The first part of this blog looks at why we experience fear or anxiety in the face of certain challenges that have the potential to move our lives forward in a positive way.
We fear things because we predict that something negative will happen and that we will not then have the resources to cope.
This combination of anticipated disaster and expected helplessness in the face of it leads our brains to identify a risk which triggers our body’s response to danger, i.e. anxiety or fear. Predicted negative outcomes can involve both practical and psychological catastrophes, common examples include:
Practical negative outcomes: harm to self or others, damage to property, loss of job/role
Psychological negative out: negative evaluation by others, embarrassment/humiliation, being overwhelmed by negative emotions (e.g. panic attacks or losing one’s mind).
If the thoughts that underlie your fears are both accurate and helpful you need to read no further, however, if your anxiety is preventing you from achieving something that would enhance your experience and move your life forward in a desirable way it is likely that you predictions about the future are self defeating and need to be addressed.
Understanding why we experience fear in the face of a perceived challenge offers us a way forward in terms of dealing with the challenge.
In part two of this blog we outline a therapeutic programme that has been designed by the team of Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists at The Harley Psychology & Therapy Group to help you to tackle your fears and anxiety and overcome the challenges that you face.
The programme draws on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a ‘talking therapy’ that research has shown to be the most effective treatment available for anxiety and aims to offer individuals a way of breaking cycles of avoidance that are holding them back and preventing them from reaching their full potential.
The second part of this blog outlines a therapeutic strategy to help us to face the challenges that we avoid as a result of anxiety.
1. Identify your challenge and break it down into steps or sectors. For example fear of taking a work trip abroad might look like this:
– The night before
– The journey to the airport
– Negotiating Departures at the airport
– Boarding the plane
– Take off
– The Flight
– Negotiating Arrivals at the airport
– Journey to hotel
Breaking a challenge down in this way makes it feel more manageable but also gives you the opportunity to experience small boosts to your confidence as each step/sector is completed. Confidence is pivotal when tackling fear/anxiety as it is the antidote to that part of the mind that underestimates your ability to cope.
2. Now for each sector identify the worst case scenario, making sure that you follow your thoughts all the way to the predicted catastrophe. For example for ‘The night before’ the worst case scenario might be that you have a panic attack, back out of the trip and lose your job.
3. When we become anxious our minds exchange possibility with probability. So, most things are possible but you need to ask yourself how likely they are. The next task is to give each identified worst case scenario an accurate probability rating making sure that you take in to account all past experiences not just the negative ones e.g. 0.1%. This exercise allows you to step back from your anxiety and accurate evaluate the risk you are considering talking.
4. Now identify a way of dealing with each worst case scenario, the idea being that if you know you can deal with the worst case scenario, every other scenario will be a walk in the park. This again will provide a boost for your confidence and an antidote for your anxiety.
5. Finally as you embark on your challenge make sure that you acknowledge your success as you complete each sector, pausing to congratulation yourself, after all, you are doing something that part of your mind believes puts you at significant risk.