Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie
A new kind of therapy has been created to help people defend themselves in the face of abuse and therefore empower themselves. Sounds great, right? Did I mention it involves sharks? Well, metaphorical ones.
Created by Melbourne psychologist Ursula Benstead, the purpose of the “Shark Cage Concept” is to help women identify abusive behavior and protect themselves from it. “By using the metaphor of the cage, I’m trying to externalize it outside about them,” explains Benstead. “It was created by external forces. People don’t have a choice about the shark cage built for them but once you’re an adult you can work out what you want the shark cage to be. That’s where it’s empowering.”
It is really about these women discovering that they have the means to protect themselves. They just need to face their fears. Well, picturing a Great White attacking you in a cage is a bit extreme, so we came up with a few (slightly less scary ways) to face your fears and empower yourself.
1) Don’t face your fears all at once. Ease into it.
If you were afraid of heights, would the first thing you would do be bungee jumping? Probably not.
Peter Norton, PhD, a professor of psychology and director of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic at the University of Houston told Women’s Health, “Start off at a level that’s not going to be overwhelming for you but is still challenging. Stay there until you know you can handle it, that you’re OK with it, and then move forward.”
Start by just going up a stepping stool before you climb up to the roof.
2) Write about your fears
According to new research, writing about your fears or worries can help lessen your anxiety. From Scientific American:
Researchers gave 20 students two math tests. The students did nothing special before the first test. But before the second test, students were told they’d receive money for high marks. Half of the students were then instructed to take 10 minutes and write down any concerns they had about the test. The other half sat quietly.
Those who just sat waiting did 12 percent worse on the second test than on the first. But those who wrote about their fears showed a five percent improvement on the exam.
Psychologist Sian Beilock finds that this writing about your fears can work because when you are anxious or worried about something your brain’s memory becomes busy with those thoughts and distracts from what you are supposed to be focused on like making a presentation or getting ready for a job interview. But by writing those plaguing thoughts out on paper you are giving them a place to go so your memory can help you with more important tasks.
3) Laugh your fears away
Believe it or not laughter can actually be used to help dissipate your fears. It is all about the state of mind you choose to be in. Jevon Dangeli, a Hypnotherapy Trainer & Coach, finds that laughter can literally wash away your fears. She wrote:
Recall a time when you were laughing uncontrollably. Bring that funny moment to mind as vividly as you can. Feel the laughter in your body now.
Begin laughing out loud. Force it, if you must, until you are laughing naturally.
While you´re laughing think about one of those situations that causes you fear. Continue laughing and notice how your perception of that situation changes in your mind. Keep your laughter rolling until your thoughts and feelings about that old fear transform completely.
4) Talk out your fears
Though talking it out sounds a little obvious, talking out your fears has been proven to help decrease them. According to a study out of UCLA, 30 people were shown pictures of angry faces. The images stimulated activity in the amygdala (the area of the brain that controls the flight, fight or freeze response). However, it was found when the subjects were asked to describe the photographs it was their prefrontal cortexes that were stimulated and not the amygdala. They had a less emotionally driven response when they verbalized their thoughts. So grab that friend and a cup of coffee and talk it out!
4) Use your fears as a resource
Your fear can actually be a helpful tool. It can be used to motivate you. It gives you that adrenaline rush. Fear can be a major motivator so use it to your advantage. Accept that this is something you are scared of but then also accept that you have to work through it so you can be a productive human being.
Going to the gym pays off once again. Working out keeps your brain focused on something else that isn’t giving you anxiety. Jasper Smits, PhD, co-director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Women’s Health that people who exercise more tend to be less stressed.
6) In the words of Sheryl Sandberg ask yourself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
You may find that just asking that question could completely change how you go about your life.
Have you tried facing your fears head on? Did it help?
Do you have a fear of public speaking? Ask renowned public speaker Gloria Feldt for some tips!
Photo: Barcroft Media