Tackling Anxiety by Facing Your Fears and Letting Go of Worry - dummies

Tackling Anxiety by Facing Your Fears and Letting Go of Worry

By Graham C. Davey, Kate Cavanagh, Fergal Jones, Lydia Turner, Adrian Whittington

Part of Managing Anxiety with CBT For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

Set yourself some clear goals for tackling your anxiety and improving your life. Then use the methods suggested here to move forward towards your goals.

Facing your fears

One of the best ways to tackle anxiety is to face your fears. This is especially so for phobias or fears of specific events, situations or items. Over time you’ll find that most fears start to reduce over time, the more you put yourself into the fearful situations.

  1. Divide your fear into a hierarchy and write down steps to tackle it, with the least scary step at the bottom (looking at a picture of a spider, for example), and the scariest at the top (picking up a spider).

  2. Make sure you take each step in order and don’t move onto the next step until you’re sure you’ve mastered the previous one.

  3. Be frequent and repetitive. Keep practising each step as often as possible until you’ve cracked it.

  4. Keep going even if you feel anxious to start with and give yourself a pat on the back when you achieve each step.

Finding out if your fears are fact or fiction

When you feel anxious you tend to overestimate how dangerous or threatening a situation is. You can help reduce anxiety by looking at the facts to see what the real level of threat is, and then test out whether your fear really does come true.

  1. Consider what you think is the worst that could happen. Perhaps this is a picture in your mind of the disaster that you fear.

  2. Now collect facts. How likely is the disaster really? How awful would it be? How would you cope in reality?

  3. If you can, design experiments to test whether the disaster really does happen. This means giving up doing things that you normally do to try to prevent the disaster – see what happens!

Letting go of worry

Do you keep chewing over ‘what if?’ questions without reaching any helpful conclusion? Try to let go of worry rather than be ruled by it, fight it or argue with it.

  • Don’t be fooled into thinking worry is helpful. Turn worrying into problem-solving whenever you can. Consider what you need to do now to tackle a problem rather than all the possible outcomes.

  • Accept that you have to live with some uncertainty – you usually can’t be absolutely sure about what’s going to happen in the future.

  • Let go of worries by noticing them but not engaging in an argument or fighting with them. Pay attention to something more useful to you right now!