Dr. Robi Ludwig: How to successfully cope with your fears

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We are currently surrounded by a considerable amount of fear. Coronavirus has become a global threat. Concerns are clearly rooted in the realistic, which raises questions about what role fear plays in our lives, as well as what the best way is to manage this scary yet very common human emotion.

Fear is the survival kit in our brains. It informs us when to run from imminent danger. It’s our neurophysiological reaction to a perceived threat. We inherited this trait from our hunter-gathering ancestors. And as much as we’d like to eliminate this intense, uncomfortable feeling, it is one of our body’s necessary and helpful responses.

Fear is one of the most dominant emotions we have and it often has a very strong hold over our mind and body. While it can be a very useful emotion when facing emergencies, it can also get triggered when we are faced with less threatening events, like public speaking, taking exams or going on a first date.

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Fear and anxiety can last for short periods of time or prolonged periods of time, keeping us in an endless cycle of panic. When fear levels pause on high alert, it influences our lives in the most unpleasant ways.

When this occurs, it can interfere with our ability to accomplish simple daily functions like eating, sleeping, and concentrating.

Fear can also affect our ability to go to school, work or in extreme cases, even leaving the house. When anxiety levels become this paralyzing, it impacts our health, our sense of well-being and our overall enjoyment of life.

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There are so many life happenings that can create a fearful reaction. While some fears keep us safe, others stop us from doing what we need to do. Restrictive fears limit us and make us feel like prisoners in our own lives. Restrictive fears can oppressively stifle our ability to voice our opinions or live with a personal sense of "joie de vivre." What we fear and what makes us fearful will vary from person to person. Knowing what triggers our anxiety is often the first step to manage and reduce unnecessary levels of concern.

Human beings have the unique ability to reflect on personal worries.

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This gives people the ability to question and counteract overpowering feelings of distress. Self-talk is a helpful tool to overcome fear-invoking reactions.

As a therapist who works with many patients suffering from anxiety and the debilitating pangs of panic, I am very familiar with the multiple strategies implemented to successfully treat and address this unnerving emotion.

To get a better grasp of anxiety and fear, it’s important to have in-depth knowledge of your emotional responses and what triggers them.

Know your weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

You can ask those close to you to provide support and let you know what they think would help during these times of duress.

Deep breathing exercises during stressful times sends a message to your brain to relax and calm down. Your body will respond by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. Once a relaxed state is achieved, it becomes much easier to manage intense emotions thoughtfully.

Facing the fear and situations that scare you have a desensitizing effect and helps you to realize things are often not as bad as they seem.

People who suffer from intense worries tend to imagine the worst-case scenario will happen, even if this scenario is very unlikely. Facing your fear is often the best way to identify and correct cognitive distortions and ultimately to overcome them.

Learn to relax and engage in a healthy lifestyle: healthy eating, a good night’s sleep, and exercise.

All of these techniques help strengthen the body's emotional and physical immune system, allowing the mind to meet the various challenges of life.

Embracing the power of a practical, optimistic perception is another excellent strategy to combat fear.

Be aware of what you can control.

Develop a good sense of humor.

Feel connected to something bigger than yourself.

All these steps will provide you with a sense of solace over your everyday fears and concerns.

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I also love the idea of following in the footsteps of historical philosophers, such as Rainer Maria Rilke, who encouraged us to view fear as a time that allows us to expand our perception of ourselves.

Fear, as uncomfortable as it feels in the moment, is an experience that can ultimately prove to be a valuable transformative experience. When fear is managed in a thoughtful and productive way, it can be both life-giving and life-enhancing.

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