This article was first published on DeniJones.com and is reprinted here with permission. The author spoke with two Steadfast counsellors, Rhea Shroff and Jessica Brown, on the subject of managing fear.

Do you have an ongoing fear you can’t seem to let go of? Maybe you’ve had a traumatic experience or there’s a reoccurring event that plays in your mind and you can’t let it go. We all face some type of fear, but can we really stop it from interfering with our life?

Last week I told you about how I developed a fear when my glass shower walls exploded while I was sleeping. It was horrific to say the least. Being woken from sleep and not understanding what was happening jarred my emotional response.

I spoke to two registered counselors on the topic of fear and asked their advice on how we can manage it.

“Fear can stop you dead in your tracks,” says Rhea Shroff, a registered counselor at Steadfast Counseling in Vancouver. “It elicits not only a psychological response, but also a physiological one. It is an autonomic and healthy response to a stimulus to keep you safe from danger. It is our body’s way of responding to a perceived threat (ie. our survival instinct). The autonomic response turns maladaptive in situations where it is not in line with what the stimulus is, making you more cautious than you need to be.”

I’m sure it’s going to take me time to overcome the fear of shower glass walls exploding again, but still, I can’t walk into my bathroom without being reminded of the event. Although my experience is minuscule compared to what could have happened had I been in the bathroom at the time, the idea of it happening again haunts me. My experience made me think about other scenarios and how people manage their fears when something unexpected and uncontrolled happens.

So, is it possible to stop fear from interfering with your life? I asked Jessica Brown, who is also a registered counsellor at Steadfast Counselling, specializing in anxiety.

“Feeling fear is part of the human experience,” says Brown. “At some point in our lives, we’ve all been fearful of a thing, person, place or a situation. In fact, feeling fear helped us survive and be ready to tackle dangerous situations such as noticing a stranger in the dark. The act of identifying the object of our fear (the stranger in the dark) provided our physical bodies with the adrenaline needed to escape the threat and hopefully run towards safety.” Brown explains, “When fear is the driving force in our daily living- almost like an overpowering shadow that never dissipates- even when in relatively safe situations such as spending time at home, driving to work or attending school. When anxiety runs our lives then we might feel as if we are no longer in control. We might experience frustration and an overwhelming feeling that drains our life force away.”

So, true, right? When we don’t feel like we’re in control, we don’t know what to expect so fear builds and, in my case, I’m thinking it could happen again, but next time it could be worse. I try to push fear away, but I have a creative mind, too, so my brain is always going to the extreme and asking, what if?

Shroff says, the first step to stop fear from interfering with your life is to acknowledge that it is and exploring the root cause of the fear will help to understand its origin and what may be triggering it.

“Some try to avoid the fear or move around it,” says Shroff. “Reflect on the consequences of fear in your life. What is the cost to you and the people around you? What does it stop you from doing or experiencing? Reflection helps with motivation to work on the fear. Working through it is a process. It takes time, patience, commitment and trust, but it is possible. Facing your fears gradually and consistently can desensitize you to them over time, empowering you to lead life with more freedom.

I don’t want to live with fear and who does? We all face it at some time in our lives. However, I chose to focus on the positive outcome. I also tell myself I’m strong, I’m capable of getting through this and whatever is happening I can figure it out, but I know I can’t do it if my mind is clouded with fear.

“Fear narrows our focus,” says Shroff. “Depending on the fear it is useful to challenge the thought. Exploring and understanding your narrative can help you to figure out if what it is actually telling you is true. Asking for support and speaking to a person you trust to gain a different perspective helps challenge the story we have been telling ourselves. Another way of challenging your perception is learning more about the particular fear (when possible), as knowledge helps with the unknown. These actions can help with widening our perspective and looking at the evidence of what might be real and what is not.”

The next time you are faced with fear, Shroff suggests notice and track the triggers in your body. She suggests breathing and mindfulness practices can help in calming your nervous system.

“As you begin to experience a sense of safety, you can try exposing yourself to the fear in tiny bite-size pieces with support; always pausing and checking in with yourself. Notice what happens to and for you. What makes the fear better? What makes it worse? A good way to begin is visualisation. You can then move onto tiny bite-size pieces with gradual exposure to the actual situation. In this way, you expand your tolerance to the fear and ensure you are not overwhelming your system, but rather building capacity.”

Being in-tune with how your body reacts is a great way to understand what it is that puts you on alert. Taking time for yourself and having the moments of reflection and calm will help you gain composure of your thoughts and feelings. Working out in the morning when my mind is fresh, gives me the opportunity to think positively.

The great thing about living in today’s age is that there’s so much help available. Brown noted that whatever your circumstance is, whether you’re battling against anxiety, your daily routine is continuously disrupted, like worrying too much, avoiding interacting with others, missing work/school/social engagements, experiencing detrimental changes in our relationships due to anxiety, and abusing alcohol or drugs. She says these are all good reasons to seek professional help, even if you’re  no longer being interested in activities that brings you a sense of joy and fulfillment.

“Be patient and treat yourself with compassion,” says Shroff. “What might seem insignificant to someone else, may be significant to you. Honour yourself. Know that you are capable of overcoming difficulties in your life that may currently seem insurmountable, just as you have done before. With commitment, practice, self-compassion, time, and support, reducing and even conquering your fears is possible.”

Jessica Brown’s 4 Favourite Tips to Manage Fear

Not all we feel is real. We are constantly scanning our environment through our emotions. However, we forget to listen to our head and our heart at the same time. When we assess situations using both- our heart and our mind–we give ourselves the opportunity to see reality in a clearer way. When we do this, it is as if we are wiping our dirty eyeglasses and finally seeing the real landscape in front of us.

Go for a walk. The act of waking and breathing fresh air can be a game changer. Providing your lungs with oxygen and sunshine can have a positive effect on your mood.

Connect with someone that cares about you. Seeking support from others can make a big difference. Removing the sense of aloneness can do wonders against anxiety. Instead of seeking isolation, seek gathering with people and being around others.

Practice deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing exercises have the power of bringing us back into the present moment and may alleviate feelings of anxiety. Also, practicing deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere. For example, you can engage in deep breathing while on the bus, walking, sitting at your work desk, watching TV, etc.

Deni Jones

Deni writes a lifestyle blog about wellness and books. It's a personal journey to learn and expand her interest in wellness and share her knowledge of bookish things. She's passionate about goal setting, living her best life, and not taking anything for granted. Her goal is to help others explore healthy habits and nourish them with encouragement, inspiration, and motivation. Click through to denijones.com for more from Deni.