5 Anxiety Management Tips For Working Through A Phobia
Phobias are irrational fears that can have a real impact on your daily life. For example, a fear of flying could lead you to turn down job opportunities involving travel.
Other issues, such as a fear of clowns, might not bother you that much if you avoid circuses and county fairs. However, there’s no need to spend your life fleeing imaginary phantoms. Here are five anxiety management tips I used for working through a phobia — hopefully, they will help you, too.
Identify your fear
At times, you know what your phobia is. Other times, you may find yourself growing angry, fearful, or stressed in certain situations without fully understanding why. In that case, your first step is to ask yourself probing questions, such as, “Why do I feel anxious?” to discover the underlying cause of your feelings. Doing this work matters because your emotions drive your behaviors. You could sabotage yourself and your future career or personal relationships with your responses to reasonable requests that you nevertheless cannot fulfill because of your phobia.
For example, I shunned elevators in public buildings for years because of claustrophobia or fear of small, enclosed spaces. The COVID-19 pandemic did not ease my irrational fears — now I had to worry about mechanical malfunctions and close contact with potentially infected strangers. To calm down, I did a lot of reading on coping with and handling my specific fears, so that I could feel more prepared and in control if I ever did end up in one of my nightmare scenarios. I learned about the many safety precautions to arm myself with in case I found myself in an enclosed space. I also learned how to minimize my risk of infectious disease, devouring anything I could find on the latest research. In the end, I learned that my fear was less about enclosed spaces and more about my perceived lack of control.
Gain a distant familiarity
Your next step in working through a phobia is to gain a distant familiarity with the object of your terror. Much of human fear stems from the unknown — the more you learn about whatever scares you, the less power it has to make you quiver. For example, if you fear spiders, you might begin working through your phobia by reading books about all things arachnid. Pay attention to your physiological responses when you turn pages and come across new pictures. Practice techniques such as 2-to-1 breathing to calm your racing heart and dry your sweat when gazing at tarantulas.
Talk about your concerns with a third party
Giving voice to your fears can also help to assuage them. Sometimes, talking through your worries with an objective third party can provide insight into how irrational your ideas are. Once you intellectually believe you shouldn’t be afraid, you can more effectively convince your emotions. For example, I also have a phobia of flying. What helps me overcome it enough to get on a plane for work is knowing air travel’s safety compared to other modes of transportation. I also recognize that the person flying the bird doesn’t want to crash any more than I do. Talking with a pilot friend educated me on the extensive ongoing training and testing folks in the field undergo. I still don’t like boarding a plane, but I’ll reluctantly do it.
Gradually increase your exposure
Working through your phobia means eventually facing your fear. However, you don’t have to jump right into the deep end of the pool. You can dog-paddle first.
For example, if you’re afraid of the dark, you might gradually dim the lights. If you fear enclosed spaces like me, you might work your way into smaller and smaller rooms. If you’re terrified of getting on a plane, see if a pilot friend will let you do things like touring the cockpit while the bird remains safely on the ground. You can also find fear-of-flying courses that let you experience the boarding and seating steps while omitting the actual takeoff.
Rip off that band-aid
When you’re finally ready to face your fear, it’s best to do it the way you would if taking a Band-Aid off a painful cut. If you’ve done the preliminary steps above, you should be ready to let it rip. Think about how accomplished you’ll feel once you can say, “I did it — I conquered my phobia.”
When the big day comes, amass your support team. It helps to surround yourself with friends and family members who encourage you that you can do it. It’s also nice to have folks to celebrate with after you show your courage. Please plan a reward for yourself — yes, even if you think your fear seems silly. Doing so helps to cement the neurological pathways that associate the object of your angst with a pleasurable outcome. You might think that dinner at your favorite restaurant is an extravagant way to celebrate finally speaking up at a work meeting, but it’s a crucial part of your behavioral conditioning. Plus, what’s life for without a little celebration now and then?
Try these practical anxiety management tips when working through a phobia. You could overcome your phobias if you apply this five-step guide. Embrace these anxiety management tips and live your life free from crippling fears.
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