Everyone experiences fear to some degree but fears vary greatly from person to person. One person may not think twice about skydiving but feel terrified about giving a short speech. Someone else may lie awake at night fearing something might happen to their children. Fear can play a major role in addiction recovery and too often it holds people back. They are afraid of admitting a problem or committing to a program, or a dozen other little things that assume monstrous proportions in their minds. The following strategies are some healthy suggestions to cope with fear and move forward.
Talk to a Therapist
Feeling intense fear around something may indicate the need to talk about it. You may even suffer from an anxiety disorder, which is a class of conditions that includes panic disorder, phobias, PTSD, and others. A therapist can help you identify irrational thoughts that magnify your fear and help you come up with strategies to combat it. One common treatment for anxiety involves exposure to the thing you’re anxious about, so you learn from experience not to fear it.
Remember That Fear Is a Normal Emotion
Whenever fear arises, remember that it is a normal and useful emotion. If your ancestors never felt fear, they would have died young. Fear is a rational response to an uncertain environment. However, fear can also get out of control and keep you from doing the things you need to do. When you’re afraid to do something, try not to compound it by being angry that you’re afraid. Thank the fear for trying to keep you safe, evaluate the risks, and proceed accordingly.
When you get down to it, fear is just a set of physiological symptoms, such as increased heart rate, adrenaline, tension, and alertness. Symptoms of fear are the same as those of excitement. Telling yourself that you’re excited rather than afraid allows the fear to become a positive thing. Another similar way to reframe fear is to recognize it as a sign that you care. Typically, if you don’t care at all whether you get a job, you won’t be very nervous before the interview. Experiencing nervousness means you have an opportunity before you that you want to take advantage of. Try practicing gratitude in those moments instead.
Fear is simply a set of physical symptoms. Try being mindful of those symptoms. Be the observer of your experience and take note of what you notice most. Is it your heart rate? Butterflies in your stomach? Something else? Pay attention to those feelings. Do they change? Being mindful of your experience instead of trying to ignore it reduces those threatening emotions.
Identify Your Values
Pay attention to your core values. Research has shown that this practice, known as self-affirmation, helps people be less resistant to threatening information, supporting their ability to make healthier choices. When you are mindful of your core values, you are more willing to pursue ends in line with those values, even if you are afraid.
Experiencing total freedom from fear is highly unlikely. Anything worth doing will involve some risk, even if it’s only the risk of feeling foolish. The fear of getting help for addiction can be especially strong but it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, your family and your life. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, we help men with substance use issues become stronger and more resilient, both mentally and physically. To learn more about our unique treatment program, call us today at 855-202-2138.