How to manage fear

How can we deal with our deepest fears and darkest thoughts, those that are too overwhelming to process?


How to manage fear

Break it down

To deal with overwhelming anxieties, break information down into bite-sized bits. We are not programmed to digest epic information. 'I spend a lot of my time training medical students in delivering bad news,’ says author and psychiatrist Dr Colin Murray Parkes. ‘If you overload a patient with bad news, they’ll disassociate from it. You need to confront the truth, but deal with it a little bit at a time.’

Take action

A good way to break down information is to take small but significant actions. ‘In disaster situations, to try and do everything or think about the immensity of the crisis renders you incapable and useless. Instead distance yourself from the whole, and recognise what, practically, you can do,’ says Murray Parkes. Being proactive is a psychological tonic to feelings of anxiety and helplessness, particularly if it is action with others and not alone.

Communicate your fears

‘When I’m lecturing, people ask me what they can practically do about climate change,’ says George Marshall of Climate Outreach & Information Network. ‘I ask them to really work on admitting and sharing their deepest concerns with others.’

Hold on to optimism

Harness the power of positive thought. ‘It’s a feature of human psychology to not want to dwell on morbid thought,’ says psychologist Dr Terri Apter. ‘We are born with a mechanism for being optimistic and self-enhancing – it’s in our interests not to upset ourselves too much.’ Providing we are not expending all our mental default can be invaluable. As someone once said, ‘Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life.’

More inspiration:

Watch Becky Walsh's How to stop fear stopping you on LifeLabs