Facing Fear in Recovery
Tips for Overcoming or Facing Fear in Recovery
Estimated watch time: 4 mins 32 secs
Fear is a natural, biological response. You have a chemical reaction when you are experiencing something scary and that’s not a weakness. We need fear to keep ourselves safe. However, when that fear becomes chronic, it can be an issue. Learn methods to overcome chronic fear, such as exposure therapy.
There are lessons accompanying each video that you can access through our recovery portal, Swell.
Today’s lesson is on facing fear.
Now for most of us, fear is constricting, even paralyzing. For others, those thrill seekers, it can be energizing and maybe even a catalyst for growth.
Regardless, it’s important to remember that there is a science when it comes to fear. The fight, flight, or freeze response, that’s put together by a group of chemicals in our body. Epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These chemicals are released into our body, which allows us to shut down parts of our bodies or systems within our body that aren’t necessary for survival. Our blood flow slows down, the digestive system slows down. And during these dangerous situations, the blood is rushed to the heart and skeletal muscles, which we need to either fight or get the heck out of there.
Feeling fear is absolutely natural. It’s inevitable because it’s a biological process that we have within us to help us maintain our own safety. Fear does not equal weakness. However, when our fear turns into chronic fear, that’s when it becomes a major issue. That chronic fear is counterproductive. It can cause physical and emotional issues, stomach upset, over eating, insomnia, weakening of the immune system, decreased sex drive and of course, anxiety and depression. Chronic fear will lead to stress and exhaustion.
Let’s consider a couple solutions to overcoming fear.
The first one is when you take care of it right away. So, something happens. It scares you and you immediately either try again or you clear the fear, you understand and then make it rational. And it’s not stuck with you. It’s not stored in your memory as a negative experience. Think of a child learning how to ride a bike. They fall off of the bike. The parent encourages: come on, child. Come on. You can try again. You can do this. And so they get back up on the bike and before you know it, they are riding without assistance. So they’re no longer scared of the bike.
The second solution is for what we call a learned fear and we’re looking for what we call extinction of that fear. Now, this is going to be a fear that we did not have the opportunity to tackle right when it happened. Ways that we can do this is exposure to the stimulus. So let’s say you’re scared of a dog. If you have a fear of dogs, maybe you were barked at all the time as a child or you had one very bad experience with a dog, then that has stuck with you.
So exposure could look something like meeting a smaller dog that, you know, is very friendly, being able to build your confidence when it comes to being around dogs. And that can help. That can change that learned fear to a positive.
There’s also medications that can be used to help with anxieties and fears. Then there’s also EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This asks the patient to remember with great detail visually the trauma that was experienced and then using different modalities, most often the finger, as it moves back and forth in front of the patient’s face to use bilateral stimulation in order to change that negative cognition or that negative thought process into a positive or make it at least so that it doesn’t affect you in such a strong way.
And the last one is cognitive processing therapy, which involves focusing on the emotions such as anger, guilt, and sadness that survivors of trauma often experience in addition to fear and anxiety.
As we think about fear and how it may contribute to us being less resilient than we would like, let’s look at these factors. First of all, identify the fear and address it. If we continue to push our fears to the side or if we don’t acknowledge them, then we’re not able to process through them.
Then change what you can. If there’s something that you can change about a situation or relationship, then change that. Make the fear less powerful. Understand those parts that you can’t change. And be OK with that.
Lastly, stay optimistic. Look forward. Look for the bright, look for the positive.
In the next lesson we will discuss Meaning, Purpose, and Growth.
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