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Fear - you know that bad, almost paralyzing feeling, so strong that it sometimes rules you? When the horror rushes down your spine, and your knees bend at the very thought of what you are afraid of. When you suddenly feel weakness and nausea, and the worst case scenario goes through your head. Your heart starts beating fast and you try to distract your thoughts from your heels.
An important step in managing anxiety involves dealing with your fears - situations, places or objects that you are afraid of for various reasons. It is normal to want to avoid things you are afraid of. However, just avoiding prevents you from learning that the things or people you are afraid of are not as dangerous as you think.
The process of dealing with fears is called exposure. Exposure involves gradually, and repeatedly, entering into situations that frighten you, until you feel less anxious. Exposure is not dangerous and will not make the fear worse, and after a while, your anxiety will drop drastically.
Step 1. Make a list
Make a list of situations, places or objects that you are afraid of. For example, if you are afraid of dogs, the list may include: looking at pictures of dogs, standing not far from the dog on a leash in a park or in the same room, or playing with a puppy. If you are afraid of social situations, the list may include: say "hello" to a coworker every morning, ask a stranger on the street something, have a small conversation with the cashier, or call a friend on the phone.
Tip: Some people have a lot of different fears, which can be severe or specific, such as fear of heights or death. Make different lists for different fear topics.
Step 2. Make a scale of your fears
When you make a list, rank the fears on a scale of 1 to 10, from least scary to most scary, i.e. extreme fears.
Tip: When making a ladder, i.e. a scale of fears, identify a specific goal. If you have a lot of different fears, make separate ladders for each fear topic. Each ladder should include a whole range of situations and steps you need to take. It is important to start and take gradual steps. Some steps on the ladder can be broken down into smaller steps. For example, if you are afraid to talk to co-workers, divide this situation into several steps: say "hello" to the co-worker, then ask him a short question, and then start a freer topic, say about free weekends.
Step 3. Face your fears by exposure
Starting with the situation that causes the least anxiety, engage in that activity several times (for example, say "Hello, how are you today?" To the person you are shy or closed to) until you start to feel less anxious. If the situation is in which you can stay for a longer period of time, (eg standing on the balcony for 20-30 minutes for fear of heights), stay in the situation long enough for your anxiety to decrease. If the situation is short, try to repeat it, which means working on the same subject in a certain number of cases (eg returning over the bridge until you start to feel less anxious or successive phone calls until you start to feel more comfortable). If you stay in the situation long enough (or continue to engage in a certain activity), your anxiety will begin to decrease. This happens because anxiety takes away a lot of energy, ever you focus that energy on action and it wears out, the anxiety starts to disappear at some point. The longer you face something, the more you will get used to the thought of that thing or the person you are afraid of, and the less anxious you will feel when you face it again.
Step 4. Just practice!
It is important to exercise regularly. Some steps can be practiced on a daily basis (eg driving across a bridge, an elevator, calling a stranger regularly, etc.), while other steps can be done once in a while (eg presenting in front of a large group or traveling by plane). Remember to remember the progress you have made. Even if you feel comfortable doing something, it is important to repeat the presentation from time to time so that your fears do not return.
Step 5. Reward good behavior
It is not easy to face fears. Reward yourself when you do! It is good to praise yourself and use specific feedback as motivation to achieve the goal. For example, buying a special gift for yourself or participating in a fun activity (going to the cinema, lunch or dinner) after achieving a goal. Don't forget the power of positive thinking and self-encouragement (eg "I did it. Congratulations!").
Tip: Don't be discouraged if your fears start to move backwards and recur. This can happen from time to time, especially during stressful periods or major changes (for example, starting a new business or moving). This is normal. It just means you have to start exercising - plan some exposure. Remember, dealing with anxiety is a lifelong process. The sooner you start facing fear, the sooner you will overcome it.