Fear and anxiety are often mixed up but they are two different things.
The definition of fear in the dictionary is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm”. For example, if you see a tiger face to face in the wild, it evokes a strong sense of fear. This is fear in a proximity dimension. On the other hand, when you see a tiger at the zoo in a cage, the tiger is in close proximity but you feel no fear because you are outside the cage and you feel safe.
On a daily basis we face fear, such as when a stranger follows you into a dark alley and get closer and closer to you. Fear alarms can also be false, for example, when you hear crackling sounds on a tree, it might be a squirrel instead of a leopard. Our fear alarm is important to alert us of danger and uses our survival instincts to help deal with it. Without fear, we might not be alive.
On the other hand, anxiety is feelings of uncertainties and risks that are off in the future. When feeling anxious, what you fear is in the future, and the threat comes later. This awareness can be enough to take precautions. For example, you can be anxious when entering a new place, therefore you become wary and alert, so in response, you take a look around the place first and then realise that there’s nothing to fear.
Having excessive fear and anxiety can be mentally draining for us. The more we dwell on our anxieties, the bigger they grow and when you try to shut down your anxious thoughts, they tend to keep coming back. When you try to suppress the feeling, it just gets even worse, e.g., when you feel anxious about rejection, you tend to avoid social situations that evokes the threat. Whenever you avoid what you dread, you reinforce avoidance, and therefore the anxieties keep coming back.
However, there are some practices that we can do to reduce our feelings of anxiety.
Allow yourself to feel the anxiety, try not to suppress the feeling in the moment. After a while, take a pause and question yourself, “I have thought about the worst that can happen, now the next step is to try my best to think of an equally powerful complete alternative of my previous thoughts”. By doing so, you are allowing your brain to explore new perspective without dismissing your real emotions at that point of time.
When you’re feeling anxious, it is important that you believe in yourself that you have the power to take control of your thoughts. Doing otherwise is pessimistic thinking and it forces us to give up on ourselves before we even try. To break this cycle, when you’re feeling anxious, ask yourself, “If I am free of these pessimistic thoughts, what would I do?”, with your own answer, take the first step and do it.
When the anxiety comes, we tend to magnify every possible danger that we can think of. Instead, try this method of magnifying those bits of information that contradicts the possible danger first. After doing so, question yourself if the possible danger is even possible with the information that you have gathered.
Dealing with anxiety is hard. Knowing why they are there and exploring techniques that you can use to cope with anxiety can make a difference. Do reach out to one of us if you feel that fear or anxiety are negatively impacting the quality of your daily life.