you are exposing yourself and inviting opinions and criticism that may not be welcome. The reason it is so stressful is because it’s a way of making yourself noticed, visible and heard – not something we are used to doing, especially if we’ve been brought up to keep our opinions to ourselves.
Face it: Turn the tables
Use speaking in public as an opportunity to share your expertise and to recognise that your voice matters. Think how disappointing it would be for others to know you have something special to share but are hiding it away. Turn the tables and acknowledge that it is not you exposing yourself but your audience exposing themselves to something valuable, interesting and important from someone who has a different area of expertise.
Oh, the dreaded rush hour! However much you hate it, there’s often no way around it. Finishing work feels great, but the journey home can be filled with anxieties of what could go wrong. Will the train get stuck? Will the bus have a diversion? Will I be sat in a traffic jam? Or will there be an annoying group of fellow passengers, loudly sharing their life stories and personal information? On top of these concerns, you can often expect an uncomfortable journey with limited space – stressful!
Face it: Plug in
Invest in a really good pair of headphones and enjoy listening to your favourite music or online meditation, or get caught up in a good book (just make sure you don’t miss your stop!). If it’s all getting too much, consider changing your travel route and perhaps even look at getting a job closer to home. If you can’t deal with packed trains or buses, it is simply not worth exposing yourself to such a high level of stress daily.
We spend so long building our images and establishing ourselves in our peer and social circles that any criticism or rejection we receive has a huge impact on our self esteem. It doesn’t only cancel out what we said or felt at that moment, but also all the work that we put in behind the scenes.
Face it: It’s not you, it’s them
Here is a secret that will help you feel a little bit better – no one likes to be criticised or rejected, and people who say they really don’t care often fear it the most. Don’t take it personally – no seriously, don’t take it personally. Those who criticise or reject you are likely to base their decision on their own fears. There may be something about you that reminds them of a previous failure or of a person they met before who didn’t fulfil their expectations. Criticism and rejection are almost never directed at the individual, but based on their own insecurities.
Whether it’s a friend who keeps ignoring your problems to constantly talk about themself or a boss who’s trying to micro-manage you, there will always be times when you dread broaching the issues that need to be addressed.
Face it: Keep your cool
If you’re having problems with a friend, find a neutral space in which to bring up the problem. Avoid laying the blame on them but explain how a certain situation makes you feel. Stay calm and try not to get emotional. If they want to be your friend, they’ll try to understand and will take your opinion into account. When it’s a problem with your boss, book some time with them to discuss the issue and explain that you’d like the opportunity to find a better way to work with them. Think about the positives that could come from these difficult chats – taking control of a situation can be empowering and benefit you in the long run.
Fear of getting old or ill is a really common concern because it’s something we all have to face eventually. However, living in fear of what might happen means that you’re wasting the life and opportunities you currently have.
Face it: Plan positively
Focus on the life you have and make that the best it can be. Your attitude has a massive impact on how you feel about the future – you can either sit fretting about what it might hold or you can just enjoy where you are. Getting older does have its benefits – you can spend your time doing what you want to, taking up new hobbies you haven’t had time for and making new friends. Taking positive steps to face the future can help too – ensure you pay into a pension early, so that you know you have some security when you retire, and start taking better care of your health now.
3 ways to fight your fears
If you feel the panic start to rise, try some of these NHS recommended techniques to help you cope
If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it. Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathe slowly and deeply. The goal is to help the mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Let the positive feelings soothe you until you feel more relaxed.
Try imagining the worst thing that can happen, perhaps it’s panicking and having a heart attack, then try to think yourself into it happening. It’s just not possible. The fear will run away the more you chase it.
For more helpful ways to face your fears, head to nhs.uk