What is your greatest fear?
For some, it’s getting older, speaking in public or being alone.
My personal Mt. Everest…the fear I have had the most difficulty managing is…needles.
Fear is a natural, and sometimes necessary, part of life. These days, however, fear seems to color everything from our personal relationships to our buying choices; from our career choices to what we eat.
Let’s talk about the most effective tools to overcome and manage a healthy relationship with your fears. To help you figure out how to apply these ideas to your specific fears, I’ll illustrate with one of my own.
The hardest thing I have to do in this life, is submitting to medical testing. I have a clinical needle phobia that blood draws much, much more dramatic than simply not liking shots.
1. Get in touch with what you really feel about the object of your fear
It took some work, but I was eventually able to identify a belief that submitting to medical procedures involving needles made me feel as though something was being forcibly taken from me, and that I was powerless to control my reactions. I discovered that the fear isn’t so much about the lifeless needle, which can’t actually hurt me, but the outcome. That understanding really helped me to shift my perspective to the thing I really CAN do something about.
You can face your fears, one step at a time
2. Understand that even irrational fears, those that you can’t ‘think’ your way through, can be managed
A big part of this tool is changing the ways in which you judge yourself for the fear. In other words, you don’t have to feel bad about feeling bad!
Ultimately, I gave up being ashamed of my fear. The shame didn’t help in the doctor’s office and certainly didn’t contribute to any progress toward not being afraid.
3. Look at what the fear costs you
Does it make sense to carry a burden that drains your energy and limits your ability to enjoy your life? What has your fear caused you to miss? Don’t regret it…but decide to make whatever change is required.
I used to joke that my needle phobia was a good thing because it ensured that I would never be a ‘junkie.’ While that may be true, it DID cost me by making every medical experience of my life more traumatic than it needed to be. And, more than anything, it cost me my pride.
4. Identify the story you tell yourself about your fear and change it
This tool is especially true for object-oriented fears, like bridges, spiders and, well…needles.
Once you understand what your story does for you, you can rewrite the script that has locked the belief in place.
I’m shifting my story from what has been taken from me to what I choose to believe about my own courage. There is great power in that, don’t you think?
5. Get support
It is liberating to speak your fear out loud. The more honest about it you are with yourself and others, the less power it can have over you. The light of understanding and the warmth of acceptance can heal many, many things.
I am SO blessed, that when I spoke to people about my needle fear, dear friends stepped up in ways I could not have imagined. People have been universally understanding and supportive.
Being open has turned a stressful thing into a great gift.
6. Choose tools to give you courage
Music, affirmations, meditation, distraction, all of these can help you get through a difficult time.
When it is time to face the phlebotomist, I wear the most comfortable clothes I own, making sure to reduce any need to fuss with tight sleeves, etc. I carry things that distract me, like a worry stone or book I am enjoying. In the end, I remind myself that I can do ANYTHING for 20 minutes!
One of my most powerful thought replacement phrases is: “If you are not actually on FIRE, you are probably okay in any given moment.” Trust me, it works like a charm.
7. See it. Be it
Ask yourself, what would it be like if this was totally okay? And then really use your imagination. Think deeply about it. What do you WANT your life without the fear to look like?
If you really can’t imagine being without the fear, look at the lives of others who live without it. How do they cope? Claim it. Repeat the image in you mind more often then you are willing to dwell on the fear, and soon, one will replace the other!